Saturday, December 23, 2017


Heartbreaking spread on the Rohingya People at the New York Times here:

Sounds like Kipling's 'Ballad of Bo Da Thone':  rapine and raid - slashing the weak - filling old ladies with kerosene.

I was once told that Buddhism was a religion of peace.  A religion where the doctrine of "Do no harm" (Ahimsa) was above all else.  Apparently that is not the line pushed by U Wirathu, the nationalist Buddhist Monk AKA the Buddhist bin Laden, who is provoking this ethnic cleansing in Miramar.

But Myanmar is not alone.  Similar tragedies inspired by religious fervor happened in recent history appeared in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Are these fundamentalists or nationalists?

All major religions seem to eventually turn into something never intended by their founders it seems.


  1. Hypocrisy is any Religion's first tenet of behavior for their adherents...with murder as a conditional corollary when nationalism is added to the mix.

    1. Sheerakhan -

      You are onto something with that "first tenet of behavior". None seem to practice what they preach. Despite all the churches, temples, mosques in the world the adherents of religion still close their eyes to famine and disease, mass murder, child abuse, wife beating, and they celebrate war.

      Someone a lot smarter than me said: "Religion is a business, and business is booming, sorry can't remember the source.

    2. Not a proud observation I will confess, but intellectual honesty, including a cold observation of my own faith demands that I do not mince words, or dissemble.

      Christianity has made hypocrisy a standard norm, and with the rise of Republican Jesus in the form of the "Evangelicals" aka S.Baptist and other offshoot non-denominationals who have embraced Dominionist Christian Philosophy the "Jesus Wants You to Conceal and Carry, too." it just a matter of time before "Kill em all in the name of Jesus!" becomes the new marching orders of the Republican Right Wing Christian Conservatives.

      Business is booming, indeed.

  2. See "Sri Lanka" - my immediate thought on seeing your headline, and I see you got there. The Tamil Tigers were vicious bastards, but they didn't just appear out of nowhere. The Buddhist majority in Sri Lanka has a long history of brutality against the Hindu Tamils.

    I dunno...maybe Jainism? Hard to think of a religion that can't be used as a club given the opportunity. A friend of mine likes to say that one of the most awful things for him has been accepting that his own religion, that he had been comforted believing had outgrown its' early enthusiasm for genocide, was not exempt. "Turns out that Judaism isn't a religion of peace any more than any other religion," he says, "we just lacked the opportunity until recently."

  3. Maybe it's not the brand of religion but the fact that all of them are practiced by mankind and it is basic in our nature to oppress whenever and whomever we can?


  4. DG -

    I am no expert on Jainist doctrine. They reportedly also practice or say they practice Ahimsa. However I did find references on the web in Jainist literature that: "There have been noted Jain generals in Indian history who must have rationalized the destruction of the enemy as an act of unavoidable harm in the defense of their country."

    One of those was the the Jaina king Amoghvarsha who ruled over parts of modern Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra in SW India. He suppressed many rebellions with fire and sword.

    Another was Chamundraya, a Jaina general and minister to the Ganga kingdom. Not only a general, but said to be a fierce warrior. He personally killed the a usurper, Mudurachayya, in the battle of Bageyur to avenge his brother. He is said to have also personally killed Prabhuvanavira in the battle of Bayelur.

    Wish there was better documentation on those battles. There is a Jain center in New Jersey. Wonder if they have refs in English?

    1. Debra is me, BTW. Forgot that her tablet posts to Blogger with her profile.

      I know that the Jains are reputed to be pretty strict on the whole "no harm" business, so these jokers may be the exception that proofs the rule. Hard to be sure, without digging deeper into the Jains than I have at the moment.

    2. Hi FDC -

      Perhaps there are different sects or different schools of thought within Jain theology? That is true of every other religion.

      I was also contemplating a reply something along the lines of wondering why there was NOT much interest in Jainism here in the US - we seem to have fallen in love with Zen and with Hindu gurus, but not with Jainism.

      But... I googled "Jainism in America" and found that there are about 150,000 adherents here with Jain temples in 26 cities, including one in Seattle. You should expect one in Portland or Hillsboro soon. Although I suspect that most of those 150,000 are immigrants from India and not native born converts. Perhaps they are not as into proselytizing as Western religions???

  5. Jill and Sheerakhan said it best. All the various brands of religion, whether they want to or not, seem to eventually sink into hypocrisy and the oppression of the "Others". And although Christmas Eve may seem to be the wrong place to express such thoughts, I believe the son of Mary, and Siddhartha, and Muhammad, and Moses, and Zarathustra might concede that reality if they were alive today.

    Some organized religions even oppress their own. My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was shunned by her church and her fellow parishioners only because my philandering grandfather divorced her so he could run off with une jolie jeune fille. This was in the 1930s. She raised four daughters, my mother and my three aunts, by cleaning bedpans and doing drudge work at hospitals and hospices. She was a religious woman though. She continued to go to services at many other churches of other faiths and denominations. I think I learned from her that God did not play favorites for any particular organized religion. I say "learned" but she never taught me that. I guess it was more a matter of absorbing it from her via osmosis.

  6. Merry Christmas to all!

    Does anyone know what set off the Rohingya crisis?
    They have been there for a very long time.

    Is it the rise of Nationalism a la Turkey and the Armenian minority?

    1. So far as I can find, it seems to go back a considerable way.

      The Arakan region seems to have been a sort of border march between the "Indian" subcontinent and what is now Burma proper. The history of the region seems to depend on who you talk to. The Burmese emphasize the influx of Muslim Bengalis during the Raj; the Rohingya insist that they are a native people of the Arakan region that did welcome SOME migrants from Bengal.

      It seems that the basis for this is mostly Burmese ethnic nationalism. From what I can fine it sounds like there are still a lot of grudges in Burma from things that happened under British rule that shoved their powerlessness in Burmese faces. The Rohingya are one of those grudges. Much like the Palestinian Arabs, many Burmese appear to believe that the Rohingya are an artifact of British rule, imported to displace and oppress the native Burmese.

      So not exactly like the Turks and Armenians; more like the Israelis and Palestinians in nature, tho the weakness of the Rohingya make them victims in ways the Israelis are not.

  7. Merry Christmas Ael and all!

    It probably started about five years ago. Or maybe it started earlier, I have not seen a valid timeline. But in 2012 several Rohingyas who were outside of their home turf were pulled off a bus and beaten to death by a mob. Many similar incidents since then. The Time magazine cover I posted above of the monk Ashin Wirathu is dated June 2013. The current horrific violence by the Myanmar Army was triggered about a year ago after insurgent (some say jihadi) attacks on Burmese border posts in the area. Those were reportedly instigated and directed by Ata Ullah, a Pakistani born in Karachi to a migrant Rohingya father. He spent time in a Saudi madrassa and founded guerrilla group 'Harakah al-Yakin' which conducted the attack. The appalling government response seemed to be: kill all Rohingya, burn down their villages and drive them into the jungle or into another country.

    Supposedly last month Aung San Suu Kyi brokered a deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to return home. Will that work? Or will the slaughter begin again?

    The situation is ethnic as well as religious. Rohingya are of Indo-Aryan stock and very dark skinned compared to other Burmese. Some Rohingya have been in that area for almost forever. Or at least since the era of the Maurya Empire - 322 to 187 BCE. And then Arab merchants, traders and missionaries had come there as early as the 8th Century AD, some intermarried. But many Rohingya were imported from Bangladesh by the British pre-WW2 for agricultural work. Better plantation workers I suppose?

    Lots of resentment since then. Especially during WW2 when the Muslims in that region supported and fought for the British, while some Buddhist Burmese collaborated with the Japanese occupation. At least 18,000 joined the Burmese Independence Army (BIA) that fought for Japan. Aung San Suu Kyi's father was one of those before he saw the light and swapped sides and joined the British in late 44. The Arakan (or Rakhine) people are more Sino-Tibetan ethnically as well as Theraveda Buddhists. And like the majority of Myanmarese are much more light skinned. The government claims they have been there for thousands of years, maybe so, or maybe not? I have no clue.

  8. Speaking of Christmas: Priests, Imams, Mobads (Zoroastrian clerics), and Christian parishioners celebrated Christmas Eve at Saint Joseph Church in Sulaimaini, Iraqi Kurdistan.

    Tell me again why we invaded and devastated that country? A brainfart of deadeye Dick Cheney's dementia?? A personal vendetta by Boy W??? A neocon wetdream????

    1. >Tell me again why we invaded and devastated that country? A brainfart of deadeye Dick Cheney's dementia?? A personal vendetta by Boy W??? A neocon wetdream????

      I think it was a neocon wet dream, which means that the conduct of the invasion dictated by Cheney, carried out by Rumsfeld, and left to others to deal with as the dust settled.

      I still wish Obama unassed us from Iraq...he could've gracefully bowed out with, "The former President George W. Bush has announced Mission in Iraq is Accomplished the only left to do, now is remove ourselves from the National Boundaries of Iraq. Well done, good luck, we're out."


    2. I think the theory at the PNAC brain-trust was that establishing Iraq as a wholly-owned subsidiary of US foreign policy was how the Good (Christian) Guys were going to lever the Muslim Middle East into loving them some US-Israel policy and US foreign policy in general. I seem to recall that the ultimate goal was the subversion and overthrow of the mullahs in Iran; "Some men want to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran" was the mantra.

      So far as I can tell there is this strain of US imperialism that is convinced that if we can just kill enough Arabs and suborn just enough Middle Eastern governments we can get those damn camel-beaters to love us, or at least do what we tell them to. It goes back as far as the Truman Administration in the Forties; Truman's State Department people warned that going ahead with recognition of Israel was going to poison the well with the Arab/Muslim peoples for little or nothing of value. Truman's people, supposedly awash with guilt about not doing anything constructive about the Holocaust, went ahead and made the move anyway.

      Until that point what I get is that the US was seen as a relatively neutral outsider (compared to the British and French, who were loathed for their colonial misadventures). After that, the State Department Arabists were right; the US was seen as just another damn Western imperial power, doubling down on the Balfour Declaration/Sykes-Picot Agreement.

      The thing that has ALWAYS pissed me off about U.S. Middle Eastern policy was how ridiculously easy it was to see how it was driving the rise of political Islam. Between the Israeli military victories and the U.S. fiddling with things like Mossadegh in '53 and the Gulf War in the 80's the incapacity and cupidity of the secular Arab governments was hammered home to the guy in the Arab street. Compared to his or her corrupt prime minister or incompetent Army, the street preacher who promised that Allah would defeat the noxious Westerners sounded pretty damn good.

      My guess is something similar is going on in Burma; this is a mobilization of political Buddhism to help the secular Burmese drive to ethnic cleanse the Arakan.

      What's doubly frustrating is that, having seen the utter rapacity and vindictive corruption of the politicization of Islam and Buddhism, the Trumpkins want to bring the same sort of vile political application to their weapons-grade-moron "Christianity". They actually WANT a new Holy War between the West and Islam, as if the example of the Crusader States leading eventually to the Sieges of Vienna wasn't enough to alert them to the High Stupidity of the notion of applying natural selective pressure to your enemies.

      As my old pal Jim Struthers would have said; what a fuckin' fuckstory.

  9. Zen Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion. Zen teaches meditation, tranquility, self-control and insight or enlightenment. You should also consider the Dalai Lama and his commitment to nonviolence. I can't believe that Buddhists in Myanmar are that much different. I used to respect Time magazine. No more.

    1. The point of the post is that Time isn't making this stuff up; it's that the certain Buddhist leaders in Burma are weaponizing their faith in much the same way that certain Buddhist sects in Sri Lanka used their own oddball version of the faith to hammer away at the Hindu Tamil minority.

      And the regardless of the supposed tenets of faith, while you're right to point out that the ideals of Buddhism demand a "commitment to noviolence" (tho I would note that Zen as a philosophy lends itself wonderfully to soldiers) in practice we're seeing that just as Christianity can produce both St. Francis of Assisi and Torquemada, Buddhism can produce both the Dalai Lama and U Wirathu.

  10. Dharma Girl -

    The 'current' Dalai Lama does appear a bit saintly. But 500 years in the past his predecessors stamped out other Buddhist sects in a civil war. Johan Altshuler in his book 'Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road' claims that the 5th Dalai Lama used brutality and terror in order to establish his rule. In the 17th century the Lamas raised an army and invaded neighboring Ladakh. For most of the last 500 years Tibet has been run as a feudal theocracy, ruled over by monks, and more god-ridden than Medieval Europe. Despite Richard Gere and other Hollywood celebrities your average Tibetan peasant may be better off today than he or she was prior to 1950 despite Red Chinese repression.

    I know nothing about Zen so will not dispute you on that. I had some experience with the Buddhist Soka Gakkai movement when I was a teenage Pfc stationed in Japan and in love (or lust) with a Japanese bar girl who was an adherent. They were certinly peaceful, but they recruited aggressively. I note that they have established a Buddhist emergency relief fund for the Rohingya. Good on them for that. You should donate:

    As far as what happened in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand there are some who blame the Theraveda sect of Buddhism and not Buddhists in general. I wonder about Cambodia and Laos who are also Theraveda. I have not found any incidents of Buddhist led anti-Islamic pogroms there. Cham Muslims were persecuted in Cambodia by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, but they also victimized Buddhists. As I mentioned above, race and skin color seem to have some bearing on the situation in Myanmar. That was probably also true in Sri Lanka, and perhaps in Thailand. But that does not excuse Buddhist monks from being the instigators of violence.

  11. A philosophy defines a tenet's world-view and spiritual-view, it explains their thinking for what they think they know/believe/live...and every religious organization has a does.not.matter.location.or.tenet: East.West.North.South.
    New Age
    Old Age
    New World
    Old World

    All are religions because they all possess elements of what is called Civil Religion on a subculture, or prime-culture...and when either culture develops a civil religion all others must fall in line or be cast out as unbelievers.

    civil religion

    "Civil religion is a concept that originated in French political thought and became a major topic for American sociologists since its use by Robert Bellah in the 1960s. It means the implicit religious values of a nation, as expressed through public rituals, symbols (such as the national flag) and ceremonies on sacred days and at sacred places (such as monuments, battlefields or national cemeteries). It stands outside the churches, although church officials and ceremonies are sometimes incorporated into the practice of civil religion.[1]"

    Taken from

    Everyone practices and partakes of the sacraments of civil religion.


    including buddhists.

    1. I am with Dhammagirl on this, though - Schwarma? This would be from the Book of the Holy Falafel? Wassup wit dat, sheer?

    2. I took some literary license...I combined schwartz (Spaceballs the movie, and then meatballs for the flying spaghetti monster pasta religion...kind emphasizing the ridiculousness of both), and combined with the word shawarma, the Middle East "sandwich" indicating the region a lot of old religions of the ancient world I studied came out from...sorry if I was a bit obtuse.

      I have a bad habit of seeing the world differently.


    3. Sheerakhan -

      Seeing differently is a good thing. Otherwise we Homo Sapiens would still be huddling in caves.

      "Cystic" made me pause. Glad i don't get them on my a$$ anymore.


    4., you're gonna make me explain Moranic as well, are you now., I've noticed that there are a lot of places in the mid-west with the word Moran...even though the word itself finds its roots in Irish names, it's used extensively as US geographic locations...which, tend to have a population of denizens who have...uh..."their own way" of seeing the world around them.

      Hence, I used the ic suffix of Moran to Moranic as a way of relating two ideas to the primary discussion.

      Cystic...that was just a nod to faith healers and others of that mentality (crystals, hot stones, metallic stones, cosmic chai tea forces rendering science obsolete).

      As I pointed out...I see the world differently, and I have a habit of expressing what I see...a bit creatively.
      (I have to get my reward as well, else it's just a boring recital of facts...yawners)

    5. The Moran-Bong is Kim Jong-un's favorite band. Mine too now.

      There is something about a woman in uniform.

  12. Schwarma?

    In lust?

    Zen for soldiers?

    Some sick minds here. Goodbye,

    1. My apologies for the 'lust' comment Dhammagirl. I was brought up better than that. If my grandmother were still alive she would have whacked me with her stirring spoon.

      My choice of words was atrocious. I should have said 'smitten' or 'swept off my feet'. I was young and stupid at the time, old and stupid now.

    2. Suit yourself. Willfully blinding yourself to certain unpleasant aspects of any faith ensures that the unpleasantness will remain within that faith unaddressed and available for anyone who wants to misuse them. But you gotta you; if you want to pretend that certain aspects of Buddhism aren't useful in making soldiers the only fool you are making is yourself.

      As Hogen said, "Your head must feel very heavy, if you are carrying around a stone like that in your mind."

      Note, however, that I'm not the only one who discusses the connection betwen Zen and the Japanese warrior class. Zen was one of the disciplines that emerged from the Shaolin school, so the connection between Zen and the martial arts is not an invention of the Japanese. As noted in this little article: "Late in the 13th century, samurai began to practice Zen meditation with Rinzai masters. The intensive concentration of Rinzai-style meditation can be an aid in enhancing martial arts skills and reducing fear of death on a battlefield."

    3. Goodbye


  13. Dhammagirl -

    We are all a bit outspoken here. Typically no holds barred. But there was no offense meant to you or to your chosen philosophy. Stay tuned.

  14. I was going to recommend Susaku Endo's book 'Silence' to the Zen Lady. About the persecution of Portuguese Jesuits and their parishioners by the Tokugagwas that was done in compliance of Buddhist monks. Or Scorsese's film version of the same.

    But digging deeper I note that some of those priests reportedly defiled and desecrated Buddhist temples in Kyushu. Or maybe the Japanese Buddhists had heard about how the Jesuits in Sri Lanka erected Catholic Churches on top of the Buddhist temples that they had destroyed during the an earlier era: