Triratna News

Making a Statement on Buddhist Violence against Muslims in Burma

On Thu, 24 October, 2013 - 12:15
Munisha's picture
The continuing violence by Buddhists against Muslims in Burma has been viewed with dismay by many Buddhists worldwide. Non-Buddhists, familiar with Buddhism’s reputation for non-violence, have found it baffling.

There have been occasional requests to Triratna Buddhist Centres for statements condemning this violence. After considerable deliberation, and with strong encouragement from Triratna’s founder, Sangharakshita, four writers have arrived at a text, signed individually by him and a number of preceptors, east and west. This is not a statement on behalf of the Triratna Buddhist Order or Community as a whole.

The text is being circulated widely by email and social networks and you are welcome to display or forward it.

It’s been an interesting process getting this statement and its signatories together. Other Buddhist groups have issued statements too, and some are still considering it, while asking themselves, as we did, questions such as:

  • How do we sign this without being seen to represent others?
  • Will it do more harm than good?
  • Do we really know enough about this extremely complicated and longstanding ethnic and political dispute, involving violence, fear and suffering on both sides, in the overal context of a totalitarian regime which has arguably co-opted Buddhism for its own ends?
  • Why bother, anyway?

However, for me, it was important to state clearly what Buddhism has to say about hatred and violence and our view of the “other” as different and bad. The Dharma is being misrepresented and Buddhism’s public image damaged.

This had to be balanced with avoiding sounding patronising; avoiding treating Burmese Buddhists as “not like us”. Buddhists do commit violence. To varying degrees all of us may incite hatred through our speech. To paraphrase Subhuti in a talk he gave in India shortly after the Bodhgaya bombings in July, we need to own this fact.

Finally, and most importantly, thousands of people in Burma have been killed or harmed in many other ways, in the name of Buddhism. We cannot let this go by, unchallenged.

Listen to Subhuti’s talk:’Mara’s Bomb Blast’. (One hour long; comments on owning Buddhist violence at 52’ 30”)
Read or listen to Vishvapani’s ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4.

Liaison and Communications Officer, The Triratna Buddhist Order
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tobywan's picture
I am a mitra with triratna in Bristol. I was pleased to find this statement as I feel there is a case for recognising the value of communication between different Buddhist communities/ Sanghas. I have been trying to find an address for in particular Ashin Wirathu and the 696 movement, to send something well written about other Buddhist veiws on this matter to and possibly to other sanghas in Sri Lanka with similar veiws toward Muslims. As I feel direct communication would be worthwhile, so long as it is consideratly writen, it surely can do no harm. I note that you have said people are welcome to display this text or forward it. I was wondering if anyone knew of an address or addresses to send it to.
Munisha's picture
I don’t have an address for them but you could try Googling the Burma Campaign UK and asking them. They were very happy to hear about our statement and to forward it widely across Asian media etc. Munisha
sesame123's picture
I’m a bit worried by the statement “The Bodhgaya bombings may well have been an Islamist retaliation for Buddhist violence against Muslims - not just in Burma but in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in Asia.” as it appears to mitigate Islamic extremism. One could equally say that the Buddhist attacks on Muslims in Burma are in response to extremely violent attacks by Muslims on Buddhists in the Bangladesh/Burma border region. If one condemns violence it should not be one sided. Also, a joint statement signed by the Founder himself and by the preceptors in the UK, North America, India,Spain and Latin America does seem to be a statement on behalf of , at least, a powerful section of the Triratna Buddhist Order.
Munisha's picture
Dear Sesame123, thank you for your comment received while I was on a midwinter break. I have removed the sentence to which you refer. The intention was simply to make the very Buddhist point that actions have consequences - that violence tends to beget violence, whether it’s Buddhist violence or Muslim violence - but it’s a bigger topic which is not well served here. You are right that the signatories are all senior members of Triratna but they have definitely signed in their own names alone and not on behalf of anyone else, however they may be seen by others. With best wishes, Munisha