Making a Statement on Buddhist Violence against Muslims in Burma
On Thu, 24 October, 2013 - 12:15
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.