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Barbara O'Brien

Buddhism and Violence

By June 21, 2012

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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:

The original thread I was commenting on was started by an atheist, and she had a number of atheist followers who chimed in, citing the violence as evidence that Buddhism is a bad thing ("full of shit") was one phrase used. I had a feeling that there was a generalized disdain of religion which was being uncritically extended to Buddhism.

We've run into this before from logic-challenged critics of Buddhism such as Michael Jerryson. There is a knee-jerk assumption that if an individual or group self-identified as Buddhist commits an act of violence, Buddhism must be the cause. This is unvarnished bigotry, of course. Since Buddhism unequivocally condemns hatred and violence, blaming Buddhism for violence makes no more sense than blaming any other attribute one could assign to the perpetrators, such as race or ethnicity.

Sometimes people self-identified as Buddhist do violent things. When this happens, does it mean these individuals would never have been violent if they hadn't been exposed to Buddhism? Or does it mean Buddhist teachings just didn't sink in?

In southern Thailand Buddhist laypeople and monks are sometimes attacked and slaughtered by Muslim extremists. Some Buddhist laypeople have formed anti-Muslim militias, and even monks arm themselves sometimes for self-protection. Does this mean that if none of these people were Buddhist, it would never in a million years occur to them to form militias or carry arms in response to very real threats? That makes no sense, but some people (ahem) seem to think that's the case.

You can extend this same reasoning to religion in general. Certainly, there are religions that condone violence in some circumstances. And very often influential religious institutions are headed by people who co-opt religion for their own purposes, and use violence and oppression as a means to consolidate power. History also provides examples of sociopathic leaders who used religion to manipulate their followers. Is this the fault of religion, or sociopathy? And if religion is removed, would not nationalism or racism or any fervently held ideology serve the same purpose, just as well?

The infamous Spanish Inquisition was, arguably, more about maintaining the power of the Spanish monarchy than purifying the Spanish church. And we've probably all met people for whom a religion is more of their tribal identity than anything they practice or believe.

The point is that "religion" does not exist in a vacuum, but is something woven into and conditioned by culture and psychology. Sometimes it's a cause; sometimes it's an excuse; sometimes it is a supporting factor; sometimes it's no more related to a situation than the size of the perpetrators' shoes.

Logically, the only time one can clearly know that X religion caused Y violence is if you can demonstrate that Y would never have happened if you remove X. If Y would have happened anyway, because of racial or national prejudice or because people are in fear for their lives, then you can't say X caused Y. You can only say X failed to prevent Y. And there could be ten thousand different reasons why X failed.

In the case of Buddhism, I would look first to see if Buddhist institutions in western Burma are doing a proper job of teaching. That I do not know.

Bodhipaksa continues,

But in what way does it make sense to criticize Buddhism itself because of the behavior of people who call themselves Buddhists? If Buddhism (i.e. the Buddha's teachings) said "violence is wrong unless..." then, sure, I'd accept the premise that Buddhism is full of shit. But it doesn't. The Buddha was completely uncompromising on the question of violence. When people are violent they're not following the Buddha's teachings.

Why is that so hard to understand?

June 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm
(1) CL says:

I think as a point of discussion, we might want to look at the Nirvana Sutra (the late one) on this subject:

“Although all kings, ministers, rich lay men [grhapati] and upasakas may possess the sword and staff for protecting Dharma, I call this upholding the precepts. You may possess the sword and staff, “but do not take life”. If things are thus, we call this first-hand upholding of the precepts.”

“first-hand upholding of the precepts”- I guess this is basically defending the front lines for the dharma, or defending the sangha from the inevitably violent future. So as an almost immeasurable number of “Maras” would descend upon the upholder of the dharma, so too would they come to attack the very lands where the dharma spreads.


June 21, 2012 at 4:51 pm
(2) CL says:

However, I don’t think it justifies “violence” where ‘violence’ means uncontrolled rage or untamed mind or abuse of power…etc…


June 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm
(3) David says:

There just is no getting away from the fact that Buddhists are homo sapiens, not gods. They mess up at times. There is also no getting away from the fact that religious labels are used loosely in this world, and are often more about ethnic/cultural identity issues than religious ones. Anyone can say they are Buddhist because their family history is Buddhist, then pick up a gun. It all bears no reflection on Buddhism itself. It’s just the messiness of life in this world.

June 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm
(4) Manu Cher'no Salahudin says:

First let me say that it is human to err and it is said divine to forgive.
I don’t have a religion but I have been strongly influenced by religions.
It is also said That the first law of nature is self preservation.
I know that most religions do make war even while they teach about peace. Buddhism in my studies was not a religion but a philosophy of science. A person can choose any religion or choose to be a Buddhist. That doe not stop them from being human beings first and foremost.
You cut your finger or stub your toe it hurts. That is human unless you belong to a mystic cult of sme kind,and I don’t know to much about that,people who can walk on hot coals and don’t feel the heat.
What I am saying is that a human or animal all can feel pain.Just because you choose a religion does not make a person immune to pain
or sickness or hurt.That is what I think. I don’t think a person can get their are caught in a machine and not feel pain,but on the other hand it has been said some Buddhist can set their body on fire and not cry out a whimper.. I think that Buddhist don’t want violence because of the mind fullness of the teaching but being human Buddhist or not something sooner or later will give. I will say this I don’t want violence but push come to shove I will shove back at some place of my breaking point. I do not believe that this man they called Jesus did it either.. It is a pill I can’t swallow. There is reality and actuality. I don’t know,but that is what I say.. Thank you. Morabeza to you.

June 21, 2012 at 9:43 pm
(5) Mark Rogow says:

“Describing the karmic retribution that such people must receive, the Great Collection Sutra states: “[The Buddha asked], ‘If there should be a person who draws blood from the bodies of a thousand, ten thousand, or a million Buddhas, in your thinking, how is it? Will he have committed a grave offense or not?’ The great king Brahma replied: ‘If a person causes the body of even a single Buddha to bleed, he will have committed an offense so serious that he will fall into the hell of incessant suffering. His offense will be unfathomably grave, and he will have to remain in the great Avichi hell for so many kalpas that their number cannot be calculated even by means of counting sticks. Graver still is the offense a person would commit by causing the bodies of ten thousand or a million Buddhas to bleed. No one could possibly explain in full either that person’s offense or its karmic retribution—no one, that is, except the Thus Come One himself.’ The Buddha said, ‘Great King Brahma, suppose there should be a person who, for my sake, takes the tonsure and wears a surplice. Even though he has not at any time
received the precepts and therefore observes none, if someone harasses him, abuses him, or strikes him with a staff, then that persecutor’s offense will be even graver than that [of injuring ten thousand or a million Buddhas].’ — Nichiren Daishonin

Nichiren might conclude, in light of the teachings on rebirth found in the Lotus Sutra and other Sutras, that Muslims are receiving karmic retribution for killing ten million peaceful Buddhists in a past existence, for example, during the Middle Ages. He might also conclude that provisional Buddhism has no power to emancipate the people.

June 22, 2012 at 7:09 am
(6) Barbara O'Brien says:

Mark — I object strongly to what you have written here. First, the Buddha clearly taught that karma is not fate, and that past karma is mitigated by current actions.There is no punishment that one “must” receive because of karma. He was also clear that karma is not a cosmic criminal justice system that doles out retribution. Further, the Buddha warned us not to speculate about the karmic seeds causing current events, because it’s not something we can know, and the causes of current effects going back through time are infinitely complex. The correct response to the slaughter of Muslims is not “well, they must have deserved it” but boundless compassion. Anything else is akusala, unskillful.

I also have no idea what you (or Nichiren) might have meant by “provisional” Buddhism, but please be advised that people of many Buddhist traditions comment here, and I insist that no one play “my tradition is better than yours” games. If you can’t respect other traditions as being equally valid to your own, please go away.

June 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm
(7) CL says:

“Might” is a mighty strong word, Mark, but the Buddha said none of those things.

June 22, 2012 at 4:56 am
(8) Tissa/ Sri Lanka says:

There is an organised global plan to eliminate Muslims by using various means. Today they are being killed like flies all over the world. These killers syndicate is fanatical and very rich.Recently they bought over some Sri Lankans to create problems for Muslims but it did not go far. In Sri Lanka too there are some Mulim groups trying to create problems for Muslims by preaching some extreme forms of Islam. Buddhists in Burma and Thailand are being made use of by some elements to get Muslims killed and Buddhism disgraced.

June 22, 2012 at 7:50 am
(9) Michael says:

Religious affiliation is used in many places to define ethnic or tribal groups. In N. Ireland for example, the recent conflict was often described as between Catholics and Protestants. Actually few of the people doing the actual fighting ever crossed the door of any church. The fight was between one tribe of native Irish descent (“Catholics”) and another of Scottish descent (“Protestants”) – religion has very little to do with it in reality. What is happening in Burma is an ethnic conflict that also has little to do with religion either. Both religions are supposed to be religions of peace.

June 22, 2012 at 10:06 am
(10) Mila says:

ok so here’s the Tibetan perspective, as I understand it:

The root cause of all violence is the conceptual/perceptual violence of tearing apart subject from object, self from other. It is this that then allows us to perceive “others” as the source of “our” problems; and imagine that changing the behavior of or eliminating “others” is the best way to relieve our suffering and create the happiness that we (legitimately) yearn for.

Healing this primordial wound (the subject/object split) happens only via the direct realization of emptiness/dependent-origination, which — for most people — is possible only through meditation practice of some sort. Once this split has been healed, our actions will naturally, spontaneously be skillful — whether they are perceived/experienced as “peaceful” or as “wrathful.”

June 22, 2012 at 10:54 am
(11) Dan says:

I’m not sure the criticisms are very clearly thought through but on the whole they fall somewhere between the it-caused-it and the it-failed-to-stop-it but because, at least in the West, Buddhism paints itself as a particularly pacific religion, when Buddhists get involved in murderously racist violence (and that’s what this is), it’s fair enough to point this out. The pointing out is not always done in the nicest of ways but if you’re going to make claims about a practice, you can’t be upset when those claims fall down.

And let’s not forget that this is hardly an isolated incident; the Thai government – despite wearing its Buddhist colours as proudly as it can – regularly commits massive human rights abuses not only against its own people but also against the Rohingya. There are well documented cases of large numbers of Rohingyan refugees being badly beaten by the Thai army before being put in boats which were towed out to the middle of the ocean and set adrift. Without food or water.

So while people say ‘The Buddha was completely uncompromising on the question of violence’ (which possibly stretches the truth to breaking point), it ought to be accepted that violence, including murder, is in no short supply in Buddhist countries – really, it’s not. I live in one and I’ve seen it – from the state and from individuals – for over a decade. Of course, to someone sitting his or her zafu in San Francisco, the teeming millions of Asians with their strange ways may not look like Buddhists but I’d hesitate before making that judgement.

Frankly, there’s always a really absurd amount of preciousness around these blogs when this kind of thing happens. Buddhists do bad shit. That’s no surprise because people do shit. This doesn’t mean that Buddhism is shit but rather than scrabble around for excuses and defenses, it’s best to admit the obvious and leave it at that.

June 22, 2012 at 10:57 am
(12) Dan says:

“Logically, the only time one can clearly know that X religion caused Y violence is if you can demonstrate that Y would never have happened if you remove X.”

Events can have more than one cause and in fact they almost always do in the social sciences but that doesn’t prevent us talking about causes. And a problem with these types of statements is that they only ever run in one direction – when someone says, “Buddhism (or Christianity or Diet Pepsi or a new boyfriend) changed my life”, do you say “Nonsense. That can only be true if you conclusively demonstrate that your life-changing experience would never have happened had you not found Buddhism/Christianity/Diet Pepsi/a new boyfriend”? And while it’s natural to exhibit a bias for an in-group (I could be wrong but that’s what this looks like), you should remember that that’s exactly what critics of religion complain of.

“In southern Thailand Buddhist laypeople and monks are sometimes attacked and slaughtered by Muslim extremists. ”

As an aside, I hope you’re aware that in the deep south, Muslims are killed in much greater numbers than are Buddhists. Just so you know.

June 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm
(13) Mumon says:

Good post Barbara; I elaborated on one point over at my place: that the teachings against violence aren’t really be absolutist.

One other point I’d like to bring out though, which I’d hinted at, but didn’t explicitly state earlier in a post on Myanmar: I really wish Aung San Suu Kyi would take a substantially more inclusive and compassionate stand regarding the Rohingya; words I’d read from her on the subject sound a bit like Mitt Romney talking about illegal immigration – such words seem especially out of place when there is such hatred being expressed towards a people.

June 23, 2012 at 12:24 am
(14) Paul UK says:

@ Tissa …”There is an organised global plan to eliminate Muslims by using various means.”

What the … what fantasy gaga land do you live in !!! You should check out the islamic concepts & associated connotations of “peace”, taqqiya”, & “jizyah”, then islams historical relation to other world religions, & the fact that it totally destroys all indigenous cultures …. and so forth…..History is not a matter of “politically correct” opinion !!!!

June 23, 2012 at 12:41 am
(15) Paul UK says:

@ Mark, you should have used something like “the fruits of” instead of “retribution” people are sometimes very fussy about such things.

@ Barbara, sorry but Buddha did say what Mark says in the Great Collection Sutra, unless one contests the scriptures authenticity & Sutra authenticity is a real can of worms.

June 23, 2012 at 1:00 am
(16) Paul UK says:

Sorry if some of my posts seem impolite to some, that is not my intention.

It is just that I think opinion should be informed by the truth & not truth by opinion that seems the rage these days, plus a lot of us Buddhists need a serious reality check & open integrity that seems sadly missing.

As the Romans used to say “Dont tell people the Truth, they dont want to know.”

June 23, 2012 at 3:41 am
(17) Tanukisan says:

Barbara; interesting post, as always. I find it is most often those who follow the Abrahamic faiths, or those raised in societies influenced by them, that make assumptions about Buddhism based on the actions of individual or groups of Buddhists. The Abrahamic faiths are, after all, steeped in the blood of their adversaries, even those of their own faith. It is difficult to break the association of religious belief and violence that has been evident throughout those religions’ histories when one has been raised with those stories, even at one step removed, as I was.

Mark; I find it difficult to believe that the Buddha was advocating or implying that violence towards those who are violent to Buddhists is acceptable. My take on this passage is akin to the Christian adage of Mathew 25:40; “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. To me, the passage teaches that violence towards anyone, no matter what their rank or state in society (a Buddha or the most humble lay-person), is not acceptable.

Mark and Paul; if these words are what the Buddha said and he was advocating the acceptance of violence and or karmic “judgement” against others, then the Buddha was wrong.

June 23, 2012 at 3:55 am
(18) Paul UK says:

@ Tanukisan. No I`m not saying Buddha advocated violence, but the quote that Mark makes is accurate, I was really refering to Sutra authenticity, i.e could the Buddha really have said all the sutra attributed to him as well the Tantras … a can of worms no one really wishes to address as it would probably invalidate many Traditions … us Buddhists sometimes need a reality check, pun intended.

June 23, 2012 at 8:10 am
(19) Barbara O'Brien says:

Paul — there is all kinds of stuff in all kinds of sutras, both Pali and Mahayana, that contradicts all kinds of stuff in other sutras. And this is a big, honking example. It’s perilous to take anything out of one sutra and use it to prove anything. I actually don’t recommend that people try to learn Buddhism by reading sutras for themselves, for this very reason. People find one bit of text that appeals to their predilections and won’t let go of it, even if there are 20 other texts that say the opposite.

The Great Collection (Mahasamnipata) Sutra probably was written in the 5th century CE, about a thousand years after the historical Buddha died. It was said to be a translation from an earlier Sanskrit work, but scholars today generally think the Chinese translations of Mahayana sutras are not translations at all, and the first Chinese “translation” actually is the original. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Great Collection is invalid; the Diamond Sutra may date from about the same time, and other sutras such as the Lotus, Heart, and Vimalakirti are only slightly older. However, such sutras have no more validity than the various traditions choose to give them.

If what Mark says is what the Great Collection Sutra says about karma, then the Great Collection is dead wrong, and is contrary to what the historical Buddha taught. For a brief review of what the Buddha taught about karma, this essay by Thanissaro Bhikkhu is a good start.

June 23, 2012 at 4:20 pm
(20) CL says:

All, while I do not doubt that th words of the quote from Nichiren that Marl posted is true to the sutra, how is it that it advocates “retribution’ in the form of “counter” attacks or justification for the feeling that one geoup of “others” deserves some kind of retibution. That is a cloud of poison. The Lotus Sutra promises acceptance to Buddhahood for all down to the person who takes no faith in the Buddha’s words and you would not admonish those who strike down those who do not take the Buddha’s words as faith?

June 23, 2012 at 5:41 pm
(21) Hein says:

Have to confess that I have not read any sutras dealing with violence or non-violence. But insofar as my experience with Buddhism is concerned I have not seen any place where the concept of “turn the other cheek” was taught. So Buddhist – it seems to me – do not generally provoke people. I also understand that most of the Buddhist countries I know off has national defence forces and police forces. Some temples has fierce-looking dharma protectors. One of the temples near me (that suffered from various criminal attacks) has even security guards (as far as I could see they were all unarmed).
Now what i understand is that the Buddha hardly taught that one should become a “doormat” for all and sundry to “walk all over you”. To prevent that from happening one should – i suppose – act skilfully according to Buddhist teachings. Perhaps it is a question of proportionality; the parry/ward off should not be more/bigger than the attack.
But as I stated earlier; I have not yet study in any depths any Buddhist sutras on non-violence.

June 24, 2012 at 4:09 am
(22) Paul UK says:

@ Barbara … I totally agree, the Sutra contradict each other all over the place.

You use the word “valid”, aaahhh, do you mean “useful but not Buddhas teachings ?” I have difficulty with how most Buddhists use that word, valid does not mean true, just correct if conclusion follows initial assumtions ??

A big can of worms eh ?

@ Hein … I agree, “turn the other cheek” was never part of Buddhism though people do expect such from us. I believe in the Vinaya it`s said that Buddha allowed monks to defend themselves, even to punch another monk if attacked (my source bieng Achan Brahmavanso). I will look into this though.

On a personal note I`m non-violent. I hold Bodhisattva vows, but would I aggressively defend myself, family… from unprovoked attack, yes I would & I think most Buddhists would if answering honestly.

June 24, 2012 at 8:48 am
(23) Barbara O'Brien says:

Paul — “valid” and “true” are not necessarily the same thing. The word “true” is very problematic to me, since what we speak of is only relative truth; the absolute defies expression. So I would kick the word “true” out the window and speak only of why a particular thing might or might not have authority in our little relative arguments; e.g., be “valid.”

It’s an interesting thing that of all the Buddhist scriptures there is no single text, not so much as a sentence, that is accepted as valid (as in worthy of study or authoritative) in all schools of Buddhism. So quoting scriptures in a nonsectarian setting is a fool’s game. A scripture that has validity for you may not be valid to me.

The Lotus Sutra, for example, is considered invalid in all parts of Theravada and big chunks of Mahayana, including (I have heard) Tibetan Buddhism. It is influential in Soto Zen — Dogen quotes it a lot — but most of us understand that the Lotus does not represent anything the historical Buddha said, but was written several centuries later. This is true of all of the Mahayana sutras. So while the Lotus may correctly present dharma, it does so in a way that goes beyond the historical Buddha’s teaching. Same thing with the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra and a lot of other texts that are essential to the Zen school, and which I take very seriously.

So if the Mahayana sutras are considered “valid,” it is in a relative sense. What are they valid of? The historical Buddha didn’t say any of this stuff. Some other master came along later and wrote the text, and subsequent great masters through the centuries have taught them to their students. Whatever authority the texts have comes from that. However, nothing in those texts should be attributed to “the Buddha” without qualification. If we are talking about what the historical Buddha taught, we have to go to earlier texts, and most of the time that means the Pali Tipitika. And even that shows signs of a lot of editing and later additions. So even in the oldest texts there are arguments for discounting lots of stuff.

I assume the Great Collection is taken seriously in some schools, but Zen pretty much ignores it. And if what is said of it in this comment section is accurate, ignoring it is a sound policy. What the historical Buddha taught about karma — in as much as it can be gleaned from the Tipitika — is very, very different from what Mark said. So if Mark is claiming that “the Buddha” taught thus and so, and he’s using the Great Collection as his authority, then he’s wrong. The Buddha didn’t teach that. Lots of stuff in Buddhism is debatable, but that’s fairly cut and dried.

So it’s not a can of worms to me. You just have to be clear where these texts come from and what they represent.

June 24, 2012 at 10:29 am
(24) Paul UK says:

@ Barbara.
Yes I KNOW valid does not mean true, thats what I said above, phew I wipe my brow.

I still find the use of the word valid, its a term from logic, and to say a sutra may be valid for one person but not for another really means no sense, e.g.

An argument is valid if and only if the truth of its premises entails the truth of its conclusion, thus

All cups are green.
Socrates is a cup.
Therefore, Socrates is green.


This is why I never really understand how Buddhsits use this term mostly. So the can of worms regarding authenticity of Mahayana & Vajrayana texts is a can of worms because it in-validates (LOL) most traditions stemming from them.

June 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm
(25) Barbara O'Brien says:

Paul — You aren’t making sense. The dictionary definition of “valid” is “Actually supporting the intended point or claim; acceptable as cogent: ‘a valid criticism.’” That’s pretty much as I’m using it. And all claims of validity are contextual, not absolute. There is no inherent validity” to any text, and the validity of a citation varies depending on how it is used. So, the same text might be validly cited for one argument but not for another.

So, to say that “The Buddha said karma is X” and then site the Great Collection sutra for support is not a valid argument, because (1) the Great Collection can’t be traced to the historical Buddha, and (2) the Great Collection contradicts texts that ARE believed to come from the historical Buddha. Therefore, even if one quotes the Great Collection correctly, in regard to karma it’s bogus, because the Great Collection does not support the intended point that the Buddha taught X about karma. That doesn’t seem to me to be a difficult thing to grasp, so I don’t know what you’re stumbling over. There may be some things the Great Collection is good for, but as I’m not familiar with it I can’t say what those are.

I think you are trying to read my arguments as if I’m saying that some texts are always inherently valid under all circumstances and some are not, and that’s not at all what I am saying. You have to consider the total context of the argument being made, and also consider the perspective of the person you are talking to. I would never, ever cite the Lotus Sutra if I’m discussing a doctrinal point with a Theravadin, because I know the Theravadins think the Lotus is bogus. However, if I’m talking to a Nichiren Buddhist that’s a whole different context. Although the Nichiren Buddhist would probably know the Lotus better than I do.

June 24, 2012 at 10:43 am
(26) Paul UK says:

ERRATA: line 3, should read

I still find the use of the word valid by most Buddhists somewhat nebulous, its a term from logic, and to say a sutra may be valid for one person but not for another really means no sense, e.g.

June 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm
(27) Tanukisan says:

I think it creates problems when using terms like ‘valid’ as they are used in logical argument, rather than as they are understood in common speech. To do so is more likely to cloud the argument than to clear it. Having studied both philosophy and symbolic logic, I am well aware how ‘catholic’ the meanings of such words can become.

However …. to bump the conversation back on to its original track; I don’t think that the non-violence the Buddha taught is synonymous with being a ‘doormat’. The monks of the Shaolin Temple of Kung Fu fame are, after all, a Chan Buddhist sect.

In my own martial arts practice, I have found the centeredness developed through Zazen to be particularly effective. Interestingly, though I was assaulted several times in my youth (which is why I took up martial arts training), I have never had to use it. The same centeredness seems to work quite effectively to diffuse potentially violent situations.

June 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm
(28) Paul UK says:

@ Tanukisan.

Agreed, I never really understand hoe most Buddhists use the term, it seems its often used to imply something is true rather than being a logical argument. Maybe I`m a bit to fussy how people use technical terms, but said use just confuses things if not used correctly, IMHO that is.

I agree on the violence issue. intention behind any seeming violent act is important as is one state of mind in such. A point missed on some, maybe.

June 24, 2012 at 7:05 pm
(29) Paul UK says:

@ Barbara, once again, phew I wipe my brow.

The above def. on valid is correct as is the example given, which is why I think most Buddhists use the term incorrectly. Even in Buddhism the term valid is used in the “logical” sense & it often gets used out of context, its not a stumbling point for me if used correctly.

Assumptions may be erroneous or not & still give a valid argument, so whether the Great Collection & statements concerning violence attributed therein are valid is really mute, it just depends on ones belief & thats a personal choice.

Same with traditions stemming from Mahayana Sutras & Tantric texts.

So its still a can of worms. E.g. These tradition may be valid but not true. E.g. Surangama Sutra, did Buddha really hold up a lotus flower & thus start Chan as some assert. Did Buddha really manifest as Vajradhara & teach Vajrayana. Did Nagarjuna really live 800 years & retrieve the Prajnaparamita Sutras ….

Us Buddhists sometimes need a reality check !

June 24, 2012 at 7:28 pm
(30) Paul UK says:

A personal example of valid.

I`m mostly gelukpa & must of us gelukpas are rather conservative. Sometimes some of my practices are done in a non-standard way & thus am told my practise is not valid implying its not a true Buddhist practice, & this takes us to my tin of worms gripe, did the Old Boy really teach everything attributed to him … does this imply our practise is non-Buddhist even though it can lead to enlightenment blah blah blah ???

June 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm
(31) Machig says:

blah blah blah ???

yeah, exactly :)

June 25, 2012 at 1:22 am
(32) Hein says:

Tanukisa –
Interesting point about martial arts; is it in any manner Buddhist? If I understand the history/legend correctly came from Southern India and taught the Shaolin Monks a kind of Indian martial arts. It may be true or not, but in the Chinese context it appears that martial arts are more related to Taoism. Now here is the difficult part for me; is it the training of martial arts or the practice of Buddhist principles that keep one safe from attack?
In my own martial arts practice, I have found the centeredness developed through Zazen to be particularly effective…The same centeredness seems to work quite effectively to diffuse potentially violent situations.
My Tai Chi teacher taught me the same. Like you I am also (mostly) able to diffuse potentially violent situations. But I am unable to discern whether my ability to do so should be credited to Buddhism or Taoism or a syncretion of the two. I suppose if it “works” it should be good enough?

June 25, 2012 at 2:51 am
(33) L grauls says:

I know a fanatic moslim lives above me. I don’t occupy me with these persons. His wife is no better and finds(being française in fact and blond) the man is the man. So he looked up budhism and still does not know tara excists. If you put a picture of maria tara or other female pictures in your house/on your door, they can’t come in. Take this sentence very big! They attack you if you are clean in your house etc. They obly want to possess. So they ennoy budhist munks. You must marry one of them. I say no so i have the problems too. Now i’m a rassist. Yesterday she a woman said: if she puts that picture there, i’ll leave the house. Is that not a terrible thinking. That is why that woman budhist has been attacked. Statues may be destroyed he said one day. I close well my door. That is fanatic islam not the normal one.

June 25, 2012 at 5:27 am
(34) Paul UK says:

@ Hein.

I once some one say that sila, e.i. learning to live in this world, is the first & last training, if martial arts practise can increase ones sensitivity to potentially violent situations & enable one to better diffuse such encounters without resource to violence, then that surely is sila, yes ? Plus Tai Chi & such can be a fantastic vipassana practice so who cares what name we give it.

@ Machig.


@ L grauls.

Sorry, can`t decipher your English ?

June 26, 2012 at 11:13 am
(35) Mila says:

@ Tanukisan — I agree with others who have resonated with:

“The same centeredness seems to work quite effectively to diffuse potentially violent situations.”

Brings it back to the importance of our “personal” practice, in resolving “collective” conflicts.

@ Paul UK — I never quite connected with the issue you brought up in relation to the word “valid.” An important aspect of Tibetan Buddhist philosophical inquiry is the study of “valid cognition” i.e. what counts as valid knowledge/ways-of-perceiving, at relative and ultimate levels. In the context of these discussions/debates, the terms are defined precisely — so then simply become tools (not unlike a surgeon’s scalpel) potentially very useful for gaining clarity.

Like any word, it can play a role in increasing confusion, if folks are using it in all kinds of different ways, i.e. if we don’t agree (at least provisionally) upon a definition — so that our communication can, in a given context, be meaningful.

June 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm
(36) Paul UK says:

@ Mila.

I`m just never quite sure how people are using the world. Seems to be used a lot to mean be valid & true simultaneously, it`s just one of those words that seems so much to confuse issues due to incorrect usage.

Thas all really.

July 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm
(37) Billy says:

Why are Rohingya Muslims are being evicted, injured and killed?
What have they done wrong to deserve this kind of treatment?
I do not like people who harm the innocent.

December 1, 2012 at 8:56 pm
(38) peace says:

There is a bigger picture that is not being seen by anyone, the extinction of Buddhism that is going on in South Asia.
Muslims are overtaking Buddhist countries destroying anything that relates to Buddhism. Started with Afghanistan (yes Afghanistan used to be a Buddhist country) destroyed the historic bamiyan statues, then came to Bangladesh burned down temples. now the Buddhists in other South Asian countries are paranoid.
their excuse for violence is “to save our religion and culture”
which I do not agree with
although there should be limitations for Muslims as illegal immigrants in most countries.
I completely disagree with this article. compare the quran to Buddhist teachings you’ll see which ones are more violent.

December 4, 2012 at 8:39 am
(39) Barbara O'Brien says:

Buddhism in Afghanistan was mostly wiped out by an invasion of Huns in the mid 5th century, before Mohammed was born.

May 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm
(40) Frommers says:

First of all I want to say great blog! I had a quick question
that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had a
hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there.
I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10
to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure out how
to begin. Any ideas or tips? Cheers!

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