religious (non)violence

We’re supposed to believe that Islamic doctrine makes Islam more violent than other religions. This is dumb.

Just like Islam has an undeserved reputation for violence, Buddhism has an undeserved reputation for peacefulness. In fact, Buddhist mobs attacked Muslims just recently in Burma. A natural response might be that the participants in the mob weren’t serious about their religion, because no true Scotsman  Buddhist would do such a thing. This is what goes on at the first Zen temple, though:

The 18 important skills of an arhat consist of fighting moves.

Zen At War is about the role of Buddhist clergy in supporting the Japanese emperor and military during WWII, including enlightened masters involved in bringing Zen to the US. A few chapters are about the relationship between Buddhism and the state, going all the way back to Buddha. TL;DR: Buddhism always needed state support and compromised itself to get it. There’s also the matter of the time King Mihirakula killed Jesus in Kashmir

Jesus was subsequently resurrected to come into conflict with Buddhism in Japan:

In light of the Christian emphasis on love and the Buddhist emphasis on compassion, it is highly ironic that it was war-generated patriotism and the resulting death and destruction that provided the initial stimulus for a reconciliation between these two religions, long bitter foes.

There are lots and lots of parallels with current events. For example, martyrdom will be rewarded with rebirth in the Pure Land:

Reciting the name of Amida Buddha makes it possible to march onto the battlefield firm in the belief that death will bring rebirth in paradise.

Some of the statements quoted in the book are really damning:

To venerate the Three Treasures means to revere imperial edicts without question.

Therefore, should there be any who commit high treason, Amida would also exclude them from salvation. In the Shin sect there can be no teaching that does not advocate submission to the imperial national polity.

He had no desire to do harm to anybody, but the enemy appears and makes himself a victim. It is as though the sword performs automatically its function of justice, which is the function of mercy…When the sword is expected to play this sort of role in human life, it is no more a weapon of self-defense or an instrument of killing, and the swordsman turns into an artist of the first grade, engaged in producing a work of genuine originality.

The Japanese people are a chosen people whose mission is to control the world. The sword which kills is also the sword which gives life. Comments opposing war are the foolish opinions of those who can only see one aspect of things and not the whole.

Politics conducted on the basis of a constitution are premature, and therefore fascist politics should be implemented for the next ten years…Similarly, education makes for shallow, cosmopolitan-minded persons. All of the people of this country should do Zen. That is to say, they should all awake to the Great Way of the Gods. This is Mahayana Zen.

That would make Zen seem like it’s deeply conservative and right-wing. Here’s what an anarcho-socialist named Gudo wrote in 1904:

As a propagator of Buddhism I teach that “all sentient beings have the Buddha nature” and that “within the Dharma there is equality, with neither superior nor inferior.” Furthermore, I teach that “all sentient beings are my children.” Having taken these golden words as the basis of my faith, I discovered that they are in complete agreement with the principles of socialism. It was thus that I became a believer in socialism.

In 1931, the Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism:

A revitalized Buddhism must be based on self-reflection. It must deny currently existing Buddhism which has already lost its capacity for confrontation while, at the same time, calling on all Buddhists to return to the Buddha. A revitalized Buddhism must recognize that the suffering in present-day society comes chiefly from the capitalist economic system and must be willing to cooperate in a fundamental reform of this system, working to preserve the well-being of the masses. We must revolutionize bourgeois Buddhism and change it to a Buddhism for the masses.

Buddhists have also engaged in political self-immolation for a long time.

Still, there’s a lot of hitting people with sticks in Zen:

If Christianity and Buddhism can both be made to support everything from anarchism to imperialism, Islam is probably similar. People fight because they’re scared or greedy. I don’t think abstract doctrinal issues are really motivating for most people. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about a lot of territory, not just the Third Temple business.

The Charlie Hebdo thing supposedly means Muslims are barbarians. Killing people over cartoons? It’s not like Americans would ever react violently to burning a flag or holding it upside-down:

I think most Christians would agree that the American flag is less sacred than Jesus. If desecrating the flag is bad enough to deserve a beating to the point of hospitalization, would disrespecting Jesus make a person deserve death? Doesn’t the Bible say that, somewhere?

It’s not that cartoon-provoked murder isn’t barbaric. It’s that every society has its barbarians. During the Olympics in Sochi, Islamic terrorist attacks did not take place. During the Olympics in Atlanta, a Christian terror attack did take place.

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