Wednesday, January 13, 2010
It eventually occurred to me what it was about the article I wrote about previously that troubled me so. At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it, but then it became clear.
The problem is with the way the article described the book’s premise and assertion that Buddhism – the religion – is not as peaceful as it is portrayed. This is completely wrong. The premise ought to be that Buddhists are not immune to violence, both in terms of being victims as well as users of violence, and share a commonality with practitioners of any religion in that respect.
However, Buddhism per se is a non-violent religion. No where does the Buddha advocate violence. I know of no such instance in the Tipitika where the Buddha tells someone to go and start a war in his name. But it won’t take me long to find several such instances in the Bible.
Rather than condone war or any kind of angry response, the Buddha was explicit in his condemnation of anger and behavior motivated by anger.
In the Dhammapada, the Buddha said: “All beings fear death and they all fear the pain of a club. Think: How do they make you feel? Then do not kill and do not club; live peacefully with all beings and do not add to the violence of this world. Harm no one here and you will pass your next life in peace.”
That’s pretty clear. And yet, in the Bible there are numerous passages that blatantly condone violence, such as “An eye for an eye.” And there are histories within the Bible that relay how God commanded his followers to wipe out entire cities because the residents there didn’t worship him.
History documents numerous wars fought in the name of God or the name of Allah, but name one fought in the name of Buddha. Granted, individual Buddhists, and even Buddhists collectively have banded together to defend themselves and are continuing to do so today in areas like Southern Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. And they have been victims of violence at the hands of Western influences, some of which was so eloquently revealed by Kyle at The Reformed Buddhist. But these practitioners that the authors of this new book write about – even if some of them are monks – are not acting out of anything the Buddha said. They have not one shred of Dhamma to back their decision to take violent action against anyone, even an aggressor.
This is really sophomoric logic, the idea that an individual member of a religious group becomes representative of that religion’s doctrine by virtue of the combined factors of his or her behavior and the fact he or she is a cleric within that group. To conclude that Buddhism is violent, or has a violent side, because some monks are involved in violence would be the same as asserting that Catholicism is a prurient religion because some priests molest children. When you get down to it, this line of reasoning is what sustains such abhorrent notions such as racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.
I am not denying that Buddhism has been affected by violence, nor am I saying that all Buddhists behave peacefully. But when it comes to the assertion that Buddhist doctrine – that Dhamma – is violent and that Buddhist monks who engage in violence do so because of prompting by the Dhamma, to even suggest that is a mendacity I cannot tolerate.