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Mon Oct 1, 2012, 03:58 AM

Are Buddhists Violent?

Lawrence Osborne, 04.14.09, 03:35 PM EDT
Western stereotypes vs. reality as Thailand descends into turmoil.


Like many former residents of Bangkok, I have been watching the country's slide into virtual civil war with a mixture of incredulity and tetchy disillusion. It is hard for us to think of one of the world's only truly Buddhist states descending into a chaotic thuggery that would, alas, be less remarkable elsewhere. But why? Is it because of misperceptions we have about Buddhism?

Buddhist violence--or violence committed by Buddhists, more properly speaking--is a strained concept for us, to put it mildly. I can easily imagine being assaulted by an infuriated Christian or by a hysterically outraged jihadist, by a Zionist even, at a pinch--but by a Buddhist? What would you have to say to get him mad? Deny transmigration?

I confess that I rather like the idea of an ax-wielding Buddhist thug. It would prove, at least, that stereotypes are stereotypes. Ever since America switched on to Zen, that exceedingly odd variant of Buddhism propagated by the tireless and slightly loopy Japanese writer D. T. Suzuki, among others, we have thought of Buddhism as being inseparable from an exemplary nonviolence.

http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/14/bangkok-violent-buddhists-opinions-contributors-thailand-cambodia-burma.html


Buddhism and Violence
Buddhism and Violence
By Barbara O'Brien, About.com GuideJune 21, 2012

Violence between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists in western Burma has resulted in 62 deaths so far, a government official says. Mobs from both groups have attacked, beaten, and killed others, and set homes on fire.

My impression is that desperately poor Rohingya Muslims, who are considered to be illegal refugees from Bangladesh (even if they were born in Burma) have gotten the worst of it. There is no question many Burmese genuinely despise the Rohingyas.

I condemn this violence and am disappointed that this has happened in Burma. Burma has been such an inspiration in the past. But this brings us back to a larger discussion of the relationship between Buddhism and violence.


At Wildmind, Bodhipaksa offers some valuable comments on what it is to "be" a Buddhist who commits violence. As he says, there is no justification for violence in Buddhist scriptures or teaching. He continues,

There is no Buddhist doctrine of "just war" or even of "righteous anger." The Buddha condemned all forms of violence, and famously said that even if bandits were sawing you limb from limb, you should have compassion for your torturers.

However, that hasn't stopped others from claiming that the violence in Burma proves that Buddhism teaches violence. Bodhipaksa describes a comment thread in which people blamed Buddhism for the violence:

http://buddhism.about.com/b/2012/06/21/buddhism-and-violence.htm

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Are Buddhists Violent? (Original post)
AsahinaKimi Oct 2012 OP
libodem Oct 2012 #1
YankeyMCC Oct 2012 #2
oxymoron Oct 2012 #12
YankeyMCC Oct 2012 #3
white_wolf Oct 2012 #4
AsahinaKimi Oct 2012 #5
marasinghe Oct 2012 #6
AsahinaKimi Oct 2012 #8
left-of-center2012 Oct 2012 #7
ellisonz Oct 2012 #9
byeya Oct 2012 #10
left-of-center2012 Oct 2012 #11

Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Mon Oct 1, 2012, 12:25 PM

1. No

I never thought so. But then again the Jews were always homeless,and compassionate, now they have a Nation and they became extremely Nationalistic and aggressive.

Maybe our Buddhists are turning into their opposite type too. Strange times.

Violent Buddhist. Oxymoron.

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Response to libodem (Reply #1)

Mon Oct 1, 2012, 12:36 PM

2. Buddhist are humans

no oxymoron I see there.

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Response to libodem (Reply #1)

Sat Oct 20, 2012, 09:26 AM

12. At least your last line wasn't

Violent Buddhist: oxymoron

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Mon Oct 1, 2012, 12:37 PM

3. "exceedingly odd variant "

Why pick on a group of people that have nothing to do with this tragic set of events?

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Mon Oct 1, 2012, 02:36 PM

4. Of course some Buddhists are violent. People all have potential for violence.

However, the key difference between Buddhists and members of other sects is that Buddhism is rarely the justification for the violence, simply because it doesn't fit. It's much easier to use Christianity or Islam as a justification than Buddhism, though I would argue that even those religions are mere justifications and not the source of violence.

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Mon Oct 1, 2012, 08:31 PM

5. Maybe you guys can help me out here

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1014251299#post38

I am not that versed in Buddhism as many of you are.. I am Buddhist but do not participate as much as I would like.

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Reply #5)

Tue Oct 2, 2012, 12:27 AM

6. there are big differences among those who 'profess' to follow the Buddha's teachings ....

both in theory and, more so, in practice.

my native country, Sri Lanka - has a long history of Theravada Buddhist religion, culture & ethics, from 300 BC onwards. Roughly 70% of the population identify themselves as Buddhists. Yet, there was an abominable, 40 year long, ongoing ethnic conflict, from the early 1970's until a short while back, between the majority Sinhalese group which is largely Buddhist & the minority Tamil group which is largely Hindu.

Even more disgusting was the fact that, quite a number of so-called Buddhist monks supported, & even encouraged, the violence on the part of the majority community, under the pretext of self-defense; basically using the same excuse pushed by the Bush administration, for the attack on Iraq. Some so-called monks actually lead axe & club wielding mobs, in their attacks. (At the same time, there were those, even lay persons, who protected those in danger at the risk & sometimes the loss, of their own lives - much fewer in number, though they were.)

If the Buddha had been around to see this, i believe he would have personally thrown those monks out of the Sangha. He once asked a group of novice monks to leave the order - just because they were chattering like monkeys, during the mid-day meal & were unable to maintain a dignified silence. How much more repulsive, would the behavior of monks who advocate violence be - whatever the reason.

The Buddha's teachings on violence & even the reaction to violence, are quite clear and always the same, regardless of the provocation. One of his instructions, you quoted yourself: "Avoid what can be avoided; endure what cannot be avoided".

Another command to his monks is given in the Kakacupama Sutta. Here he states unequivocally that - even if a monk is undergoing physical torture & violence at the hands of criminals, such as being carved up with saws, if they were true followers of his teaching, they would still maintain goodwill & sympathy towards their attackers & tormentors.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.than.html
"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That is how you should train yourselves."


When his own city-state & clan, were under threat of attack from a neighboring king, even though his tribe begged him to come & lead their army in their defense, while he tried to reason with the aggressor twice & dissuade him from the attack, when he saw that it was futile - he advised his people to lay down their weapons & accept whatever was inflicted on them, without responding with violence. His people were decimated by the attack; and the Buddha's Shakya Clan ceased to exist after that episode.

Unfortunately, that level of dedication to Buddhist principles, is beyond most of us; even those who have taken the path of Monkhood. To paraphrase an earlier poster: different persons are at different levels on the path & will act & react differently. This has always been & always will be, the case. Obviously, one cannot classify all self-professed Buddhists as saints & good people; as in any other population, there will always be many waverers, hypocrites and the occasional demonic being, among them.

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Response to marasinghe (Reply #6)

Tue Oct 2, 2012, 06:27 PM

8. Thanks for this, most helpful

doumo arigatou gozaimasu

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Tue Oct 2, 2012, 04:37 PM

7. Some Buddhists can be violent

Some years ago I read in the newspaper about a Buddhist monastery in South Korea where the monks split into two factions after the head of the monastery died. They were battling each other physically for control of the bank account and expensive automobile he had controlled.

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Wed Oct 3, 2012, 11:26 AM

9. I think there are much more complex and important ethnic idenfications...

...than any reduction to a religious argument can reflect in such a discussion.

Buddhists are human - Are atheists not human? Are Christians not human?

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Wed Oct 3, 2012, 01:37 PM

10. I think a point to make is that Buddhism fosters peace and non-violence.

 

Where all life is sacred and wisdom equals compassion, there is not much - if any - room to use Buddhism as a motivator for group violence.
Of course if you put a person, or people, in a position of having to defend their lives and loved ones, then violence is a response to violence. However, if you live in a society where the ethos does not allow situations like this to occur, then peace will prevail.

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Response to AsahinaKimi (Original post)

Wed Oct 3, 2012, 01:47 PM

11. Chinese invasion of Tibet

The Tibetans fought as best they could against the Chines invasion of their land.
I'm not sure if that, though, should fall under 'violence'.

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