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Public Lecture by Dr. Stephen Jenkins


Public Lecture


Dr. Stephen Jenkins


A Reassessment of the Classical South Asian Ethics of War and Post-War Reconciliation

The South Asian ethics of violence has been subjected to strong distortion by Western scholarship that undermines the ability of indigenous cultures to critically assess their traditional values and history. Although this paper strongly criticizes Western fantasies of Buddhist pacifism, it is not a critique of Buddhist values. The author finds value in a more nuanced, complex and pragmatic conception of Ahimsa. Buddhist kings had sophisticated and practical conceptual resources to support their use of force, which show a concern for defense, political stability, and social order. Rather than an awkward extension of ascetical values into the realm of power politics, there was a recognized symmetry among dharmic rule, compassion, and the acquisition and retention of power. Strategies for post war reconciliation include honoring and reconstructing the cultural and religious institutions of the enemy, rebuilding infrastructure, eliminating economic exploitation, expressions of regret, amnesties, national days of abstention from violence etc. The victorious must recognize their own part in creating the conditions from which enemies arise, both internally and externally. The analysis includes a sophisticated perception of the importance of public opinion and the critical necessity to replace the conditions that degenerated into armed conflict with wholesome conditions. Above all, a nation will thrive or fall based upon its capacity for compassion, rather than on the ethics of self or national interest.

Date: 29th of November 2010

Time: 6.00 – 7.00 p.m.

Refreshments will be served from 5.30 – 6.00 p.m.

Venue: United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission Auditorium

New Address: 22 Flower Terrace (off Flower Road), Colombo 7

Entry: By prior registration – seating on a first-come first-served basis.

Call: 471- 8744 to register

Stephen Jenkins is Professor of Religious Studies at Humboldt State University and is currently Faculty Director of the ISLE Program in Kandy. He received his doctorate from Harvard in 1999. His dissertation was a thematic study of compassion in Indian Buddhist thought. His most recent publication is “Making Merit through Warfare According to the Ārya-Bodhisattva-gocara-upåyaviòaya-vikurvåïa-nirdeóa Sätra,” in Buddhist Warfare, Edited Mark Juergensmeyer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.