Why do people harm each other? Two responses from the Buddha

A man came to the Buddha with a Question.

Why do people quarrel, fight and kill each other?

Why do rulers quarrel with rulers?

Why do the powerful with the powerful?

Why do the religious quarrel with the religious?

Why do householders fight householders?

Why do parents and children quarrel?

Why do brothers and sisters quarrel?

Why do people attack each other?

Why do they inflict suffering on each other?

Why do they kill each other?

The Buddha responded:

The cause for all these quarrels and wars is the desire for pleasure. (MN 13)

Pleasure includes:

  • The pleasure of getting what one wants.
  • The pleasure of getting attention
  • The pleasure of getting one’s own way.
  • The pleasure of feeling superior.
  • The pleasure of defeating another.

Sakya asked the Buddha a question.

Why do people harm each other?

The Buddha replied:

“Owing to the bonds of envy and being tight.”

Why is there envy and tightness?

Due to likes and dislikes.

Why are there likes and dislikes?

Due to desire.

Why is there desire?

Due to too much thinking

Why is there (too much) thinking?

Due to the proliferation of projections. (DN 21)


  • Dear Christopher, the answer to the question why there is desire: because of too
    much thinking (DN21) is not convincing to me. The Pali word for desire is tanha, which also means thirst. Clearly, for thirst one needs no thinking, it is an urge due
    to a certain condition. To me it seems the sheer condition of being human is linked
    with desiring. Unless there comes a buddha , sees through it all and develops
    desirelesnes. Perhaps some of his disciples can follow him to some extent.

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