In the current issue of The Atlantic, Robert Kaplan writes that Buddhism is viewed in the West as being more peaceful, austere, and uncorrupted than other religions. But, Kaplan writes, this is mistaken.
Yet Buddhism, as Kandy demonstrates, is deeply materialistic and demands worship of solid objects, in a secure and sacred landscape that has required the protection of a military. There have been Buddhist military kingdoms—notably Kandy’s—just as there have been Christian and Islamic kingdoms of the sword. Buddhism can be, under the right circumstances, a blood-and-soil faith.
Although most of us would object to Kaplan's description of Buddhism, given recent events in Sri Lanka I can't say he's entirely wrong. We might argue that he's seeing a corrupted version of Buddhism, but most religions are corrupted versions of whatever their founders intended. I strongly suspect Jesus would be astonished by present-day Christianity, for example.
Kaplan writes that the history of Sri Lanka has made the Sinhalese "a demographic majority with a dangerous minority complex of persecution." For another perspective, please see "Choosing Our Imaginary Communities and Identities" by John Hughes. Hughes writes that a "racial-religious nationalism" has had a corrosive effect on Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
We humans seem to have a built-in, compelling urge to form tribal alliances. To me, what makes an alliance "tribal" is that the group identity is integrated into self-identity. A tribe can be ethnic, nationalistic, religious, ideological, or many other things. Ultimately the tribe becomes something one's ego-armor will defend by any means necessary, including self-deception. I think our tendency to form tribes and defend them to the death against perceived threats from other tribes amounts to most of the violence on the planet.
I think it's important for us to acknowledge that Buddhists and Buddhist institutions are not immune to the passions of nationalism and other tribal "isms." Only then can we compassionately respond to free ourselves and others from these very damaging deceptions.