Navy Yard Shooting Caused by Buddhism or Mental Illness?

Posted on October 3, 2013 by


What religion cultivates terroristic acts?  Did you ever think of Buddhism? Much of the time people refer to religions such as Islam when they are asked about terrorism.  However, there are events that show otherwise.  An article written by Michelle Boorstein and Elizabeth Tenety titled, “Shooter’s interest in Buddhism prompts debate in Buddhist community” describe such an event.  This article was posted on The Washington Post on September 18, 2013. 

On September 16, 2013, Aaron Alexis walked into a Navy Yard and opened fire on civilians.  He shot and killed 12 people inside the Navy Yard, and wounded multiple others.  Alexis was a 34-year-old African-American Male who was born in New York City.  At the time of the incident, Alexis considered himself to be a follower of the Buddhist religion.  He even told his friends that one day he wished to become a Buddhist Monk.  So how could a Buddhist follower go through with such a malicious act?  The article goes on to touch on what I believe is the answer to this question. 

Alexis described himself as having post-traumatic stress disorder and also admitted to suffering from hallucinations.  This is where I believe the problem lies.  Alexis reportedly used meditation as his own way of treating his symptoms.  I find myself having many personal conflicts with this decision.  I don’t believe that a person should rely solely on their religious beliefs to help them with worldly physical problems.  By this I mean that somebody should not turn towards their religion to heal them of physical or mental ailments.  I believe that religion plays a key role in the lives of every person on this planet, whether they consider themselves religious or not. Religion plays a vital role in the structure of our society and the interactions between people.  This is how I see religion fits into our world.  It should be sought after as a way of answering questions to the unknown.  The biggest characteristic of religion is that it should guide you in this life, and be able to tell you what is next, beyond this life. 

That being said, I believe there are a few issues with this article.  I believe that they rely too heavily on the fact that Alexis was a Buddhist.  One thing that shows this in the article is when they arrange their reasoning; they make sure to mention all of his Buddhist ties first.  It isn’t until about half way into the article that they even mention that he suffered from hallucinations.  The second piece of evidence that supports this is the title of the article.  The title of the article says, “Shooter’s interest in Buddhism prompts debate in Buddhist community.”   Instead, I suggest to the author that the order of this article be rewritten so that Buddhism should be mentioned within the context, but to the extent that it was his religion and played no role in his decision-making.  The factor that not only this article, but everybody else discussing this event, should concentrate on is that Alexis was most likely an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic that was seeking help through meditation when he should have been receiving medication.    



Posted in: Buddhism