Wednesday, 18 August 2010

buddhists as oppressors?!

i was talking to someone at a bar the other day about different negative effects religion has on the world and this person answered "well, if i were to pick a religion, i would probably become a buddhist".

i think most people in the western world have a perception that buddhism is a peaceful and non-judgemental/tolerant religion, but i have recently read multiple accounts of buddhist oppression of other belief systems, e.g. shamanism, taoism.

bön (tibetan spiritual tradition) wikipedia page:
...well after Buddhists began the suppression of indigenous beliefs and practices.

mantak chia wikipedia page:
When Buddhism came to China, shamans were persecuted, like witches in the west, so they became Taoists, rivals to the Buddhists, and continued their practices in secret, using only internal energy, internal alchemy, without the use of accessories to identify themselves. The saying goes "you cannot tell a sage by his clothes." They were also known as magicians, wizards and sorcerers. Yes, Taoism is magic.

—Mantak Chia, Interview in Positive Health

The Burakumin - The Complicity of Japanese Buddhism in Oppression and an Opportunity for Liberation:
however, when one examines the role of Japanese Buddhism in casting the burakumin down...


In an issue of the Buraku Liberation News, an English-language bimonthly publication of the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute(44), the question of Buddhism and discrimination was taken up in the section entitled “Buraku Problem Q & A.” The question was, “Is Buddhism free from Buraku discrimination?” What follows is part of the response to the question:

There is a tradition that people carve a religious name for the dead on the face of a tomb as a sign of worship. That is a practice for many Buddhist religious organizations. The name for the dead is Kaimyo, posthumous Kaimyo is given by a Buddhist priest and is recorded in a post-memorial-notebook at the temple the dead belonged to. Of late, it was discovered that discriminatory names and characters in the notebooks and on the faces of the tombs exist. These were given by Buddhist priests to the dead who were of Buraku origin. The names include the characters for beast, humble, ignoble, servant and many other kinds of derogatory expressions. Upon the disclosure, Buddhist organizations started to widely investigate notebooks and tombs in response to the requests of the BLL [Buraku Liberation League]. They found discriminatory Kaimyo, at many Buddhist sects in most parts of Japan. While the majority seems to have given a long time ago, there are some names given even since the 1940’s.(45)

Such discriminatory practice is an indication that Buddhism has historically contributed to burakumin oppression. Since the Japanese people inescapably employ Buddhist death rituals, it is not surprising that it is here that Buddhism can make its own contribution to burakumin discrimination. Buddhist temples that were located in buraku communities “were called ‘impure temples’ [eta-dera] and were not allowed to communicate with temples in non-Buraku areas.”(46) Further, since the Dalits were told from the Hindu perspective, the burakumin were taught that it was their karma that placed them in this unsavory life and that forbearance was necessary if the next life was to be favorable.

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