Repaying a curse

I was at a meeting of various Christians this week and one of the guys made an interesting comment. It turns out, he said, that the main difference between the Vietnam War and the wars that had gone on before it was that American (and presumably Australian) troops were cursed by Buddhist monks when they landed. The effect was, apparently, to cause a much higher than expected incidence of mental illness after the war in our veterans.

Now I really don’t go in for the whole idea of monks actually being able to inflict some sort of spiritual disturbance on our troops by simply praying at them, or whatever their technique was. I’ve been scratching my head about this one for a few days now, wondering what to make of it. The Bible says a bit about curses, but trying to figure out what it means in the 21st Century is something of a puzzle.

I also realise that what soldiers in Vietnam went through (and still go through) isn’t a trivial matter. I think the sort of comment my friend made was intended well, but somehow trivialises what many of my father’s generation have to endure.

It occurred to me today, though, that the Bible has a few very clear things to say about curses. Here’s the clearest:

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

(Luke 6:27-28, NRSV)

Here’s another one like it:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

(Romans 12:14 NRSV)

I’m going to guess that the troops being cursed didn’t respond with blessing. Did any of the chaplains pray blessings back at the Buddhist monks? Were the soldiers instructed to lay down their weapons and wish their enemies all the best?

I’d love to hear that I’m wrong about this, but somehow, I don’t think so.

5 thoughts on “Repaying a curse

  1. I think you’re right that the troops didn’t respond with a blessing. My guess is that they responded more from an “eye for an eye” mentality. 😦

  2. That’s what I’m guessing too.

    I’m not going to point fingers at the troops here. I think we’ve done enough of that over the years. I’m more upset by Christians who are so upset by the fact that our boys got cursed, yet forget Jesus’ exact ‘rules of engagement’ for that scenario.

  3. Sorry but the original story is a bit sus. Placing of curses by monks isn’t part of any of the various schools of Buddhism. A few enterprising individuals do a thriving trade, among the ignorant, in protective amulets but even this practice is strongly discouraged by their hierarchy. Sounds more like a bit of religious/racial xenophobia. As in ‘if its not Christian, it must be black magic….’

    Invoking harm to anyone, regardless of their spiritual affiliations, is an anathema to Buddhist practice. Far more likely that the said monks were actually performing their own notion of a blessing upon the troops.


  4. Thanks for your comment Lindsey. I have to admit that I thought the story seemed suspicious because it seemed to conflict with everything I knew about Buddhism.

    On the other hand, it would conflict with everything I know about Christianity too, yet I wouldn’t be surprised to see churches mobilised to curse invaders. I suppose I sort of figured that Buddhism has its fair share of people who get it completely wrong too.

  5. As the wife of 48 years of a Vietnam Veteran, I can assure you the “cursed didn’t respond with blessing.” (your words) because the soldiers & the chaplains you are judging had no knowledge of any such curse.
    We have never heard of the curse until now,
    January 2018, and my husband was in the thick of battle as an Australian Army Medic.
    The curse was revealed two decades ago by an exciled Vietnamese monk, documented in many places including Time magazine.

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