No Blood Has Been Spilled for Buddhism?

While its scale of violence might not compare to Christianity or Islam, it’s a lie or a major oversight to say, as does Rev. Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught, that no blood has ever been spilled at the hands of Buddhism.

In medieval China, for example, Taoist temples were destroyed and members of the ruling class were forced to forsake Taoism in favor of Buddhism. And today, look at what’s happening to Muslims in Burma.


Not Muslims, Rohingya. There is a pretty large non-Rohingya Muslim minority that is very well integrated into the Myanmar society, is widely accepted by the overwhelming majority of the country’s Buddhists, and actually supports the government troops against the Rohingya. Which brings me to my next point: even though there are nationalistic Buddhist preachers (like Wirathu) who certainly contribute negatively to the conflict, and we should not ignore it, the clashes between the Arakanese and Rohingya are of primarily non-religious nature. It is just that, an ethnic conflict, or, more precisely, conflict between the central government and an ethnic minority. Sure, talking about the Buddhist potential for violence is important, but I suggest we don’t follow the Islamist propaganda and present the Myanmar conflict as a religious one. It is not.


Yes, blood has been spilled by many (who call themselves) Buddhists. What the Buddha Taught was the first book on Buddhism that I read, and so it holds a very special place in my heart, but I did find Rev. Walpola Rahula’s “no blood has been spilled” comment highly misleading. Let’s not sanitize history, but learn from it.

It’s one of my favorites as well. I’m sorry if I’ve given a wrong impression.

I have nothing against Buddhists, even monks, using violence for the sake of self-defense, especially if it’s to protect the vulnerable, like the Tibetan monks who fought against Chinese communists.

At the same time, what I am against is using violence to advance one’s particular religion above others.


I’m not sure if this is what Ven. Rahula meant, but it seems to me that while nominal Buddhists may engage in violence, there is literally nothing in Buddhism (at least early Buddhism) that would support such actions - rather the contrary - and it is only in this sense that no blood has been spilled for Buddhism.


That’s like what Christians say about Christian violence, that there’s nothing in Jesus’ teachings which support such violence.

The reason why I bring up these things is that Buddhism is about overcoming our delusions and having compassion on others, which can’t be possible if we ignore Buddhist violence. We have to at least recognize that it exists, though I don’t believe it’s been on the same scale as some other religions.


Sounds like blood has been spilled for Buddhism. It would be surprise if it hadn’t been, considering it is a major world religion that has been around for thousands of years. More important to me is that there is considerably less blood spilled. It says something about the transformative and deeply personal ‘here and now’ nature of the dhamma ie not waiting for heaven to reap the outcome. Also it turns out that scholars make mistakes too!

with metta

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Whether or not Christians say something similar has no bearing on the truth of the statement itself.

I agree, we should not become blind to violence committed by Buddhists. What has been happening in Burma is outrageous and sickening, and should be flatly condemned.

Let me clarify my previous statement. I consider myself a Buddhist precisely because the Triple Refuge is the manifestation of goodwill, compassion, wisdom, virtue, non-violence, peace, self-discipline, forgiveness, happiness, etc…but there will always be individuals who who call themselves Buddhists, who say they believe in the Buddha Dhamma, but do not actually practice it, and even go against it. Let’s learn from history and call out people who use Buddhism as justification for violence.


How can the Rohingya be integrated into Burmese society when they are forced into ghettos and denied citizenship, despite living in Burma for generations? That’s like when European persecution of the Jews was justified by their refusal to integrate, when they were forced to become an insular group because of their persecution.

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I agree. I certainly don’t believe that Buddhism is an especially violent religion. At the same time, the current situation in Burma is forcing us to see aspects of Buddhism, past and present, that we perhaps would rather not see:

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This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

Monks, as low-down thieves might carve one limb from limb with a double-handled saw, yet even then whoever sets his mind at enmity, he, for this reason, is not a doer of my teaching. Herein, monks, you should train yourselves thus:

‘Neither will our minds become perverted nor will we utter an evil speech, but kindly and compassionate will we dwell, with a mind of friendliness, void of hatred; and we will dwell having suffused that person with a mind of friendliness; and, beginning with him, we will dwell having suffused the whole world with a mind of friendliness that is far-reaching, widespread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence.’

This is how you must train yourselves, monks.

If a monk acts agaist this teaching, then he is not a monk.

If a lay disciple of the Dhamma acts against this teaching, then he is not a lay disciple of the Dhamma.

Being a buddhist is not a title, it is an action. One may claim to be acting in the name of buddhism, but that does not make it so.

This conflicts are regretable to say the least, but they are not buddhist conflicts. They are created by the people who do not follow the teachings.

Therefore, Rev. Walpola Rahula’s statement is correct: no blood has ever been spilled at the hands of Buddhism.
This is just not possible, because the Dhamma protects itself from such actions. There are no exceptions, no footnotes or ‘ifs’. The Dhamma is clear in this aspect.

A ‘warrior monk’ is a contradiction in itself.

This does not mean that we should not be in the lookout for such mistakes and try to help avoid them and eliminate them. We should all always be open about this situations and be very clear about what the True Dhamma is.


Well said, @felipe, well said indeed! Perhaps the most important thing we could do in this situation, is to educate others on this exact point, to clarify the spotless Dhamma as taught by the blessed, noble, and perfectly enlightened one.



Quite often, the only thing a Rohingya has to do to become a Burmese citizen is to prove his or her ancestors lived in the country prioir to 1948 and say they are Bengali, not Rohingya. Quite often, the only reason people don’t do it is because they are afraid of the radicals among them avenging this step. Quite often, it is the Myanmar governmental officials and their corruption who prevent them from doing it. Some Rohingya people who did it are pretty well integrated into the Myanmar society.

This story seem to follow the same plot in Bangladesh, Malaysia and other countries that Rohingya people flee to. The last time I checked, they were herded into compact living areas that are concentration camps in all but name and prevented from leaving it by all kinds of bureaucratic nonsense. The reasoning behind it is that after generations of poverty and absence of access to decent education, the crime rates among Rohingya are soaring in comparison to the average population levels (and in Bangladesh it says something). It is not the Rohingya’s fault, it is just a fact. Which is, I suspect, quite similar to how ghettos were built in the Late Mediaeval - Early Modern Europe. The only way to break this vicious circle is to give the Rohingya good education, make sure their children do not grow up in abject poverty where the only source of education are radical Islamist and nationalistic preachers and are not unjustly discriminated by the Myanmar or any other government.

However, if you read everything I wrote above carefully, you will notice, there is nothing about the conflict between Buddhism and Islam there. Nothing. The Rohingya conflict is not religious in nature - yet. Follow the ISIS-backed narrative of Buddhism vs. Islam, and it will soon become one.


There are some radical Buddhist monks in Burma who seem to think otherwise.

Also, here in the United States, those here by birth have natural born citizenship, regardless of race or ethnicity. Perhaps Burma should consider such a policy.


This link is blocked in my region (USA) due to copyright restrictions.

Sorry, wasn’t aware that there were region-based restrictions. I’ve removed it.