The Buddhist Attitude on Conflict Resolution

The Buddhist Attitude on Conflict Resolution


The whole world today is in great turmoil, full of tension and instability. Numerous conflicts based on ethnicity, race, religion, politics, ecology, and even ideology, have cropped up in an unprecedented manner. A sense of uncertainty, frustration, misconduct, distrust, and above all, a grave risk of mass destruction of humanity is seen in every nook and corner of the earth.


All in all, scientific (once believed and venerated as the ‘savoir of man” ), technological and material achievements, brought about by a remarkable widening of the horizon of human knowledge, have failed piteously to solve the grave problems experienced by man today, or to make him more ‘cultured’ or well – balanced spiritually and materially. On the contrary it has become more lop-sited, over emphasising the material successes of man.


To remedy the world ills and to ease the tension and disorder mentioned above, this should be implemented in every corner of the world. On the other hand the western power block still appears to have an enormous faith on ‘weapon culture’ instrumented by modern science and technology .This is proved by recent attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan.


Briefly, these facts demonstrate perfectly the lack of spiritual awareness in the life of the present day man. It is evident that something, somewhere has gone wrong, somehow. Those who are whole-heartedly seeking peace, would, no doubt, understand that these problems would find no permanent and stable solutions in terms of the external media of political organisations and institutions, peace processions or skin-balm type strategies. What would be effective is a revolution in the inner self of each and every party involved.


A true spirit of reconciliation strictly based on unprejudiced broad-minded view that goes beyond all barriers-political, communal, religion and social-is urgently needed. It is also inevitably clear every religion and related authority has and immense role to play in transforming the present world into a more peaceful, amicable and secure place to live in.


Why do conflicts, suffering and evils prevail in the world? How do they originate? How can they be resolved? Different religions provide different answers regarding these numerous queries. The attitude of theistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and even Hinduism, towards these problems is almost the same. According to them.



  1. It is the will of God, and man can do nothing.
  2. These things happen with the knowledge of God who

is omniscient and omnipotent.


  • Problems and crises situation in the world for the purpose of judging

man’s faith in god.

  • Sin prevails in the world due to Satan who, however, works under the

auspices of the Almighty god.

  • Resolution of these conflicts can only be achieved through the will of god

and not by means of human efforts and goodwill.


The attitude of Buddhism towards the resolution of conflicts is totally different from that of the other main religions of the world. Buddhism being a man-centred religion, it rejects the idea of God or a Divine Creator, both implicitly and explicitly.  Therefore, the problems prevailing in this world are seen, and analysed by Buddhism in a different manner. No divine or any other invisible power holds away over either individual or social problem, miseries and conflicts.


Buddhist philosophy looks at these problems from the point of view of the theory of Dependent origination, the core of almost every Buddhist doctrine (01). Accordingly, Buddhism holds the view that nothing can originate abstractedly, or without a cause. The causes would be varied, natural, psychological, social, economic, political and even environmental. No permanent solution will be achieved unless we identity properly the exact cause of the conflict.


Society consists of individuals, and hence, social problems are none other than the problem born in the minds of individuals. In other words, the roots of social, national, and even international conflict inception ally lie buried in the minds of each and every individual concerned. Psychological factors, namely, the thoughts and desires that surrounds one’s ego , that is the nation of I my and mine can be considered the basic root case of most of these conflicts. These factors, in turn pave the way to greed hatred, avarice and suspicion, the other concomitant of conflicts .briefly then conflicts. Wars and in particular terrorist activities, all in all are non-other than the external manifestations of internal imperfection, illusion and disharmonies within man himself.


In practice we see that in most cases people engage in continuous disputes and discord largely due to dogmatically embraced views, doctrines and theories. The Atthakavagga of the sutta – nipata states repeatedly the fact that if man clings to dogmatic views and theories the consequence will be interminable dispute and discord. These views are ultimately born of sensation and the dichotomy of truth and error is the result of the application of logical thought to those conflicting position rooted in sensory perception. It is stated further that “abiding by their (own) views people dispute ,(saying) that only this is true, everything else is false or what some say is true or real , what other says is empty or fails .thus contending they dispute.


In the Magandiya Sutta  it is stated further dependence upon views, enquiring Magandiya ,said the Buddha ,You have become infatuated in respect of what has been grasped ,and hence you have not even the slightest notion ( of what I am taking about ). Therefore you regard (it) as foolish.


In addition to that, people do dispute on account of three modes of self-conceit, the thoughts of equal ,superior and inferior. The Sutta says.



‘Whoever thinks himself equal, superior, he would dispute on that account, (But) one unshaken in the three modes (of self –conceit)-for him there is no ‘equal’ (or) ‘superior’. The Buddha says again^


‘There are no ties for one who is devoid of perception. There are no illusions for one who is released through wisdom .But those who have grasped perception and view wonder in the world causing offence’(04). The Buddhist view is that the real sage or the man perfected would have no views or theories in terms of dogma and belief about the world to defend in verbal debate. To him the idea does not occur ‘I assert thus’ (Idam vadamit’ti na tassa hoti ) (05) ‘I do not’, the Buddha says ‘O Bhikkhus, dispute with The world . It is , on the other hand, the world , O Bhikkhus, that is in dispute with me . The man who understands perfectly the Dhamma does not lock himself in debate with the world (‘Naham bhikkhave loken vivadami. Loko ca maya vivadati. Naham bhikkhave dhammavadi kenaci lokasmim vivadati’  ) (6).


In the kalahavivada-Sutta of the Sutta-Nipata it is asked that ‘where arise quarrels, disputes, lamentation and grief, together with avarice also, pride and arrogance, together with slander too? Whence do these arise? In reply, the roots are explained in accordance with the Theory of Dependent origination. It is stated


From Login                                        arises               possession

Possession                              arise                Name and form

Name & form             arises               Contact

Contact                                  arise                Pleasant and unpleasant sensations

Pleasant & unpleasant sensations arise          Desire, anger, lying, doubt

Desire                         arise                          (things which are ) dear in the world,

longings, hope and fulfilment.

(What is) dear in the world arise                   quarrels, disputes, lamentation and grief, together with avarice also, pride and arrogance, together with slander too (07).

From the above list it is also clear that disappearance of conflicts, dispute, etc,

depends on the exact revolution of our own patterns of thinking and through the practice of non-grasping. In other words Buddhism upholds a policy of detachment from persons, things and even views etc. For this purpose we have to develop Samma-ditthi, correct vision in a philosophy of life, contributing as it does to detachment. In addition to that it is clear that the path of non-conflicts too, lies within man himself. Unless we revolutionise our way of thinking, our attitudes and our perceptions, no proper solution can be achieved. Precisely, then, the inward cultivation of non-greed (Alobha), non-hatred (Adosa), non-illusion (Amoha) and such noble qualities, compromise and consensus all of which are highlighted repeatedly in many a Buddhist discourse, can be used in finding effective solutions to man’s domestic, national and international conflicts and thereby safeguard unity and peace on earth. Some of the stanzas in the Dhammapada would be very much applicable in this connection.


“If happiness is what man yearns for, he has to cultivate wholesome thoughts, deeds and words .which in turn, bring happiness effortlessly like the shadow that never leaves him. The man filled with avarice, anger be conquered by love, in this world hatred never ceases by hatred, it ceases by non-hatred alone. This is an eternal law, no enemy can harm one so much as one’s own thoughts of craving, hatred and jealousy.


It is only those who have achieved this transformation here and now (The Dhammapada states again), who can honestly claim that.


“Happy do we live, free from all hatred among hating ones. Among men burning with hatred happily we live with hearts of love.


Full happy we live free from all diseases among those affected by defilements (kilesa).among the men diseased full of ease we live.


In sort, the best remedy for the world of incessant burning with intolerance hate and open hostility is the cultivation of the “Brahma Vihara” The cultivation of the four sublimes states for safeguarding peace and harmony on earth they are.


1          “Metta” , loving kindness to be extended to all living beings without any             discrimination.

2          “Karuna” , compassion

3          “Mudita” sympathetic joy at others victory ,success and prosperity etc.

4          “Upekkha” equanimity


Not many words are needed to express the eternal and universal value of these noble qualities which can be applied to any culture or society without any barriers either of time or of cast, race or religion.


It is true that we have not been able to give a thorough analysis on the subject we have discussed due to the length of this paper. No doubt this is very worthwhile subject to be treated extensively. Nevertheless, an impartial scholar who would make a deep and thoroughly exhaustive study of Buddhist philosophy would no doubt ,realize that Buddhism is the most successful doctrine that has not only addressed and analyzed many a problem and conflict we experience today, but also dealt properly with practical solutions to eradicate such phenomena. Therefore we can agree with D.D Kosambi who made the statement that “Buddhism is the most social of the all religions.


Ven. (Dr.) Nayimbala Dhammadasi,

Senior Lecturer,

Dept of Pali and Buddhist Studies,

University of Sri Jayawardenapura.


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