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Buddhist monks and violence

Writing in the BBC, Alan Strathern, a fellow in History at Brasenose College, Oxford,has explored the relationshi between Buddhist monks and violence, in light of attacks on Muslims by Buddhists in Burma and Sri Lanka.

Strathern is also the author of ‘Kingship and Conversion in Sixteenth-Century Sri Lanka: Portuguese Imperialism in a Buddhist Land’.

Extracts from his piece have been reproduced below. See the full piece here.

“But however any religion starts out, sooner or later it enters into a Faustian pact with state power. Buddhist monks looked to kings, the ultimate wielders of violence, for the support, patronage and order that only they could provide. Kings looked to monks to provide the popular legitimacy that only such a high moral vision can confer.

“The result can seem ironic. If you have a strong sense of the overriding moral superiority of your worldview, then the need to protect and advance it can seem the most important duty of all.”

“One of the most famous kings in Sri Lankan history is Dutugamanu, whose unification of the island in the 2nd Century BC is related in an important chronicle, the Mahavamsa.”

“It says that he placed a Buddhist relic in his spear and took 500 monks with him along to war against a non-Buddhist king. He destroyed his opponents. After the bloodshed, some enlightened ones consoled him: "The slain were like animals; you will make the Buddha's faith shine."”

“Sri Lanka's powerful Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was guest of honour at the opening of a Buddhist Brigade training school, and referred to the monks as those who "protect our country, religion and race".”

Buddhist monks praise Rajapaksa for 'outstanding service' to SL (27 April 2013)

SL is a Sinhala Buddhist country - Buddhist clergy (26 March 2013)

Go forward, Buddhist soldier (05 October 2012)

Gotabaya opens Buddhist Vihara in Kilinochchi - MoD (01 October 2012)

‘Buddhists Behaving Badly’ (03 August 2012)

Power behind the throne (08 May 2012)

More equal than others (11 December 2011)

Sri Lanka's top monk shuns non-violence (09 April 2008)

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