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Buddhism – the gentle religion?

March 6th, 2017

The most famous Buddhist, His Holiness the Dalai Lama whose famous quotes litter social media time lines, is the public face of the peacefulness of Buddhism. If you were looking to 'find yourself', you might have considered following the thousands of people from the West who head for Buddhist monasteries in the Far East particularly Nepal, Thailand and even Myanmar (formerly Burma). If you were to be converted, if such a thing exists in Buddhism, you would be joining the hundreds of famous people who have become Buddhists.

Buddhist Monk
By Steve Evans from Citizen of the World
(Buddhist Monk)
[CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)],
via Wikimedia

The attraction of the religion, some people see more it as a philosophy, appears to be the "spiritual but not religious" teachings of inward reflection and correction of self. Buddhism helps people end their suffering by avoiding greed, hatred and ignorance with the ultimate aim to reach the state of enlightenment (Nirvana) and liberate oneself from never ending reincarnation and suffering.

So I was shocked when I watched an episode of an excellent Australian documentary called 'Go Back To Where You Came From' on youtube in which one of the refugees was a Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar who had fled by boat to Australia to escape persecution by 'militant', yes you read right, Buddhists and Government forces. In Myanmar the situation is deadly, groups of Muslims have been killed several times and the the Rohingya are often said by some to be the world's most persecuted minority of up to one million people of the total 50 million mainly Buddhist population. To make matters worse, Muslim militants from outside the country, particularly, Indonesia, are threatening to retaliate against the Myanmar state.

Researching for this article, I have discovered that similar issues in other countries such as Sri Lanka and that if anything Buddhist militancy is growing. Historically too, Buddhism has not always been a religion of peace. Read this article for a brief overview of what I mean.

Personally, finding this out is a disappointment. It is reinforces the fact that we human beings cannot help ourselves. Being an aethiest, I don't even know why I would think that some religion might be a way for people to co-exist. The answer lies elsewhere I think.