Defense & Security

Buddhism and Conflict Transformation: Philosophical and Conceptual Expansion Of The Nature Of Human


Since the1990’s peace research has witnessed the rise of conflict transformation as one of its key ideas. This paper explores how Buddhism can contribute to conflict transformation by examining how Buddhist ideas of the human mind can complement contributions from Western peace/conflict analysis.



It might be odd to examine a complementary relationship between conflict transformation and Buddhist ideas of human mind. However, there is a small but growing body of academic literature on non-Western contributions to the conceptualization of peace and conflict.[1] Further, as Ramsbotham et al argue, in contemporary peace research, various values and wisdom from around the globe should be appreciated and, if necessary, a complementary relationship between them needs to be explored to promote shared understanding of the virtue to address unjust social/global structures and achieve harmonious human relationships.[2]

 Therefore, the main goal of this paper is neither to show superiority of Buddhist ideas of human mind for peace and conflict analysis nor to replace basic ideas of conflict transformation with Buddhist ones. Rather, by proposing new ideas of human mind, it seeks to expand the purview of conflict transformation itself, which would enable us to build new theoretical perspective and even practical methods in the long run.

To this end, three sections form this paper. The first part critically examines the basic features of conflict transformation and uncovers problems facing contemporary conflict transformation enterprise. The paper especially critiques and problematizes the underdevelopment of qualitative arguments of the potential of the individual mind for conflict transformation. The second section expounds the Buddhist analysis of human mind and delves into its understanding of the dynamics of peace/conflict. Finally, the third section explores how an expanded view of human mind can contribute to qualitatively enriching the discourse on peace for future conflict transformation enterprise.


The central aim of Buddhism founded by Gautama, the Buddha, who “was led to philosophizing by an intense longing for the eradication of suffering”[3] is to examine and address the problem of suffering. Especially, it analyses and overcomes psychologically-oriented suffering by means of the eradication of its cause based on the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths[4].

 Furthermore, there are three schools of Buddhism – Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana – and each of them further has sub-schools that have respectively developed distinct teachings and cultures along with the shared objective, that is, the eradication of suffering. As it is beyond the scope of this paper to analyse all of those schools in detail and to take up all their teachings to examine their contributions to conflict transformation, the paper employs the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism for the discussion. However, though it embraces Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, this paper recognizes and appreciates other schools’ rich teachings and cultures.

*Published in Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security (JCTS) Vol. 3 | No. 1
© Copyright 2013 by CESRAN

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