September 18, 2013
It appears that Aaron Alexis, the gunman in the massacre at the Washington Navy Yard, was a Buddhist. In the Washington Post a headline reads, "Buddhist community ponders apparent link between their faith and Navy Yard shooter."
We don't think questions like "What does it mean to be a Buddhist?" or "How could a Buddhist do such a thing?" are at all relevant here. There is certainly no need to defend Buddhism or to look specifically for Buddhist lessons in what happened. This tragedy did not happen because of or despite Aaron Alexis's connection with Buddhism. It happened, as similar mass killings have happened, because a deeply troubled person with easy access to high-powered firearms went on a horrific rampage. There is no reason to think that without a change in our gun laws these tragedies will cease and every reason to assume they will continue happening, as they are, with increasing frequency, and we can be sure that people of any and all religions, and no religion at all, will continue to be both perpetrators and victims. For all of us, whether Buddhist or not, that is something worth pondering.