Between enraged and engaged Buddhism
July 10, 2008 10:35 AM   Subscribe

More on Thich Quang Duc: “The face of Buddha in the clouds.”
posted by homunculus at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2008

Remember that scene in Goodfellas, where Henry and Jimmy find out that Tommy was whacked for stomping out Billy Batts, and Henry says, "It was among the Italians. It was real greaseball shit." I think of this every time I see the words Dorje Shugden.
posted by milarepa at 11:00 AM on July 10, 2008

Buddhist monks have a long history of violence, extortion, and murder in Japan; elsewhere too of course, but since Japan is my specialty I know its examples best.

Back in the 1500's a couple of varieties of Buddhist monks were a sufficiently a militant and economic power that Oda Nobunaga [1] waged war on them the same as he waged war on the various other military powers. The monks, prior to being killed by Oda, often went "begging" with muscular and aggressive bodyguards to "encourage donations". Extortion by threat of violence, essentially.

Doctrinal disagreement between various sects of monks has been around since forever, and I figure if monks can be feared soldiers, run mafia type protection rackets, and fight pitched battles with medieval Japanese warlords its hardly surprising that in the modern world they can get into screaming hissy fits with one another and otherwise act like total jerks.

In fact, my sister had the lovely experience of being yelled at by a Buddhist monk because she happened to brush him as they passed in a crowded corridor; he shouted at her because she was female, and therefore her touch had made him "unclean".

My point is that the linked article is garbage, its tone of amazement that such super special and amazing people as Buddhist monks can be jerks indicates a complete lack of experience with actual monks on the part of the author and as well as an unhealthy case of trying to believe in the "mysterious Orient". Buddhist monks are human, and like all humans are sometimes complete jerks, this is not such a surprising or amazing revelation that it needs to have an article written about it, and the attempt to coin a special term "AMS" is just plain pathetic.

[1] A genuinely evil person if ever there was one.
posted by sotonohito at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2008 [5 favorites]

Remember that scene in Goodfellas, where Henry and Jimmy find out that Tommy was whacked for stomping out Billy Batts, and Henry says, "It was among the Italians. It was real greaseball shit." I think of this every time I see the words Dorje Shugden.

What I love about this comment is that I have no real idea of any of the internecine dramatics of Buddhism, and yet, thanks to milarepa, I now feel that I know everything I really need to know.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 12:24 PM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

Sorry homunculus, didn't mean to crap in your post. The second linked article just hit one of my major gripes about how Westerners tend to see the far east.
posted by sotonohito at 12:35 PM on July 10, 2008

for more buddhist drama, hang out on E-sangha.
posted by desjardins at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2008

sotonohito, that's very fascinating stuff. Any related books or movies that you can recommend?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:45 PM on July 10, 2008

There was a really great FPP from a few years back about a photographer's series of photos of Buddhist monks (in Thailand, if I remember) who would, for a fee, give hitmen tattoos that would make them invulnerable to bullets. IANAB, but that seems like a pretty clear violation of the "Right Livelihood" path.
posted by bonecrusher at 1:05 PM on July 10, 2008

Here it is.
posted by bonecrusher at 1:11 PM on July 10, 2008

No worries, sotonohito. The second article is the important one.
posted by homunculus at 3:16 PM on July 10, 2008

So that Kung Fu dude was pretty much getting into trouble deliberately?
posted by Artw at 3:41 PM on July 10, 2008

Foci for Analysis Movies, not really, there's several less than flattering images of Buddhist monks in Japanese movies (Rashomon, Mononoke Hime, etc), but that's hardly historic. Books, kinda. I'm sure books on militant and otherwise unpleasant Buddhism in historic Japan exist, but I haven't read any personally. What I mentioned came from several sources, articles, etc.

"State of War" by Dr. Thomas Donald Conlan has a chapter on the role religion played during the near constant war that was 14th century Japan, including a few mentions of militant monks. Its an excellent book on Japan's time as a failed state, but if you are new to the subject I'd recommend getting a quick historic overview, possibly via Wikipedia's entry on the subject, because he assumes you know the broad outline and the book is not a chronological history of the era, but rather an examination of how war and what little government existed during that period from an ever expanding viewpoint. He starts with a biography of a single warrior, Nomoto Tomoyuki, and works his way outward to progressively larger groups, organizations, and concepts.

Any history of Oda Nobunaga will include a discussion of his wars against the Tendai Buddhist sect, and his sack of the Enryakuji monastery.
posted by sotonohito at 5:03 PM on July 10, 2008

Buddha's Warriors
posted by homunculus at 12:08 AM on August 3, 2008

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