5. IS A BUDDHIST NATION INHERENTLY PEACEFUL & COMPASSIONATE?
IT CAN BE - INDIA: Emperor Asoka (304 BC – 232 BC) united India into one nation after years of brutal military campaigns. The legend goes that after surveying the bloodshed and destruction of his final conquest, he converted to Buddhism, and more importantly, turned India into a nation ruled on Buddhist principles.
As Emperor, his legitimacy was confirmed by the Buddhist community and not through royal bloodlines alone. Asoka’s peaceful and happy reign served as a model for many Asian states, where the Emperor’s edicts are judged by the Buddhist leadership against Buddhist principles’s of compassion for all living beings. In Thailand today, the Royal House and the Buddhist community has typically acted in concert.
Asoka ruled for 40 years and his Mauryan Dynasty lasted 50 years after his death.
Imperial Japan was a majority Buddhist nation, yet Buddhism did not stop the brutality and atrocities of the WWII Japanese war machine upon both civilians and soldiers.
Sri Lanka is a Buddhist nation, celebrated as a repository of the Buddha’s original dharma talks from over 2.000 years ago. The memory of the Buddha’s words were recorded in the written Pali language of Sri Lanka and preserved on palm leaf paper there. Yet, 2,000+ years of being a Buddhist society still marginalized ethnic Tamils to the point that they engaged in debilitating warfare to gain equality and freedom. It was the Tamil Tigers who invented the modern suicide bomber.
Cambodia is a Buddhist nation and yet this was not enough to forestall the fratricide of 1.7 million Cambodians by other Cambodians.
Bhutan, a Buddhist Kingdom, is famously known for its Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index instead of GNP. Yet, in the mid-1980s, the Royal family of this most pristine of Buddhist nations, began ethnic cleansing the Lhotshampas ethnic group, who live in South Bhutan and comprised 45% of Bhutan’s population of around 600,000. The Lhotshampas, a Nepalese linguistic group, migrated to and have lived in southern Bhutan since 1642. (www.BhutanNewsOnLine.com)
Myanmar: Myanmar has led a years long ethnic cleansing, and some say genocide, against the Rohingya Muslim population who have lived within Myanmar for many generations. Myanmar is comprised of several major ethic groups and is a fractious fedration of several rebellious regions, religions, and ethnicities. The majroity Burman group have historically dominated the country
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Buddhist practioner who won the Nobel Peace Prize, for her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar, is for example, of the majority Burman ethnicity. So too, her father, who founded modern modern Burma after World War II. Aung San Suu Kyi has refused to criticize the on-going ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. She has actually down-played the violence, as late as April 2017, when she was at the United Nations in New York City. She skipped a UN full-assembly opening session to avoid the raising of this humananitarian crisis. Some of her earlier Western supporters have suggested the revocation of her Nobel Peace Prize.
China: Many Buddhist monks have historically trained as warriors and served as security forces and militia. The celebrated Shaolin warrior monks were Buddhists who developed the highest forms of martial arts combat.
Tibet: Tibet itself has had a rather violent history, even during the centuries as a Buddhist Theocracy. For example, in 1642, the Yellow Hat Geluptas, whom the Dalai Lama heads up, became the dominant Tibetan Buddhist denomination through war. The Great Fifth Dalai Lama ordered his Mongol Warrior-King ally, Gushi Khan, to completely annihilate the leaders of the Kagyu, the then dominant denomination and destroy its nomadic tent city "Vatican City" - The Encampment. Then, he ordered Gushi Khan to close down the Jonang denomination's temples and ban key works of the Sakya denomination. This episode was not an isolated internecine incident in Tibetan Buddhist history, unfortunately.
The Gelupta - or the Yellow Hats - often advocated the killing of competing Tibetan Buddhist denominations, their lay supporters, and their families including children. Waging religious war for primacy was common in Tibet's history. Many monasteries had "warrior monks," often the law of the area and yet above the law. Referred to as dobdobs, they were the thug enforcer crew of local monasteries. ndividually, dobdobs often abducted anyone they wanted for days at a time to satisfy their own appetites.
The Gelupta's ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth Dalai Lamas all died young, rumored to have been poisoned as part of political jockeying within the Theocracy. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, a modernist, survived an assassination attempt by his own regent.
The Great Fifth decided to build the first major building of the Potala Palace, intended to be an unassailable hill fortress as well as palace and temple. He did not wish to suffer the military annihilation he had just inflicted Kagyu. This is how the Yellow Hat Geluptas became the dominant Tibetan Buddhist denomination to this day - through conquest.
Organized monastery violence was used to keep feudal peasants in line and once, against Christians in 1905. The famous Scottish Botanist George Forrest, who catalogued Yunnan' Province's many plants, witnessed the Gelupta monks use "force and fraud" to "terrorise...the peasantry." In 1905, he himself was the only survivor of a botanist team when the local Gelupta monasteries lead a sadistic, murderous campaign against French Catholics and Tibetan Christians. That campaign was under directive(s) issued by the 13th Dalai Lama, to eradicate the French Catholic presence from Tibetan areas in Yunnan Province. Local Qing officials were also killed during this rampage.
"Can we talk?..."
an investigation into how we know what we know;
of distinguishing truth & fact
from deep seated beliefs and reflexive opinion.