Book: Buddhist Violence and Religious Authority
Chapter: 6. But is it Buddhist?
In If You Meet the Buddha on the Road: Buddhism, Politics, and Violence, Michael Jerryson reports that his research on Buddhist violence is frequently met with two responses. The first is that the violence he has analyzed is not really Buddhist because true Buddhists are non-violent. The second is that instances of putatively Buddhist violence are not really Buddhist because they are ultimately about something besides religion, such as ethnicity, politics, or economics. In this paper, I offer a comprehensive and detailed refutation of these responses, which I classify under the heading of the skeptical question, “But Is it Buddhist?” First, I argue that there is no good grounds for the claim that true Buddhists are non-violent. Second, I argue that the claim that putatively Buddhist violence is ultimately about something besides religion, such as ethnicity, politics, or economics, does not provide reason against classifying the violence as Buddhist. Third, I offer some reflections as to why, contrary to the skeptical challenge, we ought to expect Buddhist violence.