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If you’ve watched our videos on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, you’ll know that Buddhist
violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority is a serious problem. Buddhist violence contradicts
most people's perceptions of the religion as built on nonviolence and pacifism. But
with these and other instances of Buddhist aggression, we wanted to know: Can Buddhism
be violent?
One of Buddha's Five Precepts teaches not to kill or hurt another living being, and
historically buddhists have refused to take part in violent conflicts. Despite this, in
countries like Japan, Tibet and Myanmar, followers of Buddhism have engaged in sectarian violence
and oppression.
In Japan in the mid 1990s, a doomsday offshoot of Buddhism, called Aum Shinrikyo , was responsible
for a deadly chemical weapons attack on the general public. Members of the cult released
nerve gas into crowded commuter trains, killing a dozen, and injuring hundreds. In feudal
Japan, there were also warrior-Buddhist-monks, called the Sohei, whose teachings included
"The mercy of Buddha should be recompensed even by pounding flesh to pieces.”
During Tibet’s 2008 political unrest against Chinese rule, local reports alleged that 800
Buddhist monks rioted in the streets for independence, killing several civilians. The Chinese government
claim that the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, incited the violence,
and that thousands of pounds of explosives were hidden in Buddhist temples. However the
validity of these claims has been disputed.
The ongoing crisis in Myanmar can be attributed to a long standing history of minority repression.
But most recently in 2013, a buddhist monk who’s been called the “Burmese bin Laden”,
became the well-known spokesperson for the anti-Muslim “NINE-SIX-NINE movement.”
The group takes its name from the numbered virtues of the Buddha. While supporters claim
the movement preaches peace, the NINE-SIX-NINE movement has widely been labeled “Islamophobic”.
In recent years, waves of violence against minorities have been led by supporters of
the NINE-SIX-NINE movement. The UN estimates that over one-hundred thousand people, most
of whom are Rohingya Muslims, remain displaced near the Myanmar coastline as a result of
this violence.
Most Buddhists throughout the world abhor violence. The Dalai Lama has said that he
hopes the radical Buddhist monks in Myanmar will, quote “think of the face of Buddha”,
who had been a PROTECTOR of muslims. Some have blamed the spike in violence on a minority
outcropping within the Buddhist population. But the rise in extremism just goes to show
that sectarian, racial, and political differences have the power to trump even one of the world’s
most peaceful religions.
If you’d like to learn more about the Rohingya people, who have been called the most persecuted
people in the world… take a look at our full video explainer. And make sure you check
out the latest video of my new show Rituals, where we met a woman who has conquered the
seven deadliest swims in the world. Thanks for watching!
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Can Buddhism Be Violent?

944 Folder Collection
羅紹桀 published on June 28, 2015
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