A Few Thoughts on Militant Buddhism

by Aranyakananda

For about a year now, there has been a violent clash in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims which has in recent months come to the proverbial boiling point. Buddhist Monks in Myanmar are taking up arms against the Muslim minority in response to acts of aggression against Buddhists, in Afghanistan and other places.

I have read that in the West we have a possibly skewed vision of what it is to be a Monk – that of the placid, serene, meditative Holy man. Or maybe this is not a skewed image. Maybe whoever wrote those words that I read had a skewed PR agenda in this matter.

A friend of mine who is a Buddhist monk says that as soon as they took up arms they revoke their right to call themselves Buddhist. I understand that Buddhism and particularly the monastic code presupposes a certain ethic of what Gandhi called Ahimsa, doing no harm. No lesser authority than the Dalai Lama Himself has condemned the violence in no uncertain terms. But I struggle with understanding this particular situation in Myanmar, because of my own understanding of dharma as a Hindu.

I understand that a couple of different things may be happening here, and because I don’t know the whole story, I would address them both:

1) The Buddhist group “969” has been accused of “racializing” the Muslims and has been compared to Neo-Nazis. They have been accused as not seeing themselves as aggressors but as defenders of Buddhist “purity”. Indeed, they have outright been accused of “ethnic cleansing” of Muslim villages in Myanmar.

There is no defending this, if such is the case.

2) The “Militant Buddhists” are acting out of a sense of duty to protect their own communities in response to previous attacks. But I also understand these as acts of “vengeance” which is quite “un-Buddhist” to be sure.

The socio-political issues at hand in this situation are vast. Too vast to cover in this post. And I do not wish to over-simplify. But I will say this. As a Hindu, though I don’t like that we sometimes find ourselves at war, dharma (different from the Buddhist understanding of the term) dictates that at times we must. Action is better than inaction, and dharma trumps the ahimsa. I am not sure that civil disobedience would be a good remedy for some of the tensions going on in Myanmar right now. It is always worth a try, but given the current political climate over there, I have a feeling it is beyond that point, and all attempts at peaceful solutions have been made.

At the same time, actions taken should never come out of a sense of vengeance, because vengeance is an extremely ego-driven reaction. The fact that it is a “reaction” at all indicates that it is an act which will inevitably deepen the grooves of samsara. Understanding dharma in the way that I do, I am dismayed because it seems that there is no way around this “deepening” from occurring, should this violence continue. So getting back to what my friend the Monk said about these actions effectively revoking the Monks’ status as Buddhists, I have to say I am not 100% sure. It depends on what is really going on in Myanmar, what really brought this on. The “rightness” of all action depends on intentions.

I would like to read thoughts on this particular matter, from Hindu and Buddhist (and any other, really) perspectives.

Aum, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!

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4 Responses to A Few Thoughts on Militant Buddhism

  1. Dhrishti says:

    Vasu, I saw the notice of this post pop up last night while I was working on my own post about this matter, and right then I decided I’d save both for today when I’d have a chance to read your thoughts on this (given the Facebook conversation I’d seen). You and I usually agree on some level or another, even when we’re not on the same page, however, this post is definitely an instance of us being on the same page – at least as far as what you’ve written.

    “There is no defending this … But I also understand these as acts of “vengeance”… Action is better than inaction, and dharma trumps the ahimsa.” – In a number of places throughout this short post, you’ve done very well at saying what needs to be understood.

    Om Shanti

    • treadmarkz says:

      Dhanyavad. I look forward to reading what you have to say about the issue. I was curious what your thoughts were recently when you said you didnt think it was your place to talk about it. I therefore wondered if it is my place to talk about it, being in the U.S. and not fully understanding the politics involved. But I had to say something.

  2. Bhismah says:

    Guys Western media is Not covering this thing the illegal bangladeshi immigrant muslims has become a huge problem in India and Myanmar..after Rape & Killing of Bhuddist womens now bhuddists have taken up arms to defend and to chase away invaders…now it is a huge poblem in India…The Islamic extremism is huge problem there..

    It remind me of Geeta Verses which says :-
    Ahimsa paramo dharmaha, Dharma himsa tathaiva cha.

    (‘Non – Violence is the greatest Dharma,So too is all righteous violence’)

    Also note all of our Deities bear arms, not just ornaments! Every Hindu is given a message that intervention is inevitable when there is onslaught on those following Dharma. It will be very cruel intervention with no parallels.

    If you study South Asian History you will come to know Bhuddism was a major factor of that South Asian lost most of their land and forcibly converted to Islam by Invaders…..Till Ashoka was a Hindu king India was known for both is Spritual hertitage nd strength and however this is different thing we never invaded others land or forcibly converted others to our faith….After Kalinga war Ashoka..converted to bhuddism and majority of his strong army commanders were converted to bhuddism..Ashoka then spreaded bhuddism further to other South Asisan hindu kingdoms and most of them converted to bhuddism there was a point of time when Hnduism got limited to only few kingdoms ….Due to bhuddism the king and warriors left their arms…and the kingdom has become with Defenceless…by the time when Islamic barbarians attacked Indian subcontinent the regions like Afganistan,Pakistan,Indonesia ,Sindh were bhuddist land they didn’t have strong strong army generals due to no weapon philosphies..so they lost and never attacked back so were masscared and forcibly converted to Islam…However the interiors of India were Hindu Kingdoms…Hindu Kingdoms history is filled with armed conflict with Invaders and never left their land and always attacked back…Every hindu has Kshatriya factor in him ..We are worshipers Shakti…then thanks to Shankracharya he weer able to convert back the bhuddists back to Hindus and then a point of time we have taken our land back from clutches of Barbarians..However the bhuddists majority area like Afganistan,Sindh ,Indonesia etc were totally wiped out and ppl were forcibly converted to Islam…In India too Muslims assaulted Hindus and forcibly conveted them but Hindu’s always replied back..

  3. surya says:

    when muslims are involved in any clash, especially if they are minority in the given restless nation, just support the majority without any guilt. Muslims can not integrate and honor the sentiments of the majority. The mosques encourage the violence. These Bangladeshi origin muslims went to Indonesia and killed 8 buddhists in one go just a week ago. Majority muslim Indonesia’s security apparatus just looked on. To further elaborate on their attitudes, the Bangladeshis are now violently demanding legislating a ‘blasphemy law’ in that nation. Once enacted, every muslim will have constitutional right to kill a hindu, buddhist and a christian with impunity. Pakistan has made it a law a couple of decades ago and that resulted in lynching of many minorities there. A chechen refugee gets asylum and everything else he wanted along with good looking american women, but in the end only to hate America and Boston in particular in a matter of 10 years. Hatred and violence are integral components of the faith. And that is a fact not a hate speech.

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