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Buddhists at War

Posted on Oct 8, 2010

By Katherine Wharton

This review originally appeared in The TLS, whose website is, and is reposted with permission.

Have you heard about Vakkali, the Buddhist sage who attained Nirvana while slicing his own throat? Of all the major faith traditions, Buddhism is often seen as the most peaceful, but Buddhist Warfare exposes its darker side. The eight essays in the collection describe twisted teachings on phenomena such as “Soldier-Zen”, and atrocities carried out by groups such as the Buddhist cult army of Faqing. In 515 AD, Faqing declared the arrival of the new Buddha and led more than 50,000 men to war. “When a soldier killed a man he earned the title of first-stage Bodhisattva (Buddha-to-be). The more he killed the more he went up the echelon towards sainthood ... the insurgents were given an alcoholic drug that made them crazy to the extent that fathers and sons no longer recognized each other and didn’t think twice before killing each other; the only thing that mattered was killing.” Buddhist Warfare forms an accurate history of violence in the name of religion. Its most shocking material is the studies of various sutras that justify killing with detailed reference to the Buddha’s central philosophical tenets. The book therefore presents a uniquely Buddhist “heart of darkness”.

In the afterword, Bernard Faure states that the aim of the collection was to press Buddhists and scholars of Buddhism to face up to the worst aberrations and silences within the tradition. Faure accuses many contemporary Buddhist apologists of taking the “high metaphysical or moral ground” rather than recognizing that in Buddhism, as in all the faiths, there is a constant struggle between light and darkness, between the promise of release and “the violence that lies at the heart of reality (and of each individual)”.


book cover


Buddhist Warfare


By Michael Jerryson (Editor), Mark Juergensmeyer (Editor)


Oxford University Press, 272 pages


Buy the book

book cover


The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character


By Dale Wright


Oxford University Press, 304 pages


Buy the book

Violent purges and insurgences have occurred in all eras, with or without religious incitement. Yet there is something uniquely chilling about religious texts that justify or even aim to cultivate murder. For instance, the seventeenth-century Zen Master Takuan writes as follows:

“The uplifted sword has no will of its own, it is all of emptiness. It is like a flash of lightning. The man who is about to be struck down is also of emptiness, and so is the one who wields the sword. None of them are possessed of a mind that has any substantiality. As each of them is of emptiness and has no ‘mind’, the striking man is not a man, the sword in his hands is not a sword and the ‘I’ who is about to be struck down is like the splitting of the spring breeze in a flash of lightning.”

This is an application of the central Buddhist teaching of no-self that sees no evil in killing. Brian Daizen Victoria’s excellent essay outlines the direct connections between Takuan’s writings and the philosophy of Soldier-Zen promoted as part of military training during the Asia-Pacific War. Should Zen itself be held responsible for the genocide of 20 million Chinese during this campaign? Brian Victoria does not just blame Takuan: he also directly implicates D. T. Suzuki (1870–1966), the most influential proponent of Zen to the West in the twentieth century. Brian Victoria asserts that Suzuki gave his unqualified support to the “unity of Zen and the sword”.

The first and finest essay in Buddhist Warfare, by Paul Demiéville, also criticizes Suzuki. Demiéville argues that Suzuki’s teachings rely too much on Buddhist texts that are influenced by Daoism. Daoism is founded on the direct identification with the raw forces of nature. Certain Chan Buddhist texts like the Treatise of Absolute Contemplation show a strong Daoist influence:

“Question: ‘In certain conditions, isn’t one allowed to kill a living being?’ Answer: ‘The brush fire burns the mountain; the hurricane breaks trees; the collapsing cliff crushes wild animals to death; the running mountain stream drowns insects. If a man can make his mind similar [to these natural forces], then, meeting a man, he may kill him all the same’.”

This influence of Daoism can be seen in Suzuki’s writing when he compares enlightened freedom to an untamed wilderness: “the saint must make himself as indifferent as the unconscious – innocent – forces of nature, while eliminating all personal and conscious thought”.

Should we blame Daoism for the glorification of violence in Takuan? What is it exactly that discriminates Buddhism from Daoism? Daoism presents identification with the law of Nature as the highest possible freedom and most perfect attainment of power. By contrast, Buddhism argues that identification with the principle “no-self” is the highest wisdom. Buddhism, therefore, is usually centred on the refusal of any kind of self-assertion, particularly the assertion of the assailant or the assertion of predator over prey. In Mahayana Buddhism, the refusal of assertion is called the “wisdom of emptiness”. However, we have already seen how this term “emptiness”, absent from Daoism, was inherited and asserted by Takuan.

Takuan’s militarism could be seen as an aberration, a late distortion of Buddhist teaching, but Demiéville presents similar examples from across the tradition. Most uncanny are the texts that directly reanimate the Buddha, often in slightly uncharacteristic and shocking situations. The Heap of Jewels sutra, translated into Chinese as early as 140 AD, presents the disciple Manjushri threatening the Buddha with a sword. The Buddha then praises him for this because “there isn’t any more of me than there is of anyone else. If Manjushri were to kill the Buddha it would have been a right killing”. Demiéville also refers to the ninth-century Chinese monk Yi-hiuan, who urged his hearers to “Kill everything you encounter, internally as well as externally! Kill the Buddha! Kill your father and mother! Kill your closest friends!”.



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By Capt rick, December 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am shocked!!  there is gambling going on here.!!!!!!!!!!

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By weelpah, November 12, 2010 at 3:49 am Link to this comment

Violence is strictly a social phenomena. Its important not to blame buddhism, or any religion for that matter, when it describes the uncomfortable truths of society. No matter the content of ones religion, it will always serve as a moral cohesion. And cohesion is necessary to fulfill militaristic and, otherwise political, aims too. After all, who do you thinks writin’ this shit?

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By Jack Kolsky, November 4, 2010 at 10:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Katherine ,
You do not have slightest clue about Zen and and connection to Sword
and samurai ethics.Often Sword was used as defence of those who need
protection.Buddhist monks often practice martial arts as way of protecting
themselves and Temples.
Yours limited knowledge and perverted views are embarrassing.


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By Dr. O. P. Sudrania, October 18, 2010 at 3:02 am Link to this comment


The Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand & etc were all so called Hindu states and later partly converted to Buddhism during and after the reign of King Ashoka the Great. Following his gory battle at “Kalinga” (Orrissa state today in India) King Ashoka was so moved that he denounced everything and Lord Buddha was just spreading his gospel. He somehow got attracted to him and thenafter he himself became his disciple and took his shelter to help spread his gospel.
God bless
Dr. O. P. Sudrania

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By Joe, October 16, 2010 at 7:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is no question that all religions have wackos, nuts and hate mongers.  But Buddhism seem to have the fewest.

I was told Afghanisatan, Pakistan, Malaysia all were buddhist countries that were converted to Islam.

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By Misoc, October 13, 2010 at 8:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Never judge a religion by its practitioners.

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By Bill Jacobus, October 13, 2010 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Perform only helpful, wholesome acts,
avoid hurtful, unwholesome acts,
and purify your mind.
This is the teaching of all the buddhas.”
-Siddhartha Gotama

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By Wongmo, October 12, 2010 at 9:22 pm Link to this comment

If one has true understanding of emptiness, the test is to see if one’s
compassion towards others, love, and joy increases. If it does not, then the
supposed understanding, experience, or “realization” of emptiness must be
critically examined.

A critical element of emptiness is compassion, the wish and action that others
be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. Emptiness and compassion
are like two wings of a bird. If you only practice emptiness, it can lead to a
nihilistic view that nothing exists. This is not correct understanding.

Karma is not as simple as your physical actions. It is related to your thinking
and intention primarily which in turn leads to your speech and actions. Positive
thinking: renunciation, compassion, faith, love, and wisdom create positive
karma which results in happiness. Negative thinking: anger, jealousy, greed,
pride, and ignorance creates negative karma and leads to suffering. Your
thinking is your cause. All beings’ thinking and karma is condition. This is

If you do not understand the importance of your thinking and karma, there is
no reason to look to emptiness first. If you do not understand the principles of
the Buddha’s teaching, it is easy to misinterpret the words and the meaning.
Therefore, if you are truly interested in learning authentic Dharma, it is critical
to have a qualified Dharma teacher who is well versed in the teachings.
Otherwise, you will read “all phenomena is emptiness” as being nothing, so why
not kill people? However, if you understand thinking, cause and effect,
interdependence, and the precepts, you will not be led on the wrong path.

The key element of Mahayana Buddhism is what is called Bodhicitta. It is
translated as the Intention of Enlightened Wisdom. This is the wish that all
beings be free from all suffering and have true happiness forever. If you have
this wish, you will never engage in acts of violence out of anger.

May you always have happiness and the causes of happiness. May whoever
reads this book be free from all suffering and realize the stainless bliss of
awakening. Namo Buddhaya

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By Julian Dorje, October 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


First off, it is very clear that Ms. Wharton does not understand what emptiness
is. One can hardly blame her, given the complex and intellectually challenging
nature of the subject. Some people spend many years trying, and only begin to
scratch the surface on a cerebral level, let alone have experiences with it. When
someone does have experiences with it, it is unmistakable in the same way that
one knows for sure when one has an orgasm. It is not something that one
“identifies” with.

This is extremely important, because while studying emptiness one is warned
against the very view that Wharton seems to be grafting onto Buddhist thought
— specifically, a nihilistic notion that because nothing exists, one can run about
the country stealing and killing and raping. This is called the Rudra view, after a
very famous fable, and it means that if you exhibit that behavior, you haven’t
understood, experienced, or realized emptiness.

So to rest one’s accusations on the conclusion that “[T]his is an application of
the central Buddhist teaching of no-self that sees no evil in killing” is simply
unconscionable. Furthermore, it is demonstrably wrong.

It is clear that Ms. Wharton [and possibly the authors and editors of the volume]
is either way out of her depth or is so eager to make a point that she ignores
this context. Reading this, it may not sound like a huge distinction, but it is.
Buddhists know how badly emptiness can be misunderstood. That is why it is
not generally presented to an audience that has not demonstrated that they can
responsibly hear it.

Second, Mr. Faure goes about trying to exact from contemporary Buddhists
some kind of recognition of inherent violence within the Buddhist tradition. He
speaks with the self-assurance of a schoolmarm on “the violence that lies at
the heart of reality (and of each individual)”. Well, to guide one’s research
toward a conclusion like that is not only unscientific but also blind to the
assumptions on which it rests. Not everyone is violent. And “reality”, whatever
that is, can’t be construed to be such either. But, Thomas Hobbes is so chic
these days. This is part of the treachery of Western fantasies that hold
Buddhism as somehow detached from the imperatives and responsibilities that
leaders have in running a state, including (sometimes) war. Would sane
Christians want their faith to be measured against Cardinal Richelieu or Donald
Rumsfeld? They might have said some holy words, but it is doubtful that they
understood them.

Now, there is a lot within this article that specifically calls out Japanese
Buddhism and Zen. Since I have no experience with Zen, I will not make a
comment. But if those authors manhandle Buddhist ideas like the ones that
have been mentioned, I’m not optimistic of any sort of responsible or fair
treatment of the subject.

I will say that quoting a sutra, such as the Heap of Jewels sutra, without giving
any sort of context is a pretty direct path to misunderstanding. Many of the
sutras rely on context& a detailed explanation to be understood.

Wright’s book seems to have the gist right. He SEEMS to because one cannot tell
what he’s actually saying through Wharton’s interpretation. Gross
misunderstanding of emptiness aside, she forces Wright’s views toward her
thesis with shocking self-indulgence. Important corrections should be that
every teacher I’ve had warns people on describing emptiness as a void. It isn’t.
Also, thinking doesn’t stop. And one doesn’t experience emptiness in horror or
desolation. This is total balderdash. And her logic tying Takuan and Suzuki to
Wright’s Six Perfections and then to Freud (?!) is just peculiar.

Buddhism certainly has skeletons, but I’m a lot less worried about those than I
am about sophists interpreting Buddhism’s deepest and most complex ideas for
the masses. 

Wharton as a scholar should know better.

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By Jesse Mulert, October 11, 2010 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a very serious, very unreadable comment thread.

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By Peter Knopfler, October 10, 2010 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

All religions have Romanced violence, many different
versions of the same can kill, sunni shiia, catholics
and protestants..etc. as someone once said History is
a nightmare I have yet to wake from..James Joyce  
Sparta and Athens, Samuri of Japan, Kung Fu of
China, Karate, defense vs offense, like night and
day,is violence natural as nature has suggested.
Reaching bind for the dark, I see, that I too have
Romanced violence for 30 years or more. So are we
born in anger or fearfull that turns into anger,
stopped driving to end road rage, stopped eating meat
for non-violence, stopped martial arts, steady
balance of stress, daily exercise, good food but the
violent dreams never seize or seem to have know end,
What is it in Humanity, only the survival instinct,
the warrior tribes beleive in suicide as a way out,
ALL of it feels wrong,even when slapped in the face
with reality of violence.

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By spaghetti happens, October 10, 2010 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment

One can identify oneself with the lightning or the wind if one can be truly empty “like the water that reflects the sky.”  No Buddhists whom I know, and doubtless most whom I don’t, have ever reached that plane of being.  The lightning has no mind to split the tree, nor does the wind to blow it over; they just do it because they are natural forces with no intelligence.  What I’m hearing from these justifications for violence sounds more like simple human arrogance than anything else.  I suspect the Buddha would be appalled.

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By cldcrane, October 10, 2010 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Vilifying anything you don’t understand is the temperament of the day.  It was only a matter of time
and opportunity before this ignorance was directed
towards Buddhism.

“Once you reach enlightenment, you’ll realize you did
not need it.”

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By OSJ, October 10, 2010 at 6:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is more piffle from Buddhist Scholars Inc. who seem to have this messianic
urge to save the world from the “stupid Buddhists” in the West that don’t
understand _real Buddhism_ like _they_ do. Donald Lopez is the king of this,
Gregory Schopen is another. Imbued with a superiority complex, they deign to
save us, to erase the ignorance of we mere practicing Buddhists who don’t dig
into the texts to know the real _truth_. “BUDDHISTS KILL TOO, YOU NAIVE NEW

“Buddhist Warfare essentially holds contemporary Buddhist authors and
scholars to account and demands that they interrogate these central

Central principles? You mean like the precepts? The ones that speak
specifically, directly to to non-killing as a foundation of all Buddhist practice?
No metaphor, no need to warp that teaching for one’s own desired ends.  That,
if anything, is a CENTRAL principle…. not the bastardization of emtiness theory
to justify torture and murder.

Grow up, scholars. We understand killing can be done in anyone’s name, and
that any teaching can be warped to justify virtually anything. Bottom line: it is
only through extreme perversion of the abstract, and the complete ignoring of
the basic core principles of Buddhism, that people can turn the Buddha’s
teachings into justification for such violence. The blame is on people, not
Buddhism. Trying to read this situation otherwise just reeks of the “academic
savior” complex.

We don’t need these fools to “save us” from our “ignorant misreadings” of

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By Ouroborus, October 10, 2010 at 4:03 am Link to this comment

the buffalo is in the rice paddy
the jumpy has flowers, sweet
my friends husband has died
today was so hot
the burning is tomorrow

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By bodhidharma, October 9, 2010 at 9:10 pm Link to this comment

Zen Buddhists say:
If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!
This does not refer to physical violence.  It means if you find the buddha anywhere other than inside yourself, you are still living in duality, and it is the ego-center that must be slain. One of the CENTRAL tennants of Buddhiosm is ahimsa, or non-violence. The two most important aspects of Buddhism are the development of equanimity and compassion. In fact, the very development of buddhism was an act of compassion, since the Buddha saw so much suffering in the world, and wanted to do something about it. Buddhism as it passed through various cultures was influenced by those cultures, which took away from the original purity.  But anyone who advocates violence IS NOT A TRUE BUDDHIST, for he is violating the core principles of Buddhism.

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By Dr. O. P. Sudrania, October 9, 2010 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

There are those who think that the world exists and that the world is real. There are others who think that the world does not exist and that the world is not real. Rare indeed is that blessed one who does not think, but who is ever calm, abiding in the absolute.

By Sage Astavakra on the science of “Self Realisation” as taught to King Janaka.

God bless

Dr. O. P. Sudrania

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By Darwinian Buddhist, October 9, 2010 at 9:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As another commentator says, I’m shocked! shocked! to discover that
cantankerous social primates like us can be violent, whatever the professed
belief system. Really amazing, huh? It seems difficult to deny that all belief
systems are corruptible. (It would be interesting to read a collection of essays
entitled “Anglican Warfare,” for example.)

Some Buddhists, it is very true, deny this. So do some Christians, Jews, Muslims,
Hindus, Pagans, and on and on. Atheists, too (consider the case of Mr.
Christopher Hitchens, for example). And we have lots of books on the violence
perpetrated by the adherents of all of these views. So I suppose the book does a

For myself and the Buddhists that I know, it is largely breaking down an open
door. Politics always involves violence, whether inflicted or threatened. It did so
in pre-modern times (e.g., Takuan), and it does so in the modern era, with its
evil (and inevitable) twins, the modern nation-state and nationalism, whether in
Sri Lanka or Japan, or in its “Onward Christian Soldiers” version. The exceptions
of Gandhi, ML King, and the current Dalai Lama are deeply exceptional. And
laudable, of course.

Some of the author’s other comments seem, well, pretty Christian. I suppose
“sin” could be a metaphor for our primate social aggression. But, as Richard
Rorty might have said, “Why do you talk like that?” The metaphor, “sin”, carries
very heavy freight, and American and European literature is replete with the
destructive consequences of the guilt often inculcated by resort to this
metaphor. We are mutant chimps (well, OK, we evolved from a common
ancestor)—and are just as violent as they are—UNLESS we are a) very lucky in
the situations in which we find ourselves, and b) practice very, very hard. (On the
latter, see the great book by Claude Anshin Thomas, “At Hell’s Gate,” for

The author’s last paragraph on Nagarjuna seems flawed. Whatever “nirvana” may
have meant in other cultures and circumstances, for people like me, the most
useful notion seems to be that “nirvana is samsara viewed differently.” That is,
as a psychological practice, Buddhist practice may be, among other things,
seeing cause-and-effect relationships everywhere and recognizing that “we” (or,
if you prefer Daniel Dennett’s formulation, our “centers of narrative gravity”) are
constructed, contingent, and ephemeral. I can’t understand how anyone even
vaguely familiar with modern neuro-science could think anything else. You could
say, if you prefer, that our personalities, our lives, our selves are Empty—of any
fixed, unchanging, non-contingent Essence. As some other comments suggest,
this is a very powerful practice. That it can be abused, is, as I say, shocking!

Author might have mentioned that, in many formulations, Buddhist practice has
TWO dimensions (often called, “the two wings of the bird”): wisdom (especially,
understanding of no-separate-Self and Emptiness), AND compassion. There is
always a danger of an “overdeveloped wing,” respectively:  the kind of abuse of
Emptiness of Takuan etc. on the one hand—and what is sometimes called “idiot
compassion” on the other. We need both. And most Buddhist practice (like the
practices of most Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, Pagans, etc.) are
designed to cultivate both. And practice, for primates-like-us, never ends. We
just keep trying.

For many of us, the attraction of (some forms) of Buddhist practice is that 1) it
does not necessitate embracing beliefs wildly at variance with modern science,
2) it offers concrete psychological benefits by training in awareness,
concentration, and compassion, and 3) it draws on a rich, varied, hugely
complex tradition of some 2400 years.

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By RayLan, October 9, 2010 at 3:41 am Link to this comment

Buddhism is not a religion per se, since it doesn’t promote worship of a deity. It is a mystical path - non-rational - as soon as it becomes institutional and religious - it goes toxic -as do all the world religions, none of which have a clean record on violence - certainly not the Judao-Christian

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By Laura Mitchell, October 9, 2010 at 1:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a bit like condemning all of Christianity everywhere because of the Crusades.
Much of the violence described in this article is clearly metaphorical. Also, to quote Chris Crocker, “Leave Dale Wright alone!” Seriously, of all the Buddhist scholars why pick on him? It seems a bit disingenuous to use one historical example (Takuan) to refute an entire body of work the author herself describes as “always uplifting and edifying” and “an insightful, psychologically astute narrative of Eastern-influenced literary introspection.” The contents of his chapter on Morality aren’t even mentioned in this criticism. Surely there is something related to controlling the impulse to evil there. Why ignore that?

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By Non-Compassionate Liberal, October 9, 2010 at 1:01 am Link to this comment

The only true “Buddhist” is a Buddhist Fundamentalist, i.e., what Buddha or any one of us grasps at the moment of enlightenment.  The stuff that comes afterwards, 4-fold paths and 8-fold truths (or vice versa, whatever) is added BS.  There is no absolute morality, no good nor evil.  As light can only be known because it contrasts with darkness, so existence can only be known by its contrast with non-existence.  But since we can’t contemplate “non-existence,” and existence depends on it, the “emptiness” (non-existence) that is referred to is the fleeting Now.  So the Dalai Lama says, “We have no absolutes in Buddhism, except compassion.”  That’s fine, except he was APPOINTED as THE Buddhist.  He might not truly know what some of us “true” Buddhists know.  There is no dogma.  Words aren’t truth—they’re distractions, but I think the closest that words can bring you to the ultimate reality are the words that title Alan Watts’ essay-collection:  This Is It

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By Anon, October 8, 2010 at 9:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oof.  This characterization of Daoism is deeply ethnocentric.  Daoism is a complicated, ancient religion, and taking a few quotes out of context betrays an ignorance disturbing for someone who coordinates “interreligious dialogue.”  It reminds me of ancient Romans who viewed Christianity as death worship.  I’ve typically found truthdig to be better than this.

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By Hammond Eggs, October 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment

Are we supposed to be surprised by this?  Any philosophy or doctrine can be perverted.

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By hans, October 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One shouldn’t critique something one doesn’t know anything about. A zen student knows that there is no substantial self. In fact nothing exists in isolation, everything is interdependent.When this is thoroughly realized there is compassion,not hatred and violence. Killing buddha, or this and that refers to emptying the mind of all concepts,even the concepts of buddhism.The Bhagavad Gita is full of apparent violence,but is it really a violent teaching? Of course all isms and religions can get twisted,but buddhism is not on top of the list.

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By Topgallant, October 8, 2010 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While I appreciate Ms. Wharton’s review and while I have not read the books
under scrutiny, I must question her idea of “Takuan’s militarism.” Takuan Soho
was a Zen Buddhist abbot in Kyoto. He wrote a book called The Miracle of
Unmovable Wisdom and was an advisor to Yagyu Munenori, sword master to
the early Tokugawa Shogunate. The book is not about militarism, it is about
sword fighting and the relationship between the samurai way of the sword and
the path to self-realization. That’s what they did in those days. Samurai trained
in weaponry. Since the samurai were the educated class and since educated
people tend to think about things like enlightenment, the correlation between
the sword and enlightenment would not be inappropriate. Today, we work and
have relationships. Charlotte Joko Beck in Everyday Zen talks about how we can
use what’s in our daily lives to achieve the same. Militarism implies a belief that
a government should maintain a strong military. Takuan Soho, on the other
hand, stresses the state of emptiness or elsewhereness in combat, a state no
different than that attained by successful professional athletes, writers and
performers who are able to suspend the self in order to let the inspiration
through. In closing, I feel that it must also be recalled that Takuan Soho also
invented the Takuan Pickle, the pickled daikon radish that can do wonders for
attaining a peaceful solution to intestinal disturbances.

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By Devamitta, October 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment

First, I practice the buddha-dhammain the Theravada tradition, and though familiar with aspects of Mahayana, I tend to think the author is making sweeping generalizations about it.
Second, I don’t purport to be a great example of one on the Buddhist path, but I do my best.
Third, I am not unaware that Buddhists have killed and engaged in acts contrary to the teachings of the Buddha (one only need look at how the Tamils have been handled by some who claim to be Buddhist.

Having qualified my subsequent comments, let me say, the author of this article is dealing with some difficult subjects.  Knowledge of emptiness is not an intellectual exercise, though this author seems to take that tact. It is experiental. Kamma too is not just if you do good, good will come, if you do bad, bad will come. The Buddha was not an idiot, and he chastizes more than one follower for either getting it wrong or for making it seem simple. This too is something seen in practice and is not an intellectual exercise.

Also, just as in all the major religions, there are teachings and there are the cultural developments, accretions, and institutionalizing so that what is called Christianity or Buddhism, etc, would probably shock Jesus or the Buddha if either was here to proved a corrective.  In short, the sins of the sons don’t fall on the fathers.

I don know that as in any tradition handed down from one generation to the next, and also carried to new lands, that each culture makes with it what it wants.  Though in Buddhism, the basic tenets seem to have stayed pretty uniform, even if the outward observances changed drastically from place to place.
My recollection of Manjushri carries a sword to cut through delusion, not to kill the Buddha.

Thus, I am not offering apologies, nor am I defending what I recognize as the shortcomings of anyone associated with a religion and not necessarily being the best example of that religion. What I am saying is that the author of this article, and not having read the book I cannot speak about its author, makes a bunch of spurious declamationa about subjects I feel she knows little about. The organization of the article too shows a kind of cafeteria approach to the subject without much substance.

Do some Buddhists kill?  Yes, of course. Do some misinterpret the teachings and develop crazy sects?  Of course, as in all religions.

Is Buddhism a religion?  The jury is out on that one, and a definitive verdict will never be given.

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By phreedom, October 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Katherine,

Historical being, is it then?,, no such animal,

No, never that, only this now.

Human nature could be described in a lyric by Dave
Mathews, “between the lines I’ll pack more lines”.

History is fun, philosophical history even more fun,
and many forms of history can be a useful convention
as long it does not take a form that is mistaken for
the present, and certainly not a form which is relied
on to predict a future present. 

History,,, philosophical, religious or otherwise
must not be simply an exercise in the worship of
linear time,, the evangelization of linear time
really, as is so often the case.

I think I will name my next dog, Buddha, so I can say
often, especially when Buddha is a puppy, “bad
Buddha, bad”.


Rhuen Phreed
11 Marlborough Street, #22
Boston, MA 02116

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By Gordy, October 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment

Buddhism is not Buddhist doctrine.  Doctrine can never be absolute; words can always be twisted.  Some doctrines unambiguously say ‘kill the infidel’ - I have never read any such thing in Buddhism. 

Buddhism, like a mature adult, acknowledges that there is a time to kill.  There is a time to kill.  Can one say otherwise?  I believe it requires distorted interpretation to conclude that Suzuki and Soho were saying that a Zen-man may kill freely unconstrained by morality.  The thinking is that the Zen-man will naturally know when killing IS moral and when it is not.  Zen ‘morality’ is not clunking and doctrinaire but it is absolutely moral nevertheless.

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By gerard, October 8, 2010 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

No more can be said.  No more need be said.  Too much has already been said.  The problem is words themselves, as opposed to no words, or non-words, or silent realization of “the ineffable”, the “unbear-able lightness of being” ... etc. As the wind says when it talks to the trees:  Shhhhhhhh!

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By cheyennebode, October 8, 2010 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


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By still trying, October 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

Those who seek to do evil always attempt to clothe themselves in the highest moral, philosophical, or religious ideals. By doing so they do not besmirch the truth in the slightest. The truth remains unstained by the vulgar abuse of the unenlightened. Buddhism is by no means unique in having been ill used by unworthy persons. There is no way to prevent lies being told. One can only hold strongly to the truth, and try to make it known.

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By Samson, October 8, 2010 at 1:43 pm Link to this comment

Seems like all major religions follow a similar path.

They begin with wisdom from a visionary.

But, at some point the religion becomes an institution. And even worse, at some point the religion becomes associated with the state.

Once you have Buddhist nations, or Christian nations, then you are forced to have religious backings for the wars of these nations.  Unless the rulers of the nation were to listen to any of the original wisdom of the teacher and realize that perhaps a true Buddhist nation or a true Christian nation would be the nation to avoid warfare unless absolutely forced to defend itself.  Like that’s ever going to happen.  If Buddha had wanted to be a king, he would have never have left the palace.

Christianity has much the same.  A history of Christian warfare in the name of the man who taught us to love our enemies like our brothers. And a history of religious thought and writings that somehow twist the notion of the man who taught peace on earth into justifications for the crusades and a millennium of Christian warfare since.

When Buddhism became an institution, when Buddhism became a part of the state, this concept of Buddhist warfare was certain to follow.

There seems to be a catch-22 here.  If you are not the religion of the state, then you are at the mercy of other zealots who regard you as a heretic and thereby subject you to everything from the Inquisition to congressional hearings to burning at the stake.

But, if you are the religion of the state, then you become complicit in the crimes of the state.  And suddenly, we are talking about warfare and brutal governments in the name of the enlightened one or in the name of the prince of peace.

Neither path seems to lead to a peaceful life.  At least not on this earth. 

Seems like the best this world seems to offer is to live in peace and to try to teach peace, but then just peacefully suffer the beatings and the murders and the thefts that occur when the popular mob that follows a different religion turns on you.

Or, are you willing to fight to defend your peaceful life?  But is your life peaceful then?  And the mob only seems to listen to violence and loot, so only violence can force the mob to adopt your ways.  Which defeats the purpose of your peaceful ways if you are constantly forced to use violence to impose them on others.

At least not until the mob can be taught to be peaceful, which doesn’t seem to be happening in my lifetime.

To kindly remember Mr. Vonnegut ...... and so it goes.

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