War and Buddhism

Written by ChatGPT, revised by Leyna Nguyen.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque is a powerful novel that portrays the devastating effects of war on soldiers. This book can strongly relate back to the ideas of philosophy, Buddhism.  Buddhism is a philosophy that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama and this philosophy explores the ideas of human life, non-attachment, and the nature of suffering. Despite the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front ” portraying war and violence, we can still find many similarities and examples where this philosophy might have connected to this novel.

One of the main themes of the book is the impermanence of human life and the futility of war. Buddha’s teachings talk about the purity and the preciousness of human life.  His teachings tell us to never be violent with one another, and while the novel only portrays war and violence we can connect this back to the idea of the importance of human life.  Paul Baumer, the protagonist, reflects on this theme when he says, “We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces” (Chapter 7). This quote shows how just as Paul and his friends have just begun to enjoy life in their peaceful community, they were dragged into this war.  This helps Paul and his comrades realize the fragility of life and the fear of losing another soldier to pointless violence.

Another one of Buddha’s teachings is to feel unattached from all aspects of life.  He believes that all pain comes from attachment, so to reach enlightenment, we are supposed to unattach ourselves from ideas and feelings that are significant to us.  When Paul receives a leave from the front and visits his family, he realizes how much he has changed and how detached he has become from his former life. He says, “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow” (Chapter 5). This quote highlights how the emotional detachment that soldiers need to survive in war takes a toll on their humanity. We can see how his emotions give him unwanted feelings and sadness.  Paul explains and describes how he has become only the shell of the person his family once knew.   The book also explores the concept of empathy and compassion. When Paul and his comrades are forced to confront the humanity of their enemies, they experience a sense of empathy and compassion. In one scene, Paul helps a French soldier who is dying, and he realizes that they are all victims of the same war. He says, “Comradeship, we say; but it is only the blood of the men that can give us this word the fullness of meaning” (Chapter 6). This quote shows how the soldiers in the book learn to empathize with their enemies and recognize their shared humanity. By putting his feelings of hatred and the war aside, he is able to preserve a precious human life for as long as he can.  If Paul were to not save the soldier, the fact that he let a human die due to his pride and honor for the war will always shame him.

Photo by Chandan Suman ud83cuddeeud83cuddf3 on Pexels.com

Finally, the book and Buddhism both acknowledge the nature of suffering. Buddha talks about suffrage as a necessity in the path to enlightenment. Paul and his comrades endure unimaginable physical and emotional suffering, and the book shows the devastating impact of war on the human psyche. When Paul reflects on the futility of war, he says, “We have become wild beasts. We do not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation. It is not against men that we fling our bombs, what do we know of men in this moment when Death is hunting us down—now, for the first time in three days we can see his face, now for the first time in three days we can oppose him” (Chapter 6). This quote highlights the impact of the war on the soldiers, it talks about how the soon to be pointless war had turned them from young kids, full of life to just the living remains of the bloody battlefield.  The soldiers will never be able to forget how they lived, died, and survived in the scene of war.

In conclusion, the novel “All quiet on the Western Front” shows many ways that war and Buddhism can share several themes, including the impermanence of life, the importance of non-attachment, the power of empathy and compassion, and the nature of suffering. By exploring these themes, we can develop a deeper understanding of the human experience in war and the ways in which we can reduce suffering in the world.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s