The Dalai Lama was speaking to students at USC on Tuesday when he was asked how he balanced the demands of compassion and justice with respect to Bin Laden. Here's the detailed answer that was posted on the DL's website:
His Holiness then answered questions, some of which were submitted through the Internet. The first question was on His Holiness’ emphasis on compassion as a basis of ethics. It asked whether in some situation ensuring justice is more important than being compassionate to the perpetrator of a crime. It referred to the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden and the celebrations of it by some, and asked where compassion fit in with this and ethics. In his response, His Holiness emphasized the need to find a distinction between the action and the actor. He said in the case of Bin Laden, his action was of course destructive and the September 11 events killed thousands of people. So his action must be brought to justice, His Holiness said. But with the actor we must have compassion and a sense of concern, he added. His Holiness said therefore the counter measure, no matter what form it takes, has to be compassionate action. His Holiness referred to the basis of the practice of forgiveness saying that it, however, did not mean that one should forget what has been done.
The very next question to the DL prompted this reply, which I take as an allegorical statement about terrorism or other forms of aggressive violence:
To a question on whether His Holiness could think of any unethical acts that he had committed, His Holiness responded in the positive referring to “my relation with mosquitoes,” much to the amusement of the audience. His Holiness expanded saying if there was no risk of malaria then he would tolerate a mosquito or two sucking blood from his arm but when they come one after another, he would lose his patience.
Buddhists, incidentally, are not pacifists on either a national – Tibetan – or personal level. Consider this DL quote:
“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” (Seattle Times, May 15, 2001).
So there you have it. Not only Buddists but also the many non-Buddist admirers of the Dalai Lama can rest assured. His Holiness himself has the greatest compassion for the SEAL who focused a countermeasure of justice precisely on Bin Laden's forehead.