This post is going to be a bit difficult to write. It’s about guns. And it’s going to be difficult to write because this topic can so easily be divisive, polarizing, political. But what I want to say applies just to me. That’s one thing I really dig about Buddhism: It seems to me that Buddhism is an accepting and nonjudgmental system of belief. Evaluate what works for you. Try it on. Test it out. If it doesn’t work, move on. No biggie. Don’t accept things blindly just because some smiling chubster said it was so.
Anyway, I’ve always been a gun lover. My father was a cop. I grew up in the military. Guns were always a part of my “culture.” And, following an event years ago when I was a therapist, involving a deranged patient, guns became a very intimate part of my everyday life. I convinced myself that they *needed* to be part of me for my intrinsic well-being and for that of my family. They became a large part of my identity.
The only problem is that I as I started to delve further into Buddhism, I noticed two things: First, I have a huge anger problem. Second, one of the aspects of “Right Action,” as one of the core teachings of the Noble Eight Fold Path is to abstain from killing. Regarding the first issue, it’s not like I was having a hard time refraining from shooting people. It wasn’t like that at all. However, I did notice that there was a connection between being around guns and not being at peace. Between packing heat and being able to respond to other humans with unconditional positive regard and without suspicion. I felt like I always had to have my guard up, I always had to be alert. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing *in general.* It’s wise to be aware of one’s surroundings, to be sure. I’m just saying that for me, it was starting to cause problems. It was keeping me from being settled.
Secondly, the admonition to not kill was causing me a moral dilemma. I was looking to people like Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama who have been two very powerful forces for peace specifically *through* their nonviolent stance. I began to wonder if my attachment to guns (as well as my saturation in the gun culture) was prohibiting me from fostering peace within myself, within my family, and within the world around me. The image of a would-be Buddhist, sitting on the cushion to meditate, while having a .45 strapped to his hip just seemed terribly incongruent. “I want to be at peace with every living thing, but I also want the ability to blast the shit out of something that is a threat to me.” Those two thoughts, at least in my current evolution of thought, don’t seem to be able to live together. Maybe they can, and I’m just myopic. I don’t know.
Now, before anyone decides to start a debate about this, let me again say this: These are just *my* thoughts about this matter as they pertain to *me.” I am not making any judgement at all about anyone else’s beliefs. In fact, I’m still not completely settled about the matter, especially in terms of self-defense: I live out in the middle of no where, and law enforcement are slow to respond. What if my wife or children were in danger? What is my obligation to protect them? What is the best way to protect them? On our farm we occasionally have coyotes that can threaten our animals. Wouldn’t it be prudent to have a firearm to protect again them? These are questions I still struggle with.
Whatever the answers, I know what I want. And that is to live a life that is at peace with myself, with my loved ones and with the world in which I live. And at this point in my life, I’m willing to do anything to accomplish these goals. I know that, since I’ve gotten rid of the arsenal (well, everything except the 12 gauge anyway – coyotes and other predators really piss me off), I’m a lot more peaceful.