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November 14, 2003 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Buddhists go badass. "Rathana, an official with a powerful Buddhist group, dismisses Sri Lanka's peace process and urges renewed military action against Tamil Tiger separatists." Let me anticipate mefi's notorious left bunch of bananas and attribute it to this.
posted by jfuller (27 comments total)

 
Bush is a Buddhist too?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:41 PM on November 14, 2003


One of the first things my roommate said she saw when she first arrived in South Korea a few years ago was two different groups of Buddhists throwing rocks at each other in the streets. That put her romantic vision of Eastern culture to bed pretty quickly.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:46 PM on November 14, 2003


Rathana, an official with a powerful Buddhist group, dismisses Sri Lanka's peace process and urges renewed military action against Tamil Tiger separatists.

Need more info pleae, will one of our "Buddhist" members please give us more info about Rathana's beliefs. Not being familiar with him, he may be a "wing nut".
posted by thomcatspike at 3:01 PM on November 14, 2003


yes I pleae; please.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:03 PM on November 14, 2003


Nixon was Quaker.
posted by Postroad at 3:07 PM on November 14, 2003


Administrator! Pleae hope me!
couldn't resist.
posted by wendell at 3:09 PM on November 14, 2003


Nixon was Quaker.
I'll never trust Cap'nCrunch again.
posted by wendell at 3:10 PM on November 14, 2003


Yeah, have we got any Buddhists around here who know anything about this? I don't really know that much about Buddhist practices, but this doesn't really sound like them...
posted by unreason at 3:20 PM on November 14, 2003


It's pretty simple, unreason. You know how Christians are supposed to love their brothers, never kill, not cast the first stone, etc.? Same thing.
posted by Eamon at 3:41 PM on November 14, 2003


Rathana seems to be unclear on the concept.
Buddhism developed from the teaching of Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha (c.563 - 483 BC), who believed that human suffering could be overcome by following a particular way of life. The first precept of Buddhism is 'non-harming' (ahimsa): Buddhists reject violence. Buddhism is clearly pacifist in its teaching, and many Buddhists say quite bluntly that it is ‘better to be killed than to kill’. Some Buddhists have been very active in promoting peace, particularly during the Vietnam War (1961- 1975), when they offered a 'Third Way' of reconciliation between the American and Communist armies. Some Buddhist monks burned themselves to death in self-sacrificing protest against the war.

Buddhism perhaps has the best record of all religions for non-violence. However, Buddhists in Sri Lanka have been criticised for oppressing the Tamil minority there (Tamils are a mostly Hindu people whose origins are in southern India)
posted by homunculus at 3:53 PM on November 14, 2003


Buddhism is clearly pacifist in its teaching

Actually, this is debatable.
posted by homunculus at 3:55 PM on November 14, 2003


once again, the onion is prescient.
posted by bruceo at 4:01 PM on November 14, 2003


> Rathana seems to be unclear on the concept.

A large number of Christians (of which I am one) likewise. Overall and in spite of the fpp, Buddhists seem to have done a considerably better job of listening to their head honcho than we have done of listening to ours. I really do wonder why it has worked out that way. Now praise the Lord and pass the ammo.
posted by jfuller at 4:04 PM on November 14, 2003


Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have expressed concern for the peace process following Norway's decision to suspend its mediation.
posted by homunculus at 6:03 PM on November 14, 2003


There's nothing new about badass Buddhists. As others have said, it's no stranger than badass Christians ("thou shalt not kill," anyone?). Here's a description of the monastic fighting that roiled early Japan:
In the tenth century, succession disputes between Tendai monks of the line of Ennin and Enchin (814-891) led to opposing Tendai centers at Mount Hiei, the sammon ('Mountain Order') and at Miidera, the jimon ('Church Order'). Warrior monks (sohei) were employed in such disputes, and Tendai leaders began to hire mercenary armies who threatened rivals and even marched on the capital to enforce monastic demands.
posted by languagehat at 6:25 PM on November 14, 2003


The warrior monks of Mt. Hiei have mellowed with time, and now prefer to be marathon monks.
posted by homunculus at 7:31 PM on November 14, 2003


Extending languagehat's point, there are actually some militarist elements in Buddhist thought even in the very earliest Buddhist texts we know of, the Tipitaka or Pali Canon.

But that said, I wouldn't take the point too far. As Eamon said, it's very easy for people in any tradition to justify whatever the hell they feel like doing -- whether or not they even bother finding textual support for it (or even think they need to do so). I don't know too much about the Sri Lankan situation, but I've been told this book is the best place to go to understand why these monks are urging mass violence.
posted by ramakrishna at 9:58 PM on November 14, 2003


Y'know it's possible for someone to dress like a monk, call themselves a Buddhist and not really be one. There's a particular so-called school of Japanese Buddhism that is extremely nationalistic, and the founder of that school was apparently prone to be very short-tempered and not a nice person at all. Yet he founded a "Buddhist" school, and it exists today.

This monk's attitude is "fight the Tamils," but to do so he's suggesting the only way is the military way. He says Sri Lanka should "abandon the peace process," and take up arms.

The Buddha said, "He who would harm another is no folower of mine," (harm not equating with self-defence,) and yet this shaven-headded guy in safron robes, is saying, lets abandon a peaceful attempt to resolve this and start kicking arse.

Maybe he should quit his involvement in worldly life and spend less time on the TV or take his bloody robes off and declare himself a politician instead of using his position of authority as a monk to push his own personal agenda.

Or something.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:10 AM on November 15, 2003


Buddhism perhaps has the best record of all religions for non-violence

And I'd also like to take issue with this statement- feudal Tibet pre-1950's anybody?
posted by crazy finger at 6:23 AM on November 15, 2003


Yeah, I think we're talking "best PR" rather than "best record for nonviolence." It's like Sufism, which is seen here as all noble and dance-in-a-circle-chanting-Allah's-name, but which in various times and places has sanctified the most brutal behavior. (Read up on the Naqshbandi order and the history of Chechnya, for example.) In ramakrishna's wise words, "it's very easy for people in any tradition to justify whatever the hell they feel like doing."
posted by languagehat at 7:25 AM on November 15, 2003


All of the rules for behaviour in the Pali cannon were created when the Buddha was made aware of a monk doing something bad. Y'know, murdering someone, fucking a corpse... whatever.

Becoming a Buddhist is the beginning of transformation, not a switch to being a perfect being. You can't blame "Buddhism" for the less than Buddhist behaviour of some of it's members, that's the same mind-set as racism.

Name some group of people that is, as a whole, entirely impeccable in it's behaviour. Please.

I think the criticism might be more accurately aimed at humanity, rather than any particular sub-set. Although I realise it is easier to practice cynical sneering when dealing with... well... anything, when it comes up on MeFi.
posted by Blue Stone at 9:04 AM on November 15, 2003


I am Sri Lankan Buddhist -- however, I only spent the first four years of my life in SL, and grew up in Canada and America. Needless to say, my knowledge on Sri Lankan politics is only slightly better than the average American... (okay, the average Canadian).

Anyway, Rathana's quotes simply scare me. He reminds me of the type of people who just religion to justify violence. Just as there are Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu extremists -- apparently there are Buddhist extremists as well. However, I can assure you that many of the Sri Lankans I know are all against violence, and many of them left the country precisely to avoid it. (This is also true for all of the Tamils who have met, the LTTE and the Tamil Tigers represents the very militaristic minority.)

Very few religions I know of encourage violent action, it is merely the misinterpretation of religion by a vocal few, that makes it seem like they do.
posted by ruwan at 10:41 AM on November 15, 2003


It is certainly possible to argue for the principle of 'least harm' as being supported by Buddhist teachings, but the position of bikkus (monks) is rather different. The rules for bikkus are quite clear that in that they must abandon the killing of living beings. A bikku who intentionally killed a living being, or called for such killing should be expelled from their order.
posted by daveg at 10:56 AM on November 15, 2003


Languagehat:Yeah, I think we're talking "best PR" rather than "best record for nonviolence." It's like Sufism, which is seen here as all noble and dance-in-a-circle-chanting-Allah's-name, but which in various times and places has sanctified the most brutal behavior. (Read up on the Naqshbandi order and the history of Chechnya, for example.)

Haha! Well, we are just muslims after all: that ought to be enough to deflate the PR right there. If you (pl.) do want to read up, you could start with "Sabres of Paradise" by Lesley Blanch, an account of the Murid Wars of the 1800's centering around the Naqshbandi Imam Shamyl. Or you can get a synopsis here. Also, a very brief synopsis of historical events from the fall of Chechnya to the Russians in 1864 to the invasion of Chechnya once again in 1994.

There's plenty more at Naqshbandi.net and Naqshbandi.org, both sites run by Naqshbandi lines derived from the Caucasus.
posted by BinGregory at 12:15 AM on November 16, 2003


BinGregory: Thanks, but I've actually read a great deal about the Murid Wars and Shamyl (including Ms. Branch, who is fun but irritatingly cutesy/romantic). Surely that's implied by my "Read up on the Naqshbandi order and the history of Chechnya"? I'm not dissing the Naqshbandis, Sufis in general, or anybody else, just pointing out that we're all human and that as far as I know every religion is a mix of so many things that you can pull out bits to justify any behavior that seems justified (like driving the Russians out of the Caucasus or crushing Tamil terrorists/freedom fighters).
posted by languagehat at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2003


Thanks, but I've actually read a great deal...

I would not underestimate your erudition! That's why I said you (pl.). I didn't mean you specifically. I can't stand to write "if one wants to read up, one can..."
posted by BinGregory at 2:22 AM on November 18, 2003


Sri Lanka Buddhist Congress calls for truce
posted by homunculus at 10:50 PM on November 18, 2003


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