Militant Monks, Buddhist Nationalism, and Genocide
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I have been busy with many other projects. I have thought about reviving this soon, but it will cover many more topics outside of the Buddha Dhamma.
However, this is something I have found very troubling in some parts of the Buddhist Sangha (community of monks and nuns) and felt the need to speak out. This is, of course, the increased forms of Buddhist ethnic nationalism, Islamophobia, and xenophobic sentiment that has been pushed by certain people within the Buddhist Sangha.
This is Ashin Wirathu, a 45-year-old Buddhist monk from Mandalay’s Masoeyein Monastery. He is notorious for his ultra-nationalist ideas , which had even lead to his imprisonment. He is most noted for anti-Muslim “969 campaign” (which discourages people from shopping at stores unwilling to fix the 969 emblem to their storefronts, i.e. particularly Muslim businesses). U Wirathu has compared the 969 campaign to the EDL, stating that, “People give me various names: The Burmese bin Laden, the bald neo-Nazi.
‘[But] do you know the English Defence League? We would like to be like the EDL. Not carrying out violence, but protecting the public.”
Originally, the numbers were actually supposed to be a symbol representing the three jewels of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. However, since 200, U Wirathu started promoting his nationalist “969” campaign, which includes boycotting Muslim businesses.
U Wirathu was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003 for inciting religious conflicts, but he was released in January 2012. In October, he organized protests against the international Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s plan to open a Burma office.
This guy does not teach the Dhamma – but paranoia and fear, complete with racist stereotypes and conspiracy theories. He claims that the former political prisoner and current parliamentarian and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under influence of some Muslim conspiracy.
“He sides a little towards hate,” said Abbot Arriya Wuttha Bewuntha of Mandalay’s Myawaddy Sayadaw monastery. “This is not the way Buddha taught. What the Buddha taught is that hatred is not good, because Buddha sees everyone as an equal being. The Buddha doesn’t see people through religion.”
Despite spending his years in prison for stoking religious violence, Wirathu won a “freedom of religion” award in February from the UK’s foremost Burmese monastery in London, Sasana Ramsi. In that every same week, that he spread conspiracy theories that a Rangoon school was going to be developed into a mosque.
In the three years after his release from prison under a general amnesty, U Wirathu lead a rally of monks in support of President Thein Sein’s proposal to send the Rohingya to a third country due to the violence and ethnic riots between the Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. In March of 2013, 40 killed people were in Meiktila and nearly 13,000 displaced while the “969” stickers and plaques were being distributed through Burma/Myranmar.
In the last two years, Myanmar has undergone a transition from military dictatorship into a reformist government. This lead to the election of human rights advocate Aung San Suu Kyi Parliament after decades of house arrest. However, Aung San Suu Kyi, who in the past defended minorities and human rights, has been criticised for not taking a greater stand against the violence in Rohingya. Instead, she spoke out against an proposed two-child policy as discriminatory and against basic human rights.
It is obvious that her politicization has been exploited by a group of people who want to create discord between the different religions. These individuals are using the tactics of conspiracy and hate speech to provoke tensions around the country, while former human rights advocates in the country respond with passive complicity.
Anandajoti Bhikkhu, an English Monk and resident in India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia since 1989, said on his Facebook page that, “There is a law in Buddhist countries that if a monk is imprisoned he must disrobe, lest he bring the good name of the Sangha into disrepute. This monk has brought the Sangha and the Sasana into disrepute worldwide, and he really needs to be made an example of. He should be disrobed and put back in prison for inciting religious hatred, which has even amounted to murder.”
We make take the initiative to point out that the xenophobic prejudices and nationalism being promoted by monks such as Ashin Wirathu and Akmeemana Dayarathana (founder of another ultra-nationalist Buddhist group, Sinhala Echo) is not the Dhamma, this is not what the Buddha taught. What they do is a clear violation of the Patimokkha rules. The Buddha taught that the Dhamma places a higher value on a person’s ethic and virtue rather than what family, caste, religion, gender, etc. that one was born into. Buddha stated in the Vasala Sutta that, “not by birth is one an outcaste; not by birth is one a brahman. By deed one becomes an outcaste, by deed one becomes an brahman.”
When dealing with such hateful Buddhist monks, it will help to remind them of this verse of the Dhammapada;
Whoever being depraved, devoid of self-control and truthfulness, should don the monk’s yellow robe, he surely is not worthy of the robe.
But whoever is purged of depravity, well-established in virtues and filled with self-control and truthfulness, he indeed is worthy of the yellow robe.
Those who mistake the unessential to be essential and the essential to be unessential, dwelling in wrong thoughts, never arrive at the essential.
Those who know the essential to be essential and the unessential to be unessential, dwelling in right thoughts, do arrive at the essential.
Just as rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, so passion penetrates an undeveloped mind.
Just as rain does not break through a well-thatched house, so passion never penetrates a well-developed mind.
The evil-doer grieves here and hereafter; he grieves in both the worlds. He laments and is afflicted, recollecting his own impure deeds.
The doer of good rejoices here and hereafter; he rejoices in both the worlds. He rejoices and exults, recollecting his own pure deeds.
The evil-doer suffers here and hereafter; he suffers in both the worlds. The thought, “Evil have I done,” torments him, and he suffers even more when gone to realms of woe.
The doer of good delights here and hereafter; he delights in both the worlds. The thought, “Good have I done,” delights him, and he delights even more when gone to realms of bliss.
Much though he recites the sacred texts, but acts not accordingly, that heedless man is like a cowherd who only counts the cows of others — he does not partake of the blessings of the holy life.
Little though he recites the sacred texts, but puts the Teaching into practice, forsaking lust, hatred, and delusion, with true wisdom and emancipated mind, clinging to nothing of this or any other world — he indeed partakes of the blessings of a holy life.
Posted on 06/20/2013, in burma, dukkha, news, politics, religion, samsara, sangha and tagged Buddha, buddhism, burma, genocide, human rights, myanmar, nationalism, Rakhine, Rohingya. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.