In the over seven years I’ve been a part of this forum, some of you may have noticed that one of my favorite things to do is stir the pot a little, to ask difficult and sometimes challenging questions. This isn’t just because I think it’s fun, which…it is, but also because one the most interesting things to me is the intersection of Buddhism and complexity.
My questions as such have almost always been met with negativity/dismissal (yay!), such as when I asked why so many American Buddhists were pro-choice, or how there could be Buddhist extremists in Myanmar. The response in both of these threads seemed to be that people who had such views weren’t Buddhist, or there would be an effort to try to find texts to support or dismiss such views. But my question has never been ‘what is the textual support behind this view,’ my question is always, how can we look at Buddhism more complexly and more openly to understand those who may have Buddhist values and are Buddhist (this is important!), but who do things that are contrary to Buddhist values of morality and legality.
This is topic that has been largely ignored by Theravadins, which I don’t blame them, it’s an uncomfortable discussion to have. And it’s one that I’m starting to try to get at publicly in articles such as my recent one in Lion’s Roar/Buddhadharma – not whether extremist Buddhists are actually Buddhist (they are!) or if their values are textually verifiable – but rather, how can we hold these seemingly contradictory things together in ways that create more compassion and understanding.
This is an open question – I don’t have an answer on how to do this. I’m actually fairly bad at this myself from a practitioner point of view (the minute I realized my community wasn’t willing to do anything about Climate Change or any social issues I bailed lol). So this is more of a question on ways to develop tools and skills to engage with such complexity, and how do we morph this into creating more welcoming spaces for others?