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By Qutub Shah

Buddhism turned violent. You must accept this as a fact if you listen to the preaching of Myanmar monks, Sitagu at the helm, not the teachings of Tripitaka. Violence that in any form is never tolerated by Buddhism seems to be its savior when you see millions of Burmese people acting violently against ‘the others’ in the name of Dhamma being inspired by hate speech of Sitagu and his counterparts that has never faced, how wonder!, any objections from any Buddhist.

The Buddhism that aims at eradicating the three roots of evil is promoted by means of the worst of them i.e. hatred. The three poisons known as lobha, dosa and moha lying at the center of Buddhist Bhavachakra are the primary causes that keep sentient beings trapped in samsara.

One of the thing that distinguishes Buddhism is that it has employed a rehabilitative approach in dealing with crimes and criminals instead of punitive or retributive ones. To punish is to harm and every harm justified (as it is outweighed by good; it reforms the offenders; and it annuls the crime) is rejected by Buddhism. That is why Buddhism lacks criminal justice.

But a total twist is seen in the Buddhist societies of Myanmar when it comes to the disbelievers in Buddhism, where Sitagu considers them as criminals, doesn’t recognize their humanity, and accordingly permits to kill them and endorses military atrocities against them.

Sitagu’s dehumanization of the people who disbelieves in Buddhism also contradicts Buddhist teachings. Buddhism leaves no space for us, humans, to look down any sentient beings, as they are members of the samsaric universe who are passing their karmic consequences in either of the realms. Even Gautama recalled his previous existence as nonhuman.

Showing passion toward the animals, Myanmar monks urge curbs to Muslim ritual slaughtering, and there were restrictions stemming from continuous protests by Ma Ba Tha, the Buddhist nationalist movement against it saying, “the killing of cattle goes against Buddha’s teachings. They (Muslims) should avoid actions such as these if they want to live in peace and harmony”. While caring about the animals, they issue license to kill these Muslims themselves.

By entrusting the reckoning of non-Buddhists for their disbelieving to the military, perhaps Sitagu has lost trust in Karma niyama or Karma has failed to function, according to which, if disbelieving in Buddhism is an evil rooted in lobha, dosa and moha, it will hold them to account.

Tripitaka asserts that Buddhism is not the unique path leading to Nibbana. By the way, following a path other than that of Buddha is not a crime. Even the Buddha himself was said to be enlightened by his personal efforts without intervention or instruction of any external agency. The ultimate goal is to attain Nibbana from dukkha by exterminating the fetters in any possible way.

For example, Mohammad of Islam is said to be the coming Buddha Metteyya (Loving-Kindness) mentioned in the Cakkavatti-Sīhanāda Sutta (Digha Nikaya 26) and inBuddhavamsa (Khuddaka Nikāya: 14) reading “I [Gautama Buddha] at the present time am the Self-Awakened One, and there will be Metteyya….”  Who has already arisen before in 7th century AD in Mecca, because Allah mentions the Prophet Mohammad in the Holy Quran saying, “And We have not sent you except as a Mercy (Loving-kindness) for the worlds.” (Qur’an 21:107). He is also described as “Kind and Merciful” (Qur’an 9:128).

Extremist monks often invoke out of context the story of the king Dutthagamani who defeated a Tamil ruler. Justifying military violence against other religious minorities, Sitagu noted that the king’s goal in battle was not to defend his throne but to protect his religion. The story is mentioned in Mahavamsa, where no unambiguous statement that the battle was in defense of Buddhism is available. The most one can find is that it was in defense of the Buddhists. What a difference in between! Otherwise, the battle was a mere power struggle.

In addition, before referring to Dutthagamani of Mahavamsa,  Myanmar’s Buddhist should refer to Angulimala’s story of the Angulimala Sutta and the Lion’s Roar (Cakkavatti-sihanada Sutta) to find a practical model in such cases.

Of course, promoting of pañca-sila by committing the same crime is self-contradictory. If the Buddhists of Myanmar believe what Sitagu, Wirathu, etc. preach is Buddhism, whom they prostrate chanting ‘Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu’, they should review their faith, because Tripitaka presents something else as the teachings of the Shakyamuni.

NB: The Writer is a student of comparative religion. The article is a Buddhist response to Sitagu and doesn’t represent the writer’s beliefs.