“Buddhists Betray the Teachings” — Jack Kornfield on the anti-Muslim violence in Burma

Violent-Buddhist

A religion known for nonviolence is being used to fuel a genocidal campaign against the Muslims of Burma. In the September 2014 Shambhala Sun Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, who recently returned from Burma, urges us to join the call for peace. His full article appears below — you can also download and share this PDF of the article — along with with helpful contact info for showing your support and sharing your voice, and the full text of an open letter, “World Buddhist Leaders’ Response to the Growing Ethnic Violence Against Muslims in Myanmar.”

Neither in anger nor hatred
Should anyone wish harm to another.

—The Buddha, in the Metta Sutta

On the surface, upcountry Burma is not very different than it was in 1971, when I first trained there as a monk in the monasteries of Mahasi and Sunlun Sayadaw. The green and dusty landscape is dotted with temples and golden pagodas. There are poor hardworking farmers and small towns with colorful marketplaces. The Burmese people remain extraordinarily gracious and goodhearted, the nation a revered center of Buddhist teachings.

But now there is also fear, an underlying tension spreading across the country. I recently returned from working in Burma with peace activists and for Partners Asia, supporting schools, shelters for orphans and battered women, HIV programs, rural clinics, and other amazing projects across the land. I found amid the positive changes and slow movement toward democracy a growing religious and ethnic intolerance and conflict.

News reports show monks crisscrossing Burma using Buddhist teachings to encourage violence and the passage of inhumane laws. Here in the West, people are shocked. Isn’t Buddhism the religion that preaches against violence and killing? Are these stories true? How can we understand them?

The stories are true. Traveling across Burma recently, I encountered some of these monks who are drumming up hate and jingoistic fervor. They don’t want to talk about peace and have succeeded in sowing mistrust across much of the country. Under their influence, taxi drivers and shopkeepers from Rangoon to remote towns talk about their fear of a Muslim takeover and “the Buddha’s teaching” that sometimes violence is needed to protect the nation. This dangerous situation needs some explanation.

The biggest source of conflict is the unsettled situation of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s westernmost state. Rakhine is a beautiful land bordering Bangladesh that was for centuries a great seafaring kingdom. But ever since the central Burmese kings conquered Rakhine, the people there have been treated badly. And over the last century, a million Rohingya Muslims, seeking new opportunity or fleeing poverty and mistreatment in present-day Bangladesh, have settled in Rakhine. Today, overpopulated Bangladesh doesn’t want them back and the Rakhine natives, already poor and mistreated by the central government, fear they are losing land and livelihood to the Muslims immigrants, even though many Rohingyas have lived there peacefully for decades.

The current economic pressure has made the situation ripe for fear, violence, and political exploitation. Muslim homes and businesses have been torched and 100,000 Rohingya Muslims, many of them women and children, have been forced into impoverished refugee camps. When I spoke to Rohingyas from Rakhine, their eyes got wide with dismay, and there was a palpable helplessness and fear of attacks by the Buddhist majority. Recently, the drumbeat of violence against Muslims and other minorities has spread to other parts of Burma, often with the tacit approval of the local police and military.

I witnessed firsthand the results of the spreading violence in the town of Lashio in northern Shan state, where this past year a mosque, businesses, and a Muslim orphanage were burned not far from the town’s most revered pagoda. While the local Buddhists I spoke to were friendly, they were also worried, and from their ranks came mobs who torched their Muslim neighbors.

Of the nearly half a million monks and nuns in Burma, those espousing hatred and supporting violence are a handful, less than one percent. But their message of fear and prejudice resonates because of several factors.

First, the radical monks have successfully linked buddha-dharma with nationalism. Buddhism teaches the nobility of all, regardless of caste, race, or creed. But humans can misuse anything, including dharma, and these monks have become fundamentalists who espouse prejudice in the name of dharma. With 40 percent of the Burmese population in 135 ethnic groups, three million Muslims, and a dozen simmering civil wars, the misguided monks tell Burmese Buddhists they need to fight against those who are different to maintain the nation.

Second, since the recent transition to quasi-civilian rule, there is increased insecurity, predatory economic development, and political deception. On previous trips under the military regime, friends could have been imprisoned or tortured if I had been overheard speaking to them about Aung San Suu Kyi. Now public conversation is allowed, but there are still dangers for journalists and activists.

With the lifting of military dictatorship, simmering ethnic and religious tensions are being exploited by misguided monks, political groups, and the remnants of the dictatorship to gain power. It is said that some of the worst monks may be Secret Service men who have taken robes and are deliberately stoking fears to turn people back to the military and away from Aung San Suu Kyi. Radical monks play on the historical memory of Muslim expansion across Asia in formerly Buddhist cultures. Scare stories about Muslims raping Buddhist women and having huge families and overpopulating the land are widely disseminated.

Surprisingly, there is widespread ignorance in Burma of many core Buddhist teachings. Most of Buddhist practice in Burma is devotional. Prayers and offerings express a beautiful spirit of generosity and a belief in merit-making, karma, and rebirth. The elaborately decorated temples are regularly awash with joyful community sharing, chanting, and support for the monks.

In this culture of devotion, the teachings of the noble truths and eightfold path, of nonviolence, mindfulness, meditation, and virtue, are not emphasized. And the Buddha’s admonition to see and think for yourself is lost entirely. The Burmese education system does not teach people to question authority. In a middle school class, ardent and shining-faced students told me how they always learned by rote and had not asked a single question in their school career. Added to this, fifty years of secret police and military oppression have left many Burmese fearful and easily misled.

Fortunately there are also abbots, activists, and Muslim leaders across Burma who embody the Buddha’s admonition to “hold all beings with boundless loving-kindness.” I was inspired by the courage of those who are trying to defuse this deplorable situation. Some work publicly, others behind the scenes, to educate monks and communities in Buddhist teachings about respect, nonviolence, and conflict resolution. But the hate speech has created a dangerous situation, and those who speak out publicly against prejudice are targeted and harassed by the anti-Muslim goons. In spite of this, leaders like Zin Mar Aung, who won the International Woman of Courage Award, and Ven. U Nayaka Sayadaw, abbot of a Mandalay monastery with seven thousand monks, hold aloft the dharma banner of respect for all.

While the solution lies with the Burmese themselves, there are many outside groups trying to encourage the best of the Burmese Buddhist tradition of tolerance, such as Partners Asia, the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, Hope International, United to End Genocide, and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. Unfortunately, Médecins Sans Frontières and the UN have now been banned from Rakhine because the government doesn’t want honest reports on the situation to reach the outside world. Aung San Suu Kyi, who holds a long-term vision of development for Burma with immense dignity, grace, and courage, encouraged those of us who met with her to engage with all parties in the conflict. Unfortunately, the military-imposed constitution still hasn’t been changed to allow her full political rights and she is limited in her own ability to respond.

In past months, I organized a group of concerned Buddhist elders, including the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, to publish a full-page letter in Burmese newspapers encouraging the Burmese to stand up for their noble tradition of respect and nonviolence. Read the full text of that letter below. But first, see our list of links for keeping updated and adding your voice to the call for peace in Burma.

– Jack Kornfield

How you can help: where to voice your concerns

President Thein Sein
President’s Office
Nay Pyi Taw
Myanmar
www.president-office.gov.mm/contact

Minister for Religious Affairs
Major-General Sein Htwe
Building 31
Naypyidaw
Myanmar

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
56, University Avenue
Yangon
Myanmar

Minister of Home Affairs
Lt Gen. Ko Ko
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Nay Pyi Taw
Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Chairman, Myanmar National Human
Rights Commission
U Win Mra
27 Pyay Road, Hline Township
Yangon
Republic of the Union of Myanmar

And in USA:

US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Email: Web_inquiry@foreign.senate.gov
Chairman: Robert Menendez
www.facebook.com/senatormenendez
https://twitter.com/SenatorMenendez

Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Chairman: Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
http://www.foreign.senate.gov/about/subcommittees/subcommittee-on-east-asian-and-pacific-affairs

Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizational, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues
Chairman, Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
http://www.foreign.senate.gov/about/subcommittees/subcommittee-on-international-operations-and-organizations-human-rights-democracy-and-global-womens-issues

US Senate Committee on Armed Services
Chairman: Carl Levin (D – MI)
http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/

US House Committee on Armed Services
Chairman: Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)
https://www.facebook.com/BuckMcKeon
https://twitter.com/buckmckeon

U.S. Secretary of State: John Kerry
https://www.facebook.com/usdos
https://twitter.com/StateDept
202-647-4000
Public Communication Division: 
202-647-6575

US Ambassador to Burma Derek J. Mitchell
http://burma.usembassy.gov/contact.html
https://www.facebook.com/usembassy.rangoon

 

How you can help: where to show your support

Websites:

Partners Asia
Catholic Peacebuilding Network
Hope International
United to End Genocide
International Network of Engaged Buddhists
Médecins Sans Frontières
US Campaign for Burma
Buddhadharma‘s Burma coverage
Jack Kornfield

Facebook:

Partners Asia on Facebook
Hope International on Facebook
United to End Genocide on Facebook

International Network of Engaged Buddhists

Médecins Sans Frontières on Facebook

US Campaign for Burma on Facebook
Jack Kornfield on Facebook

Twitter:

Partners Asia on Twitter
Hope International on Twitter
United to End Genocide on Twitter
International Network of Engaged Buddhists on Twitter

Médecins Sans Frontières on Twitter
US Campaign for Burma on Twitter
Jack Kornfield on Twitter

 

LETTER: WORLD BUDDHIST LEADERS RESPONSE TO THE GROWING ETHNIC VIOLENCE AGAINST MUSLIMS IN MYANMAR

To Our Brother and Sister Buddhists in Myanmar,

As world Buddhist leaders we send our lovingkindess and concern for the difficulties the people of Myanmar are faced with at this time. While it is a time of great positive change in Myanmar we are concerned about the growing ethnic violence and the targeting of Muslims in Rakhine State and the violence against Muslims and others across the country. The Burmese are a noble people, and Burmese Buddhists carry a long and profound history of upholding the Dharma.

We wish to reaffirm to the world and to support you in practicing the most fundamental Buddhist principles of non-harming, mutual respect and compassion.

These fundamental principles taught by the Buddha are at the core of Buddhist practice:

Buddhist teaching is based on the precepts of refraining from killing and causing harm. Buddhist teaching is based on compassion and mutual care. Buddhist teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed.

We are with you for courageously standing up for these Buddhist principles even when others would demonize or harm Muslims or other ethnic groups. It is only through mutual respect, harmony and tolerance that Myanmar can become a modern great nation benefiting all her people and a shining example to the world.

Whether you are a Sayadaw or young monk or nun, or whether you are a lay Buddhist, please, speak out, stand up, reaffirm these Buddhist truths, and support all in Myanmar with the compassion, dignity and respect offered by the Buddha.

We stand with you in the Dharma,

Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Vietnam

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi President Buddhist Global Relief (world’s foremost translator of the Pali Canon) Sri Lanka/USA

Dr. AT Ariyaratne Founder Nationwide Sarvodaya Movement Ghandi Peace Prize Laureate Sri Lanka

Ven. Chao Khun Raja Sumedhajahn Elder, Ajahn Chah Monasteries Wat Ratanavan, Thailand

Ven. Phra Paisal Visalo Chair Buddhika Network Buddhism and Society Thailand

Ven. Arjia Rinpoche VIII Abbot Tibetan Mongolian Cultural Center Mongolia/USA

Ven. Shodo Harada Roshi Abbot Sogenji Rinzai Zen Monastery Japan

Achariya Professor J Simmer Brown Chairperson Buddhist Studies Naropa Buddhist University USA

Ven. Ajahn Amaro Mahathera Abbot Amaravati Vihara England

Ven. Hozan A Senauke International Network of Engaged Buddhists Worldwide

Younge Khachab Rinpoche VIII Abbot Younge Drodul Ling Canada

Ven. Sr. Thich Nu Chan Kong President Plum Village Zen temples France/Vietnam

Dr. Jack Kornfield Vipassana Achariya Convener Western Buddhist Teachers Council USA

Lama Surya Das Dzogchen Foundation International Vajrayana Tibet/USA

Ven. Zoketsu N. Fischer Soto Roshi Fmr. Abbot largest Zen community in the West USA/Japan

Tulku Sherdor Rinpoche Director BI. Wisdom Institute Canada

Professor Robert Tenzin C. Thurman Center for Buddhist Studies Columbia University USA

HH the XIV Dalai Lama Nobel Laureate Tibet/India
Though not able to be reached in time to sign this letter, HH the Dalai Lama has publicly and repeatedly stated his concern about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He urges everyone to continue to practice non-violence and retain the religious harmony that is central to our ancient and revered culture.

Comments

  1. says

    Dear Mr. Kornfield: Thank you for this devoted article and letter. The situation in Burma is of deep concern to many of us and your statements are a welcomed voice. May these aspirations fall on all who can take positive, compassionate and strong action to resolve the massacres and hatred.

    I would like to address two paragraphs in your article that concerned me both for resulting in some hurt and at their implications. Please forgive the large quote back but I want to be clear in what I'm addressing:

    [Surprisingly, there is widespread ignorance in Burma of many core Buddhist teachings. Most of Buddhist practice in Burma is devotional. Prayers and offerings express a beautiful spirit of generosity and a belief in merit-making, karma, and rebirth. The elaborately decorated temples are regularly awash with joyful community sharing, chanting, and support for the monks.]

    I was born and grew up in Burma. My family was both Catholic and Burmese, a somewhat amazing melange of religious beliefs that had us attending Latin Mass in the morning and chanting in pagodas in the afternoon. In my recollection of those days, I felt no "ignorance" of the Buddha's teachings nor of Christ's. We understood that the suttas as well as the gospels were the purview of the monks & priests and therefore their elucidation and complexities were not a necessary part of our practice. We learned that compassion and love were the Buddha's and Christ's message whether this was imparted in Pali or Latin. In that sense, I would suggest that neither Buddhists nor Christians could be referred to as "ignorant" of the teachings but that the hierarchy of religion resulted in a different expression of the content of the scriptures. As you may understand, I would be a little concerned about referring to a culture – any culture – as "being ignorant of" something that is deeply embedded and perhaps not available to those outside that culture.

    [In this culture of devotion, the teachings of the noble truths and eightfold path, of nonviolence, mindfulness, meditation, and virtue, are not emphasized. And the Buddha’s admonition to see and think for yourself is lost entirely. The Burmese education system does not teach people to question authority. In a middle school class, ardent and shining-faced students told me how they always learned by rote and had not asked a single question in their school career. Added to this, fifty years of secret police and military oppression have left many Burmese fearful and easily misled.]

    Again, the teachings of the Buddha were embodied as practices and while we may have recited them it does not therefore extrapolate to a lack of emphasis. As you already know, the intellectual emphasis of the teachings is really a recent phenomenon and not likely easily mapped onto a culture that has evolved (or in some cases remained static) in a different way.

    As a student in and product of the Burmese education system, I recall that our style of learning was based in the oral tradition, not that different from the oral tradition of the monks of the Buddha's time. It was also a blend with the British colonial system that, though left in tatters after the British exited Burma, retained a strong hold over the education process. However, rote learning is not less than analytic learning. Again, different intentions, different cultures, different expectations of authority. I would also argue that the Burmese education does not fail to teach a questioning of authority. And furthermore, I wonder if it is a fair statement that the Burmese education system does not teach us to question authority.

    We are a rich culture of intellectuals, spiritual leaders, artists, musicians, and teachers. To present us as having been herded into a thoughtless practice of rote responses and placid generosity is sadly misrepresentative of who we are. And that this infers such ignorance and passivity as the cause of the violence and hatred (even if that was not your intention) is something I would respectfully ask you to reconsider.

    Your friend in the Dharma,
    Lynette Genju Monteiro

    • says

      [The following is a reply from Jack Kornfield, posted on his behalf:]

      Dear Lynette, thank you for sending such extensive and thoughtful comments. I wish I had seen them before the article was published, as I could have fine tuned my words and taken out whatever seems "totalizing" or pejorative of Burma in an unskillful way. What an interesting background you have. I did show the article to several thoughtful Burmese friends and colleagues most of whom are activists, and they gave me some guidance. But your comments are additionally helpful.

      This is a painful situation that many of us fear could get much worse, and in some part the ignorance I speak of is one piece of what is allowing it to happen. Of course this ignorance is not just found in Burma. A lack of questioning authority can be found here in the USA too, as is great ignorance about the core values of love and forgiveness that Christ taught. The same happens in many middle eastern countries in which ignorant fundamentalism has replaced the mercy of Allah. Alas in Burma this year, many of the villagers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers etc I talked to and many I heard about from Burmese colleagues did believe the 969 monks who teach that Buddha was sometimes violent and espoused force and violence if it was to protect the Sasana. They were devoted and beautiful people, but too easily fooled by the words of these misguiding monks. This is sad to see.

      I also appreciate your valuing of the oral tradition. I too learned Buddhist teachings by rote, starting from my first preceptor who was born in the 1890s when palm leaf books were too precious for students to handle and memorization was the rule. And I benefited from this training.

      Being honest, the level of understanding of the core principles of Dharma is probably as strong in Burma as in any other Buddhist countries, and it appears that places such as Japan, Taiwan and Sri Lanka have a popular Buddhism that overall isn't even as fully practiced as in Burma. But for Burma to grow into a more tolerant nation, and resist the demagogues will ask of the Burmese people more questioning and a deeper following of the compassionate and non violent teachings of Buddha, embodying the tradition that is so beloved by many there. May this come to pass.

      Do you ever write about your own experiences? Or about Burma? I'd be interested to read if you do.

      Thanks and metta, Jack

      • Genju says

        Dear Jack, thank you for your responsiveness. It is certainly a global truth that scriptural teachings have been too often placed in the service of protecting the Self. More so in Burma where the mind of poverty has been fostered by all the deprivations of the military junta since Ne Win in 1963. And even longer into its past history. This makes fertile ground for twisted minds and unwholesome intentions.

        I am encouraged by your comment on the depth of understanding of Buddhism in Burma and how different it is from other areas. Certainly I did not recognize Western Buddhism when we immigrated here – although our arrival predated the work you and your colleagues did to bring the Dharma to N. America so Buddhism was very much an esoteric religion then.

        Burma has been transported into the 21st c. with little preparation. This will give rise to many difficulties some of which I encountered working with refugees here whose understanding of democracy and its benefits lead to deep disappointment and suffering for them. Still, I fear (as you do) that all these factors will result in a Dark Age for the Dharma in its own home. It will be heartbreaking for many of us and yet this will be the opportunity for stewardship of the Dharma to become even more a shared responsibility, a global holding of the preciousness of the Three Jewels. I appreciate your leadership in this and continue to look to you as one of our guiding teachers.

        With metta,
        Lynette Genju

    • Rahula says

      So hatred & killing would be "something that is deeply embedded and perhaps not available to those outside that culture" of the Burmese people?

      • says

        Dear Rahula:

        What you have quoted references Jack's statement "Surprisingly, there is widespread ignorance in Burma of many core Buddhist teachings." His statement in turn referenced his reasons why the people in Burma are being mislead by radicals. While that is an hypothesis, it did not warrant a global statement, in my opinion. IOW, we have to be cautious in assuming there is an "ignorance" of something when we may be missing a different way of expressing the Dharma, one that is cultural and embodied.

        I feel Jack has responded to my concerns more than adequately and I hope that the conversation will now turn to exploring the ways in which we can come together as a global sangha to elicit change for the Rohingya and model change in all other areas of the world.

    • Darian_Intrigue says

      Lynette Genju, I find your post to be a gross misrepresentation of the situation in Burma. Either that, or you did not grow up as a typical middle-class Burmese person. I myself grew up in Burma, went through the education system and I am flabbergasted at your response to Mr Kornfield. There is nothing, absolutely about the Burmese education system that teaches students to question authority. Burmese teachers are severely underpaid, and their unhappiness is reflected in the way they routinely yell at and openly embarrass misbehaving students, unless paid by the student's parents to attend her private tuition.

      I find it completely ridiculous that you compare the Burmese rote learning system to the arahants who memorized the teachings for the aim of passing them down AFTER they had fully comprehended and realized them. In stark contrast, the Burmese education system teaches memorization for the sake of memorization. Entire essays are memorized and required to be regurgitated word-for-word on examinations, and any deviation from the memorized essay results in a deduction of points. The average university graduate is severely incompetent in his or her field of study and this is reflected by the fact that NO foreign country will recognize a degree that was obtained from a Burmese university.

      You said that "we are a rich culture of intellectuals, spiritual leaders, artists, musicians and teachers"… really? Then how come no one in the world knows the name of any such person except Aung San Suu Kyi, the ONE Nobel Prize winner the country has produced in its entire history?

      Maybe you should invite Jack Kornfield to Burma so that he can witness firsthand our exquisitely refined culture of intellectuals and spiritual leaders. As in the Buddhist monks walking around with anti-Islam slogans, and monks like U Wirathu calling for boycotts against Muslims and promoting a ban against interfaith marriage. No doubt there do exist Buddhist monks who well and truly walk the Buddha's path, but I find it very suspicious that you do not address any of these concerns while painting an overly optimistic image of life in Burma.

      I invite Mr Kornfield to visit the country on a self-guided tour and see for himself how abysmal the conditions are for the average Burmese citizen.

  2. zuki says

    Dear Jack kornfield,
    May peace be upon every human in our mother earth. I respect all the Buddhist community and the teaching of Buddha. By birth I am a Muslim, but I love to hear the teaching of buddha and follow. Thank you so much for the love and care which inspired me. I learnt from you that Peace is the only solution to humanity.

    With loads of love,
    A human who loves peace!

  3. Dev says

    Dear Jack and everyone,
    Thanks for an article and comments. It is very interesting facts to read. However, After reading these question arisen in me that where were these voices when killing of buddhist monks in Southern Thailand continue taking place, buddhist villages and temples in Bungladesh burnt down and destroyed, buddhist temples were destroyed in Srilanka.

  4. Linnet says

    Dear Jack and all readers,

    It a sad day indeed when I read about this in the news. I would like to believe that Buddhism is still non-violent religion and not all with shaven heads and robes are necessary monks.

    I subscribe to Kamala Sutta and I have seen people posing as Monks in my country to beg with their alms bowl, not for food, but specifically requesting for money.

    It is a pity that the misdeed of a few is like 'one bad apple makes the whole lot bad'. Friends who do not understand Buddhism come up to me and highlight this issue and questioning the non-violence. My reply is that all religion teaches good, it is how people interprets (misinterpret) and twist it for personal gains.

    Times like this, we must hold tighter to the Noble Eightfold Path and not be swayed by Mara and his 3 daughters.

    • Shwe says

      Linnet: When you state "all religion teaches good, it is how people interprets (misinterpret) and twist it for personal gains", I would like to ask you the basis for this understanding, after all the right understanding is the key to solving a problem. Is it based on your comprehensive study of all religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc..) or is it based or mere hearsay? If you studied Islam, would you enlighten us with what Koran verse 9.5 states?

  5. Ronnie says

    In the name of tolerance, don't succumb to intolerance. These so-called NGOs should not be allowed to work in any sovereign countries, as one knows what their nefarious intentions are. These western and petrodollars NGOs are forefront in creating instability in many countries, the recent case is Ukraine. India realizes that and decided to regulate the conduct of these NGOs and their sources. Slowly other countries are also following suit. They are always there to create trouble in third world and poor countries.

    Those days are gone when merchants and missionaries go together to convert native people. These so-called NGOs have taken over their name but not the roles. In the name of charity, they create instability.

    Burmese are proud people, and monks role is indispensable since time immemorial. They were forefront against the British rule, and the current problem is nothing but an extension of British colonial policy – divide and rule. As some rotten apple can be found everywhere, here also exists.

    BBC, CNN and Aljazeera whose prejudice reports about the conflict is well known. One won't find any reports of recent massacre in Iraq and Syria where not hundred or two hundred but in thousands were killed to implement a desert dogma over whole population, and it still does not made headlines, barring few clippings. The reason is obvious either their head will be cut or their hand will be chopped.

    It should be made clear that the current conflict is not about religion as these so-called unbiased reporters frequently report, but it's about land and people. Ask the ethnic people of Burma about the history of these migrants who were herded by the British masters to work as slaves in their homes and farms. The master left but the slaves were leftover. Now, the master also fear that these leftovers would try to enter their country, and so they started tighten their border.

    What a pity that these western Buddhists having read news from these [Un] biased news outlet blaming the religion as the cause of trouble and saying that the Burmese people are ignorant of Dhamma. What an insult to Burmese people. I hope they would respond to it appropriately.

  6. Mramma says

    This article looks like to claim there are no non-Muslim victims during communal violence. There were no people speak up when Buddhists in Chittagong Hill Tracts faced the same fate. This article seems to take a ride with the popularity of the issue and the notoriety of the past repressive government.

    "News reports show monks crisscrossing Burma using Buddhist teachings to encourage violence and the passage of inhumane laws."

    Who authored these "news reports"? These are people with minimal or no understanding of teaching of Buddhism. No Buddhist monks used the teaching of Buddhism to incite violence because there is no teaching for violence in Buddhism. Please elaborate the exact phrase that you've heard the "violence is needed to protect the nation." Please name who said it. What are the "inhumane laws"?

    "… the radical monks have successfully linked buddha-dharma with nationalism." Please give us a citation, otherwise this would be blunt accusation.

    You know, every each action has a reaction. The nature of Buddhists in Myanmar is that they are always welcoming, peaceful and friendly, otherwise they must really feel pressure and threats that they were never exposed. They have never initiated all the troubles. Most of the unfortunate events happened spontaneously. They see cultural conflicts. They see some of the Buddhists rights are violated. Anger and ignorance harbor regardless of people's race and religion, where they are from.

    Have you ever confronted your own anger when you see it? Most people could not. They follow with their anger until they see remorse. The situation in Myanmar was that people get angry when they are exposed to other aggressive religions and its teaching. Who exposed these is in question. However, other than that there are many rural youths whom can be riled up anytime for a political purpose. They often indulge drinking of alcohol (unlike Buddhist teaching) and are somewhat uneducated.

    You will also have to distinguish between Muslims who inherited and assimilated Burmese culture, and those who still harbor and maintain traditions of Mujahideen. You could also find this virulent youths in Muslims community in Western part of the country. They are officially taught hatred and animosity of other religion in Madrasa (Islamic school). All troubles were started by this event. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t_HC1VW2LE

    You can see the nature of so-called "Rohingya" Muslims youth here more. They are young adults and often stray. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=394423730680

    Wish you have thorough and sound judgment on the issue.

  7. ethan davidson says

    I think one cause of this situation is the policies of the generals who until recently ruled absolutly. There policy towards the monks was to kill or drive out those who ciriticies the government, evan if only by walking with a bowl upside down. Meanwhile, those who were willing to collaborate with the government and ignore it's flaws were rewarded with beutiful temples and good food. This policy, carryed out over decades, must have had ian effect. I suspect that the best of the monks are gone, while the worst of them have more authority and prestige than they should.

  8. Sandy Thin Mar Oo says

    So delusional article to read! Sorry Jack kornfield, you might think you can give bad influence to people! But people around around the World who got brain will think twice who is wrong and who is right! Myanmar Land gave open hands to those Bengalis immigrants who needed home but now they are betraying the host country and kind people of Myanmar. You MUST go and live in Arakan(Rakhine) State for a few years and learn all those problem why, when and who started! You cannot insult on Local Myanmar Buddhisms with blind eyes. False news and knowledge could destroy our Planet!
    May you be free from any suffering and may you be gaining real peacefulness under our Theravada Buddhism!

  9. Thunder Storm says

    Dear Jack Kornfield,
    I know your job very well in Yangon Burma.I also attended
    Your lecture about “Buddhist way to respect” in your close
    friend Zin Mar Aung office Yangon Burma 6-7 months sgo.
    Nothing I heard “Buddhist way to respect” in your lecturers
    but I heard Muslims lobby speech and photo of Muslims in
    Pakistan and in Egypt protesting, not to destroy Church.
    You are advocacying for Muslims goodness, but Coptic Church
    In Egypt were burnt down and destroyed. Its show who are you
    and what are you doing. Deceptive and hypocrite acts of
    your job is very dangerous for our country and rest of the world.
    This is a true story of Jack, a hypocrite like Muslim’s al Taqqiya.
    Take care, friends.

  10. Myo Thein says

    This article does not reflect current situation of Burma nor Buddhist in Burma. This article is misleading and expressing wrong information. If you want to write an article about Burma or Buddhist in the future, I strongly advise you to consult with genuine Burmese experts before you do so in the future.

  11. Shwe says

    Jack Kornfield: In your article, you empowered yourself as judge and jury on a very complicated and controversial subject with immense political ramifications, without providing any reference materials to back up your assertions. Generally, such empowerment comes with age and power, and it is one of the greatest human fallacies. Only those who are too predisposed, biased, lazy or unable to think for themselves will accept these as facts. Thus, in this case, the following quotes would be appropriate:

    “Measure not the measure of man, he who measures the measure of man did a pit for himself.”

    And

    “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

  12. Solis Lujan says

    Dear Jack, The letter to the Daiai Lama and should include their speeking out of the artocities by the Israelis on the Palestinians. Genocide/ ethnic cleansing of any people is against buddhism teachings. I know speaking out against Israel is a hot topic, but mass murder of humans no matter who they may be is horribly wrong. I also know that the killing of Israelis is not right, but take a look at the maps of what Palestine was and what it is know. Palestines live as prisoners in their own land, the maps do not lie. Of you as a teacher I ask the same thing, speak out, speak out from the heart of buddhism regardless of whom you might offend. Bravery is needed NOW.

  13. Chandara Sysounthone says

    Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Chandara Sysounthone. My family and I reached the shores of America in 1980 as refugees from Thailand/Laos. The purpose of this dialogue is to address and to put into the correct perspective the many misguided or biased articles being speculated via the web in regard to the defamation of Buddhism in Southern Asia in the countries such as Southern Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), CHT (Chittagong Hills Tracts, Bangladesh), etc. My intentions are not to put blame on anyone or any groups of people but merely to suggest that the audience view the dire crisis within the Buddhist community in those effected regions from a different perspective. The purpose of this dialogue is to shed light on the crises so that the audience does not make false judgments or jump to conclusions about my fellow Buddhist brothers and sisters, without obtaining facts from all parties. Finally, to address the unintentional consequences of the content of this article, in addition to emphasizing that this article does not conform to the teachings of the Buddha in regards to the “precept of refrain from false speech”.

    The specific articles I would like to address were written by Jack Kornfield that was published on the website called Shambhala SunSpace…the article was titled, “Buddhists Betray the Teachings”.

    On that note let’s start with the very first opening sentence of that article, “A religion known for nonviolence is being used to fuel a genocidal campaign against the Muslims of Burma.” Firstly, please don’t associate Buddhism, “the religion of nonviolence”, to your misguided understandings and ignorance of the crisis in Burma. Secondly, this very statement above in itself fuels hatred and ill will between the people in those regions…that to me suggest that your interest is towards the destabilization of the regions. Finally, there is absolutely no teaching whatsoever within Buddhism that teaches one to act violently towards others. It doesn’t matter how you dissect or interpret the teachings of the Buddha, under no circumstances can it ever be used as an offensive tool to create violence on this planet or anywhere in this Universe.

    Here are some of the unintended consequences that were produced by this articles or articles of this nature. The economic impacts such as the decline in tourism because articles such as this created a message to the outside world that Burma is not a safe place to visit. When the tourist economies collapse it will have a rippling effect on the other economies and when the economies collapse the social/governmental stability collapse as well; not only a rippling effect on the economies of one local country but a rippling effect across other countries within those regions and eventually on a global scale. ~continued—->

  14. Chandara Sysounthone says

    —-Continue—-> The other unintended consequences are an increased in tensions and hostilities between the people living in those regions and the surrounding regions because articles like this have fuel religious instability by falsely accusing a religion of non-violence or Buddhism as a tool of genocide! So to the Buddhist they would be like, “…are you kidding me, why would you say something like that!” To the Muslim radical they would be like, “Yes!…more reasons to kill Buddhist and take their lands!” The Muslim radicals is not a localized force but a network force on a global level meaning that what happens in one area will occur in another remote area. Please for the Love of peace think carefully before pointing fingers and instigating that religious practice are the reasons why Burma is the way it is. Your accusations have not only damned the Buddhist in the Burmese land but damned all Buddhist on this planet.

    Let’s put things into the correct perspective before we start accusing the indigenous people of Burma for the conflict that is happening there. Where shall I start…so in Burma we accuse the Burmese Buddhist…in Southern Thailand we accuse the Thai Buddhist…in Chittagong Hills Tract we accuse the Rahkine Buddhist…in Yugoslavia we accuse the Christians there…in Africa we accuse the Christians…in China we accused the indigenous Chinese…in India we accuse the Hindus…this list is endless! The point here is in any part of the world we accuse the indigenous people of that region. But the common denominator or the common perpetrators in all these accusations are, you guessed it…the Muslim radicals! These radicals have the same excuses/reasons regardless of what part of the planet where conflict of this nature arises, which is to acquire land that belongs to the indigenous people so that a separate country can be created so that these radicals can put into practice their own barbaric laws.

    Here is another quote from this article, “News reports show monks crisscrossing Burma using Buddhist teachings to encourage violence and the passage of inhumane laws.” Another quote, “Under their influence, taxi drivers and shopkeepers from Rangoon to remote towns talk about their fear of Muslim takeover and “the Buddha’s teaching” that sometimes violence is needed to protect the nation.” There has never been nor will there ever be any Buddhist literature that promotes or teaches violence in any shape or form. The right of any person to defend their life and the life’s of their friends and family are an innate human characteristics and is not dependent on any religion nor does it require any religious teachings, even an animal will defend its life should it feel threaten. The question we should then be asking is, why have some Buddhist shifted to a defensive approach or the realistic approach versus the passive approach? The below synopsis might help you answer that question…

    Here’s a quick synopsis of the two extremes between the Muslim radicals and the Buddhist radicals. The Muslim radicals kill anyone that is non-Muslims based on the radical interpretations of their religious doctrines. The Buddhist radicals on the other hand allow their enemies to kill them without fighting back based on their radical interpretations of their religious doctrine. Note that the radicals of both groups are totally opposite, one seeks to kill others, and one lets others kill them. How many more Buddhist or monks will we allow to be beheaded…has the lessons of the past not teach us anything? How many more land will we run from? How many times will we continue to forgive while the swords fall down upon our necks?

    Within Buddhism we have what you call “checks and balances” where the lay community and the monastic community work together in a mutual relationship to make sure both groups are following the vinaya (precepts) or code of conducts. The lay people have anywhere between 5-10 Vinaya and the monks has around 227 Vinaya. Should a monk not follow his Vinaya the lay community can request monks to disrobe by addressing the Abbot of the temple…the Abbot will then hold a meeting with the monk and remove that monk from the monastic community if the accusations are true. However, after being a monk for 4 times already I know the importance of keeping my vinaya and setting a good example…to be a monk is an honor and a privilege so to hear instances where monks are killing or beating or harming people is almost impossible.

    Stating a Buddhist monk going around killing or harming a person is the same as someone going around burning the Quran in front of the whole Muslim communities. Could you imagine how the Muslim community would react but yet as Buddhist we remain calm even under these false accusations. But should anyone of us witness a monk killing or harming a person please notify the lay community and have that monk remove from the monastic community…a monk’s robe cannot under any circumstances be tainted by acts of violence to any degree. ~continued—–>

  15. Chandara Sysounthone says

    —-Continued—–> Here is another quote from this article, “Radical monks play on the historical memory of Muslim expansion across Asia in formerly Buddhist cultures.” For the record these historical events are not just former Buddhist cultures they were former Buddhist countries that had been annihilated by the so called Muslim radicals. Let’s name one or two countries that was once upon a time a Buddhist country…let’s use Afghanistan since it history relates to the Chaos and corruptions that is happening now in the Burma and Chittagong Hills Tracts, Bangladesh. Not until recent archaeological discoveries in the past decades did people realize the original heritage and people that used to live in the land known today as Afghanistan, the latest discoveries was the Buddhist statue carved into a mountain as part of a Buddhist mountain temple along the “Silk Roads”. Unfortunately, the Taliban’s blew up the historical archaeological finds…if they are threaten by some old historic ruins imagine how threaten they are by living human beings…hmmm?

    This article sort of infers that the Buddhists in these regions are prejudice but yet there are many Mosques built everywhere in all the Buddhist countries. How many Buddhist temples do you see build in Muslim countries…ZERO, absolutely ZERO! So you see the true nature of the two religions in discussion here becomes revealed by the actual status quo of the architectures and buildings of a country…where there stands a Mosque no other religious structures from any other religion can be erected anywhere near it unless it’s another Mosque. So tell me who feels threaten here and who are the victims? For the sake of the good people in this world and for the sake of justice please recant your article.

    If we do nothing then history will repeat itself over and over again…the good people of the Muslim communities, the good people of the Buddhist communities and the good people of all communities must work together…silence and fear will not make this go away it will only fuel and strengthen these radicals. Nor will false accusations of another religion bring about peace.

    ——–continued——>

  16. Chandara Sysounthone says

    ——-Continued——> The below dialogue is what I had written up a few weeks back…it might be wishful thinking but at least it offers a balance approached for everyone.

    The Cause will always betray us…in other words in the pursuit of our enemy we will always become like our enemy. The Jihadist are willing to die for their Cause…we are willing to die for our Cause. Everybody is willing to die for a Cause or for something…for we fall into this Cause/Death illusion. Everybody will die; everything will die and everything had died, even if we doing nothing we will die…death is the common lot of all things. Dying is easy, it requires no effort , death is the state of all things and it requires no effort to attain . But Living is another thing…Living compassionately, Living nobly, Living kindly, Living harmoniously, Living peacefully, Living properly, Living wholesomely…Living under these guidelines requires hard work, requires dedication, requires discipline; requires right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. We all will die but only a few will attain a life that is lived wholesomely for the service of others.

    The Muslim people have Love, they Love their cultures, their people, their families/friends, their life, this Love we cannot doubt. The Buddhist people have Love, they Love their cultures, their people, their families/friends, their life, this Love we cannot doubt. All people have Love, they Love their cultures, their people, their families/friends, their life, this Love we cannot doubt. But Love in itself can be the root of evil or the root of unwholesome conditions. The common Love that all people have is biased and can be the source of unwholesome conditions. Even an animal knows how to Love. But the greatest Love of all was what the Buddha taught, the Love that transcends other forms of Love, that Love is called “Metta”. “Metta” is what distinguishes a human from an animal. We know that we have developed “Metta” when we see within a stranger the possibilities that they can be our; son/daughter, brother/sister, uncle/aunt, father/mother. But “Metta” requires one to live wholesomely, requires hard work, requires dedication, requires discipline; requires right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. “Metta” requires one to Live wholesomely…we cannot practice “Metta” when we are dead or seek the deaths of others

    In regards to “right view” when we meet someone we should not view them as these labels; a “Jihadist” or a “Muslim” or a “Buddhist” or a “Hindu”, etc, but we should view them as a person void of these labels and judge them not by the actions of others in the Past but judge them on their immediate actions towards us in the Present. In other words assume the best in others…let others rise to our best assumptions of them. There will always be those amongst the good people of this world that seeks to taunt us to do harm to each other…that seeks to divide us, in other words not all Muslims are Jihadist, maybe 15-25% are extremist. Know that our Cause as grand as it might be will always betray us…remain vigilance and remember the teachings of the Buddha…, ”Metta” must always be our first tool of defense and offense and should it fail us…know that we are no longer following in the path of the Buddha but away from it. The practice of “Metta” should never be mistaken for cowardice but should always be understood as an act of utmost bravery…for it requires more courage to not strike back at our enemy. Always remember to return back to ”Metta” _/_

  17. Shwe says

    The article shows a disdain for the people of Myanmar and their monks, while (I hope unwittingly) giving a free pass to those engaged in jihadi terror.

    The Dalai Lama often calls for universal love, compassion and forgiveness.

    Pope Francis is on record as saying “Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us….The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture”

    However, can any Islamic leader officially state that Islam teaches universal love, compassion and forgiveness irrespective whether the other person in muslim or non-muslim and whether men or women? Can they say that the verses in the Islamic religious books that the call for intolerance and jihad ( eg Koran 9.5 "When opportunity arises, kill the infidels (non believers of Islam) wherever you catch them." are outdated and contrary to the message of love and truth? If so, will Saudi Arabia and other Sharia muslim countries change their laws to allow non-muslim to practice their religion in public and without fear of being beheaded?

    On the contrary, the Islamic leaders have consistently called for jihad against “infidels“ and that leads one to wonder the source of hateful ideology that the terrorists, jihadists and muslims are subjected to from the time of their birth.

  18. Nikhil Chakma says

    The "Middle-Way": The Fundamental Teaching of the Buddha

    In His First Sermon called the Dhammacakkapabattana Sutta (Skt. Dharmacakrapravartana Sutra), the Buddha clearly advises the five ascetics to avoid the two extremes of world experiences: self-indulgence in sensual pleasure and self-indulgence in mortification. He categorically says both of these extremes are useless for realization of truth and emancipation. Instead, He advises them to follow the “Middle-Way” which, according to Him, generates wisdom and leads to realization of truth and emancipation. So, according to the “Middle-Way”, there is nothing as “violence” (harming) or “non-violence” (non-harming) in the teaching of the Buddha, for violence and non-violence are the two extremes. Life with or without violence is irrational, impractical and impossible. Being an Enlightened and Practical Man, the Buddha cannot prescribe either of these two irrational, impractical and impossible extremes for his followers. His “Middle-way” is simply a skillful means in which we use of our wisdom according to the time and situation for our physical survival and realization of the highest aim of our life = realization of truth and emancipation = Nirvana. The question of the survival of our life arises if and when there are challenges to our life. And, in fact, such challenges to our life always exist in this samsara, a battle field of greed, hatred and ignorance. If there is no life, there is no highest aim of life. So our wisdom allows us to defend ourselves either violently or non-violently—depending upon the time and situation—from being physically eliminated by such challenges.

    We, Buddhists, are a liberal democratic society. We believe in peaceful and harmonious co-existence with everybody and every society. So we value and respect every life, for our well-being is conditioned by and dependent on the well-being of others. Our principle is "Middle-Way" i.e. active compassion and loving-kindness in mind, word and action with every living being. We want to uphold this principle always and everywhere. We must have the capability to defend this principle, if threatened, for the security of all living beings on the earth. Otherwise, our "Middle-Way" will have no meaning and value.

  19. Nikhil Chakma says

    MYANMAR: PROBLEM OF “ROHINGIYA MUSLIMS”

    Muslims in Myanmar can be divided into two categories according to their residency/citizenship status:

    (1) Original Rohingiya Muslims living in Myanmar’s Arakan State roughly say from 10 century C.E. to today as citizens of Myanmar; and
    (2) Hundreds of thousands of Bengali Muslim settlers illegally infiltrated and infiltrating from the region now called Bangladesh into neighboring Arakan State roughly say from 1960 to today in the same way similar or more number of Bengali Muslims did into Chittagong Hill Tracts (now under Bangladesh) and Assam and West Bengal (India). The total population of this category of Muslims is about 800,000.

    Both categories of Muslims mentioned above are generally and wrongly branded as “Rohingiya Muslims”. This religio-ethnic term is widely propagated with ill intention and grossly misconstrued for ignorance or otherwise. Now both categories of Muslims have jointly formed several separatist organizations under Rohingiya Solidarity Organization (RSO). Influenced and encouraged by jihadi ideologies, trained and armed by Bangladesh’s intelligence agency DGFI and Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, and funded by OIC, RSO is engaged in jihad or unlawfully fighting for an independent Islamic State in Arakan, as part of the Global Islamic Agenda. In response, it is believed that the Myanmar authority came down heavy handed on the so-called “Rohingiya Muslims” and started deporting them to Bangladesh in recent times. Those deported to Bangladesh are called “Rohingiya refugees”.

    Now the question: who is right and who is wrong on the problem of the “Rohingiya Muslims”? My answer to the question: Myanmar is right and the “Rohingiya Muslims” are wrong on the problem if seen from legal perspective and vice-versa if seen from human rights perspective. As per international law, Myanmar has right to defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity by any means (violent or non-violent) and the “Rohingiya Muslims” have no right to secede Arakan from Myanmar. In terms of human rights perspective, Myanmar cannot kill and deport the “Rohingiya Muslims” to Bangladesh. The solution to the problem has to be legal. If this solution is sought in the light of human rights perspective, then the world should be made free of immigration laws and boundaries. The point has been elaborated in the following two posts of mine in the context of the CHT Muslim-non-Muslim ethnic problem:

    DEMOGRAPHIC INVASION IN CHT

    Man has an intrinsic tendency of migration from one place to another place, from country to another country, out of his curiosity about this beautiful and mysterious world. So migration is a natural instinct of man and it tends to happen naturally. However, we all know that man's instincts and behaviors are not free; his instincts and behaviors are governed by laws of civilized societies. Today we would have seen no boundaries between nations if these laws did not exist, and in that case, people, especially economically marginalized people of undeveloped nations, could have migrated or traveled to any developed nation, they like, without visa and settled there. But is it the case in reality? No, it's not. Despite this, migration of people from one place to another place, from one country to another country takes place basically for the following three reasons:

    1. Economic reasons — people migrate from one place to another place, from one another country for economic fortune, subject to following certain laws, unless they do so illegally, e.g. many Bangladeshis migrate within Bangladesh and to foreign countries, such as India and the USA;

    2. Natural calamities — people affected by natural disasters migrate to safer places; and

    3. Political reasons — usually people belonging to minority communities or political oppositions subjected to state repressions and atrocities migrate to other countries, subject to following certain laws, e.g. international refugees.

    There may be some non-indigenous people who migrated from other parts of Bangladesh to CHT for economic reasons. However, the migration of "settlers" numbering over half a million from other parts Bangladesh to CHT did not take place for any of the above three reasons; it was the then Government of Bangladesh who organized, sponsored and transferred them from other parts of Bangladesh to CHT in the 1980s for a deliberate political purpose, that is, for cleansing of the indigenous people of the region ethnically or for Islamization there. That's the very reason why they are "settlers" and their migration from other parts of Bangladesh to CHT is called a “Bangladeshi demographic invasion” against the indigenous people of CHT.

    The invasion is still going on. It has brought about a dramatic change in the demographic profile of CHT (non-indigenous people: over 60% by now, some 6% in 1971, less than 2% in 1947) and posed a serious threat to the existence of the indigenous people there.

    Bangladesh must roll back its demographic invasion from CHT for survival of the indigenous people living there over centuries.

  20. Nikhil Chakma says

    ECONOMIC MIGRATION AND COMMUNAL CONFLICTS

    Economic migration of people from one country to another country can happen in two ways:

    (1) Legal economic migration: In this case, people migrate from one country to another country by following due immigration laws; and

    (2) Illegal economic migration: In this case, people migrate from one country to another country without following due immigration laws.

    The migration of people under the second category mentioned above happens silently. So it can be called a silent migration in the sense that it usually does not become an issue of public or international concern at its initial stage. Later it becomes an issue of public or international concern when the population of the migrants increases to a significant number and starts putting political, economic and cultural pressure on the local people of the migrant-host country. The local people of the migrant-host country feel a sense of losing their identity and interests to the migrants. It leads them to react to the migrants, which could eventually lead to communal conflicts between the two.

    Now the questions:

    (1) What should be the ideal role of law-enforcing agencies in this economic migration and its resultant, communal conflicts?

    (2) Should one/state use human rights approach or legal approach to address this economic migration and its resultant, communal conflicts?

    My comments: the human rights approach to this economic migration and its resultant, communal conflicts will lead to recognition of the migrants as citizens of the migrant-host country and the legal approach to this economic migration and its resultant, communal conflicts will lead to deportation of the migrants from the migrant-host country to their country of origin.

    CONCLUSION

    Always follow the law for solution to a problem anywhere in the world. See the causes of a problem for its solution in the way a professional doctor diagnoses a disease for its proper treatment and cure.

  21. Nikhil Chakma says

    Practical Buddhism: first survival of life, then Nirvana

    We live in samsara. Samsara means evil and Nirvana means good. We cannot achieve and realize good if our life fails to survive of evil. For survival of our life, we need constant struggle against evil. Emperor Ashoka (3rd century B.C.E.) failed to understand this fact after embracing Buddhism and becoming Dharmashoka, a follower of non-violence. He did not even pay his needed attention to the defense of his Buddhist Empire against evil. This is one of the major causes of the downfall of his Empire.

    I have long been seeing some Bengali Muslims posting this photo (below: probably from Burma) in various social media groups as part of their apparent attempt to show the non-Buddhistic action (military training) of monks, as they appear to think so. I say: these monks are not killing anybody; they are undergoing a military training, which is very important for defense of their land and culture in the event of undesirable attacks by evil. In fact, I appreciate these monks for their commitment to their land and culture. If they are not ready with this training, their land and culture could be taken over by evil. In that case, the fate of their land and culture will be similar to that of the Ashokan Empire and they will not have even a chance for wearing robes—forget about achieving and realizing Nirvana.

    Nikhil Chakma
    22 June 2014
    Chittagong Hill Tracts

    Our "Middle-Way"

    Violence (harming) and non-violence (non-harming) are two extremes. Buddhism is a “Middle-way”, use of wisdom for protection of good from being killed by evil.

    We, Buddhists, are a liberal democratic society. We believe in peaceful and harmonious co-existence with everybody and every society. So we value and respect every life, for our well-being is conditioned by and dependent on the well-being of others. Our principle is "Middle-Way" i.e. active compassion and loving-kindness in mind, word and action with every living being. We want to uphold this principle always and everywhere. We must have the capability to defend this principle, if threatened, for the security of all living beings on the earth. Otherwise, our "Middle-Way" will have no meaning and value.

    Nikhil Chakma
    10 October 2013
    Chittagong Hill Tracts

    The Buddha too had adversaries: be practical

    The Buddha too had adversaries. He foiled all the challenges thrown against him by his adversaries — both men and animals — with his super human qualities (iddhi). For that he didn't require resorting to any violent means. We are not a Buddha; we are ordinary men struggling to be a Buddha, our purpose. In course of our struggle, samsar (evil) will natually throw challenges against us. We need to overcome those challenges for realization of our purpose. But how? We don't possess any super human qualities like the Buddha. So we have to adopt appropriate means according to the need of our time and situation to overcome those challenges. Otherwise, both our purpose and our struggle for realization of our purpose will be defeated.

    Martial art, like Karate and Kung Fu, was supposedly discovered and developed by Buddhist monks. It was a necessity of the time and situation in which they (Buddhist monks) lived. Its purpose is pure self-defense. Why self-defense? Self-defense: it’s because this world is full of ignorant people who have no respect for law, morality, logic, human rights, peace, justice and the like. You have to face them even if you don't like it. You will be finished by them if you are without self-defense skills. I think the Buddha will never allow ignorant people to finish him without any self-defense although he is — it would not be wrong to say — the most non-violent and tolerant man in the world.

    People were ignorant, stupid, unconscious and unorganized in the past centuries. So the evil force reigned them with sword and terror. Streets, rivers, hills, sacred sites… were flooded with the blood of innocent men, women and children. The world was made a "killing-field". Peace and justice were buried. Today, people are intelligent, smart, conscious and well-organized. Peace and justice must prevail in the world.

    My simple and practical Buddhism

    Main clause: Don't kill anybody in peace time.
    Sub-clause: If someone kills or tries to kill you in peace time, you kill him before he kills you in your self-defense.

  22. Nikhil Chakma says

    Practical Buddhism II: Samsara and Nirvana

    A reality we all confront in life is that we live not in Nirvana but in samsara. Samsara means a battle field of greed, hatred and ignorance. According to the Buddha’s "Fire Sermon", everything is burning in this samsara— the senses of people are burning with greed, hatred and ignorance i.e. with the causes and conditions of violence: rape, abduction, adultery, women and human trafficking, prostitution, land grabbing, stealing, robbery, lying, slandering, demographic invasion, conversion, arms race, war, conflict, terrorism etc. There are people who understand this samsara, and, therefore, they aspire and work for Nirvana. They are also people who do not understand it (samsara), and, therefore, they cause violence or create violence for those who aspire and work for Nirvana as well as for themselves. They are real evils of this samsara. Those aspiring and working for Nirvana will not be able to realize it (Nirvana) if they fail to survive of these evils, or if they are eliminated, or if their living conditions are jeopardized and destroyed by evils. So, they should defend themselves first against these evils for attainment of Nirvana, if they ever aspire for it. Those who live in "patirupadesa" i.e. countries suitable for aspiring, talking and working for Nirvana, or places with least evils or without evils are indeed blessed ones. They may not be able to understand and realize these real evils and their true nature and functions, as they have no experience about them.

  23. Nikhil Chakma says

    Practical Buddhism III

    This man (in the news link below) is not killing anybody. He is undergoing a “militia training”, as this news report says, for self-defense. There is nothing wrong in it. This training is essential for defense of his land and culture from being attacked and destroyed by irrational evil invaders. I am proud of this man for his great sense of responsibility for, and commitment to, his land and culture.

    News traders may publish such news for their economic survival in competitive national/international news market. There is nothing to be surprised about it. That apart, they may have their own malicious political agenda too behind the publication of such news. Our response to such news should be on the basis of the philosophy of self-defense. Self-defense is a fundamental right. All great men, including the Buddha, and civilized societies, cultures and civilizations recognize and approve this right. If self-defense has something to do with “ultra nationalism”, then all armies in the world are “ultra nationalists”. Being Buddhists, the guide to true path of peace, we must not, however, kill or harm anybody in peace time.

    Those who think Buddhists to be extremely or irrationally non-violent or non-violent extremists should start living in the fool’s paradise of the 21st century.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/02/

  24. B Poe says

    Thank you Mr Kornfield. I have visited Burma with my American friends on 5 occasions. I have been trying to understand the conflict, and you have helped me do so. The faith and yes, devotion, that I have witnessed in this beautiful country essentially changed my life, and my gratitude will be unending. Thank you for all you do for the country and the people, and may we all send them our blessings for an end to this violence and a reaffirmation of lovingkindness.