“Born to Rage”? Henry Rollins, Buddhist Monks, and Violence

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This documentary explores the links between genetics, environment, and violence, featuring Ex-punk rocker Henry Rollins, MMA fighters, former gang members, bikers with violent histories, and three Buddhist monks. All of them gave their stories of violence, both against them and by them, and were tested for what is known as the “warrior gene” (a mutation that leads to poor re-uptake of seratonin in the brain, turning a normally pleasant hormone into something quite different).

Part of the moral discussion at hand is that those with this gene are somehow more predisposed to violence. Their “free will” can even be impared in certain situations. The research was even used in a murder case to argue that due to the gene, the murder could not have premeditated the killing.

The Buddhist response, featured in the show, is that despite the gene, we all still have choices in life. We may not be able choose just how we feel (vedana), but we always have a choice -if only we are aware- of our craving or thirsting. So if someone offends us (or rather, someone acts in a way that triggers our feeling offended), we may ‘automatically’ want them to suffer in return or to appologize. We then cling to some scenario, perhaps playing it out over and over in our minds, and if/when it doesn’t turn out as we imagine, unless we can calm down, violence may erupt.

Or we may draw our awareness to our feeling itself; moving forward with a clear mind free of craving and clinging, recognizing that all beings suffer and all things are subject to change…

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