Coming soon to Religion Compass: ‘Buddhists and Violence: Historical Continuity/Academic Incongruities’ by Prof. Michael Jerryson – PROVISIONAL ABSTRACT:
Within the last several decades, there has been a surge in Buddhist-influenced conflicts in places like the Tibetan region of China, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Every religious system has had violent instances. In many ways, the phenomenon speaks more about the nature of humanity than it does about religion. People have violent tendencies making violence present in all religious traditions. One prominent challenge in the study of religion and violence is defining the parameters for violence. As perpetrators of violence rarely locate themselves as aggressors or see themselves as deficient in moral justifications, this essay treats violence as the act of harming oneself and/or others. However, it also outlines the ways in which Buddhists see intentionality as influential in the ethics of such acts.
Although scholars of religion and violence have critically shown how religiously-motivated violence is multidimensional and a multi-determined phenomenon (e.g., Aho 1994; Juergensmeyer 2000, 2003; Jones 2008), there exists global patterns to align religious traditions like Islam as a cause for violence and others like Buddhism as an explanation of peace. Such wide-sweeping comparisons are at best superficial assessments that draw upon limited evidence. There may be a rash of contemporary examples of Buddhist-inspired violence in places like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, and China, but this does not make Buddhism any more violent than other religions. However, incidents like recent Buddhist attacks in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand are important pieces to the puzzle of Buddhism and violence. On the most basic of levels, they dispel the ahistorical myth that Buddhists are wholly peaceful.