by Matthew Cobb
Buddhism seems such a nice religion – all about “spiritual development”, not hurting anyone, thinking about the higher things in life, and so on. This nice-guy uniqueness appears to be misplaced, however. Not only do all religions say they’re concerned with the next world rather than this (which doesn’t stop the Pope wearing Gucci, or Armani or whatever), Buddhism – like all religions – has its dark side.
Over at the Times Literary Supplement, this side of the Rupert Murdoch Times paywall, Katherine Wharton has a chilling review of a new book of essays about “Buddhist Warfare”, edited by Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer. Like other religions – and of course, ideologies – Buddhism has justified “compassionate torture” (“burning of the remnants of the victim’s past sins”), killing, and even mass murder”
“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.”
One of the writers, Brian Victoria, implicates D. T. Suzuki (1870–1966), “the most influential proponent of Zen to the West in the twentieth century”, in providing the justification for the slaughter of millions of Chinese during the Asia-Pacific war.
Another quotes the ninth-century Chinese monk Yi-hiuan, who urged his hearers:
“Kill everything you encounter, internally as well as externally! Kill the Buddha! Kill your father and mother! Kill your closest friends!”.
I am sure Buddhist readers will be shocked, and hasten to let us know that this is not a true representation of their beliefs. I should hope not. But it is true, is it not?
Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer, editors
257pp. Oxford University Press. Paperback, £18.99 (US $29.95).
978 0 19 539484 9
Oh, and as ever, this issue of the TLS has a fantastic cover: