It has come to my attention that there's a Wikipedia page called "Violence in Buddhism." It's a very odd page that mixes valid and invalid -- in my opinion -- examples of violence perpetrated by Buddhists and Buddhist institutions.
The page title begs the question, "What does 'in Buddhism' mean?" Violence promoted by Buddhist teachings? Endorsed by Buddhist institutions? Perpetrated by self-identified Buddhists? Carried out by people who keep a Buddha statue on their desks? Accusations of violence that probably never happened?
I wonder if the page writers actually know that much about Buddhism, or Buddhists, or even Asia. For example, the page uncritically lists accusations made by the government of China against the 14th Dalai Lama. File those under "probably never happened." On the other hand, it leaves out some rather nasty and well-documented violence, such as the time troops supporting the 5th Dalai Lama attacked an encampment of Karma Kagyu monks and drove the 10th Karmapa into exile.
I see that a major source of information for this page is Michael Jerryson. I've complained about him in the past (see, for example, "Thoughts on Religious Violence.") This is the guy who wrote, in his book Buddhist Warfare, --
Buddhist messianic violence persists in contemporary times, with the latest violent outbreak occurring in Japan. In 1995, Asahara Shoko's Aum Shinrikyo unleashed Sarin nerve gas into the Tokyo subway, killing a dozen people and injuring many more. Part of Aum Shinrikyo's ideologies is based on the Lotus Sutra, one of the most popular and influential sutras (scriptures) in Mahayana Buddhism.
This is profoundly dishonest. There is nothing whatsoever in the Lotus Sutra that condones such violence. Nor does Jerryson bother to find out exactly what part Aum Shinrikyo's "ideology" is taken from the Lotus Sutra or any other part of Buddhism. My impression of Asahara Shoko is that he made up his own religion, with iconography and ritualism borrowed from Buddhism and Shinto and with some Christian apocalypticism tossed in. He probably used the Lotus Sutra more as a kind of totem than as a source of teaching.
Now to the Wiki page, which cites the Ketsumeidan assassinations as an act of "Buddhist terrorism." These were some political assassinations carried out in Japan in the 1930s by a group headed by a Nisshō Inoue. Inoue called himself a priest of the Nichiren school, but he was never ordained, and as far as I know no school of Nichiren Buddhism in Japan claimed him as its own. He was a fake, in other words. So why is what he did "Buddhist terrorism" and not "some charismatic psychopath pretending to be a priest terrorism"?
On the other hand, in feudal Japan there was actual violence between genuinely ordained monks of rival sects from time to time. That violence might arguably be a legitimate example of "Buddhist violence." But the Wiki authors don't give that example.
Jerryson and others seeking to dig up dirt on Buddhism fall into a major logical fallacy, which is that every act done by anybody with even a tenuous connection to Buddhism must be blamed on Buddhism and would never have happened but for Buddhism. As I wrote in the older post linked above,
"So the question is, where there is violence associated with religion, is religion promoting the violence, or is religion being co-opted to excuse violence that would have happened anyway? I think you have to look at individual circumstances. Certainly, sometimes religions, and religious institutions, initiate and genuinely condone violence. And sometimes a religion becomes infected by the social pathologies of its culture and serves as an unwitting host for an agenda of violence. And if that particular host hadn't been handy, another would have served just as well."
In other words -- correlation ain't causation, folks. Keep that straight.
For that matter, people are still uncritically citing Brian Victoria's Zen at War book, even though some of Victoria's claims -- not all, but some-- have been debunked.
Certainly, some of the examples given on the Wiki page are legitimate, such as the role played by some Buddhist institutions in the Sri Lankan civil war. But if someone is going to go to the trouble of documenting violence in Buddhism, it would be nice if the someone had some real knowledge, and was not just pulling random stuff out of popular nonfiction.