Wednesday, February 21, 2018 06:18:26 PM

Some Questions about Violence and Theravada in Buddhism

By Laksiri Fernando - Tue Jun 13, 8:13 am

Featured image courtesy Al Jazeera

Recent attacks on Muslim mosques instigated by certain Buddhist groups (members of which include Buddhist monks) as well as the post-independence orientation of the Sangha in general, aside from admirable exceptions, against the Tamil community in Sri Lanka raise serious questions about the theory and practice of Theravada Buddhism in the country. One could surmise that such a dichotomy between theory and practice is common to all organised religion. However, the contrast appears drastic particularly given the fundamentals of Buddhist teachings and the practical implications that this has brought to the surface politically in recent times. Most alarming is the active involvement of at least some Buddhist monks in violent politics.

Not only were the Buddha’s teachings extremely moderate, pacifist and peaceful, but when Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in the third century BCE through the initiatives of King Dharma Asoka, the guidelines were to tolerate other religions. The four immeasurable concepts of Karuna (compassion), Metta (unconditional love), Mudita (empathy) and Upekkha (equanimity) do not appear together in any other religion in that clarity or prominence. Dharma Asoka’s advice also was to ‘respect other religions as much as you respect your own religion’ (Edict XII).

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