Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism)


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Taixu, a Buddhist nationalist, is known to have played an important role in mobilizing Chinese Buddhists, both monks and laity, for resistance against the Japanese aggression in — Xue At the same time, ironically enough, it was exactly the Japanese way of building modern Buddhist education that he took as a benchmark for his own efforts.

In Japan, Buddhist colleges appeared during the Meiji period — , as Japanese Buddhism struggled to establish its nationalistic and modernist credentials. There, old sectarian schools were transformed into modern universities, which were to compete against their Christian missionary rivals. For example, the Japanese representative sect of the Meditative Zen school, Soto, remolded its seminary into Komazawa University in downtown Tokyo in Indeed, the Nichiren sect was even more ambitious—its school had become Rissho University by One of the last sects to acquire its own university was the Pure Land Jodo sect.

Its Ryokoku University in Kyoto came into being in A son of a Jodo Shinshu priest who acquired a doctoral degree in Western philosophy at Tokyo Imperial University in , Inoue was in many ways a role model for Taixu. After observing the workings of the educational system in Europe, Inoue concluded that. And then students of other nations can be incorporated into it, and connections between nations can be noted. Elite Buddhism was a rational faith perfectly compatible with modern science, while popular Buddhism had to appeal, for example, to the widespread beliefs in the immortality of the soul Staggs The problem, Han assumed, was the dearth of competent teachers; Korean Buddhist masters for the most part had little acquaintance with the world of modernity Tikhonov and Miller , Undoubtedly, Han was deeply impressed by the travels to India and study tours to Europe undertaken by some of the Meiji-era Japanese monks.

This educational enterprise was not, however, purely a product of Korean Buddhist nationalism.

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Japanese Jodo missionaries were deeply involved, and the only foreign language the Myongjin students were to learn was indeed Japanese. The lack of sufficient nationalistic credentials in many spheres, education included, became a major setback for institutional Buddhism in s—s South Korea, and eventually gave Christianity a serious competitive advantage on the religious market: for several decades after , Korean Buddhism was engulfed in a feud between those monks who accepted the modern Japanese custom of clerical marriage, and these who remained celibate, and its proselytizing activities were severely inhibited Pak In colonial-era Korea, anti-imperialist nationalism was articulated either by Christians or Christian-influenced intellectuals or by leftists of various persuasions, but in most cases p.

The situation was, however, completely different in such Southeast Asian states as Thailand or Burma; there, Buddhism was understood to belong to the core of the ethno-national identity. However, the modernization of Buddhist education was no simple issue there, and the resistance offered by more traditionalist elements inside the sangha was more salient than in the cases of China or Japan.


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Unlike China or Japan, where religious pluralism entailed competition between Buddhists and non-Buddhists chiefly Christians , the Burmese or Thai sangha was confident enough of its central position in the society to participate in resisting what it regarded as undue impositions by colonizers or Westernizing state powers.

In Thailand, which managed to escape colonization, the Sangha Act of centralized the sangha governance and also instituted a new, coordinated system of exams in Thai and Pali, with uniform texts being used throughout the country. The uniformity of the new educational requirements was to contribute to the creation of a uniform ethno-cultural nationalism that was able to withstand the pressures of the age of high imperialism.

In Burma, which was colonized in its entirety and rendered into a province of British India in , modern, secular education in vernacular and English—complimented by the Christian missionary schools—and the Buddhist kyaung s monastery schools led a sort of separate, parallel existence: monks were resistant even to the inclusion of modern arithmetic in the curriculum, not to mention English, despite pressure from the colonial government.

Besides the Buddhist distrust of the colonizers, the point of contention was a different understanding of the basic aims of education: Buddhist educators wanted to raise a believer who would view life as a process of merit creation, rather than a modern, disciplined subject preoccupied with economic rationality. Nevertheless, Burmese education retained a dual nature, with monastery schools coexisting with the public ones. These schools were abolished in little more than two decades; and only in was the monastic curriculum revised and supplemented with general subjects Dhammasami While criticized as too Buddhist by the non-Buddhist minorities Muslim Malays in the south of the country, etc.

It appears that the exposure to English—the language of colonizers and missionaries—in the process of learning was more problematic for the Theravada monastic communities in Burma and Thailand than it was for Mahayana Buddhists in Japan or China. One of the first East Asian monks to succeed in this endeavor was Shaku Soen — , a Japanese Rinzai sect monk and a graduate of the private Keio University, where, among other subjects, English was studied. Indeed, mastery of this language allowed Shaku Soen to travel to Sri Lanka and India at the end of the s, establishing transborder inter-Buddhist connections at the time when other Japanese Buddhists were striving to learn the p.

Takakusu Junjiro — , an Oxford-educated Sanskrit expert, was particularly important, as he was one of the first non-Westerners to be recognized as a Buddhist studies authority in the West.


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This resulted in rather conscious modernization of Buddhism, stripped now of all the elements that a modern Western public could deem irrational, and converted into a globalized commodity, no longer embedded in any particular culture. Still, until World War II, Western Buddhism remained largely a pursuit of the elite, occupying a rather small niche on the religious market, which was still dominated by more conventional forms of Christianity. Generally, the modernist radicals wishing to lead their countries along the non-capitalist line of development—which they understood to be the fastest and fairest, and able to mobilize huge popular support for their projects—shared a suspicion of religion, going back to the age of Enlightenment, with their Soviet Bolshevik role models.

The closest parallel to the anti-Orthodox campaign by the Soviet authorities in the s—s was to be found in Mongolia, a virtual Soviet satellite state since In traditional Mongolia, about one-third of the population lived on the territories administrated by the monasteries, and Buddhist hierarchy combined the functions of the secular authority Morozova , 8—9. As a result of the anti-religious campaign of enforced, accelerated secularization of the society, which mainly took place in the late s, coincidentally with the anti-Orthodox purges in the Soviet Union, almost all monks were forcibly laicized, with a large number of them falling victim to the governmental repressions.

Still, not unlike the Soviet Union, where the anti-Orthodox policies were partly reversed in as the assistance of the church was needed in the pan-national wartime mobilization, Mongolian governmental policies toward Buddhism also demonstrated a streak of flexibility. By , Gandantegchinlen, a huge monastery compound in Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital, was reopened. To the present day, this university is the only bona fide Buddhist institution of higher learning in the country, and the main training ground for future lamas Buddhist priests.

Buddhism as a cultural phenomenon was too important for the national identity of Mongols, as well as the diplomatic role of Mongolia in Buddhist Asia, to be simply discarded, even if the society was to be driven toward modernity through forced secularization. In China, however, Buddhism hardly ever occupied any position comparable to that of the Orthodox Church in Russia since the early Tang dynasty the seventh century. Confucianism, rather than Buddhism, easily became a target for the modernist rage.

The state-loyal reformers were soon consolidated into the newly established official Chinese Buddhist Association While the journal, as the core business of the association, undoubtedly played an educational role, no specialized Buddhist educational institutions aside from the heavily supervised Buddhist Academy of China Beijing, founded in were tolerated, as the ultimate aim of the Chinese Communist Party was a completely secular society. The Buddhist Academy of China was closed—and soon its fate was in fact shared by the majority of other Chinese universities, which were unable to normally function amidst the political upheavals.

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After more than a decade of radical onsluaght, Buddhism was rediscovered only in the late s, as a part of more liberal reform policies. Since , new monastic ordinations have been allowed, and provincial branches of the Buddhist Academy of China were at last opened, something the Chinese sangha had wished to achieve in the s. This new alliance between sangha—as a very junior partner—and the state is undergirded both by the modernist and reformist aspirations largely inherited from Taixu and the heydays of pro-socialist Buddhism in the s, and by the new social contract in post-Mao China, which allows citizens to enjoy their private lives as long as they do not engage in anything subversive from the view of the state goals.

Too Modern and Too Secular? Buddhist Universities in Postwar Japan. Mongolia and China give us examples of forced and accelerated secularization, which was often prosecuted with extreme brutality. However, in the field of Buddhist education, gradual secularization was taking place in orthodoxly capitalist Asian societies as well, under the weight of the market rather than state pressures, as originally sectarian educational institutions needed for their financial maintainance more fee-paying students than the Buddhist clergy could supply. And secular students, sometimes without any particular Buddhist connection, demanded a more general curriculum, although sometimes the university administrators were successful in making certain courses on Buddhism obligatory for the entire student body.

In such affluent capitalist societies as postwar Japan, religion tended to gradually become a consumption product on par with other free-time activities.

Concomitantly, sectarian Buddhist universities have been exhibiting a clear tendency toward convergence with the rest of commercial institutions of higher education. Originally founded by the Soto Zen sect, Komazawa today is a comprehensive university boasting a number of faculties management, law, and economics without any direct relationship to religion as such.

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Of the approximately 16, students of the university, only around 1, have Soto sectarian background children of priests and other aspirants to the priesthood. At such departments as Soto Zen studies Buddhist studies faculty , the proportion of the sectarian students amounts to 45—50 percent, but at other departments, aside from Buddhist studies, most students have little to do with Buddhism or the priesthood Rowe Theoretically, Komazawa University still remains a center for the training of Soto priests.

The situation is broadly similar at most other sectarian universities of Japan as well: sectarian students tend to comprise only 10—15 percent of the general student body, and the compulsory courses on Buddhism often fail to influence students to any significant degree Rowe A sort of exception may be found in certain smaller sectarian universities, which tend to be somewhat closer to their sponsor bodies than the larger educational institutions like Komazawa.

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At the Kyoto-based Otani University ca. But even in such a relatively sectarian-influenced school, the majority of students are not observant Buddhists and do not develop Buddhist beliefs during their period of study. In postwar Japan, Buddhism largely failed either to become an important element in the new, post-authoritarian construction of Japanese modernity or to offer any alternative vision of modernity that was qualitatively different from the mainstream of the mass consumption society.

Radicalized by the televised cruelties of the Vietnam p. Buddhism, previously a rarefied pursuit of the elite, began to grow into a popular force among the young, college-educated North Americans and Western Europeans approximately in the late s, and the trend continued through the s, s, and s. This new demand led to the growth in supply on all levels—from the increased number of universities and colleges offering degrees in Buddhism to a number of Buddhist centers offering meditation and training sessions.

In the late s, Tibetan and Southeast Asian Theravada Buddhism began to compete with East Asian branches of the Meditation School largely for the same public—educated, mostly middle-class Americans in the majority of the cases the whites disillusioned with industrial society. The popularity of the Buddhist trend made it possible to establish the first-ever Buddhist universities in North America in this period.

Buddhism, conflict and violence in modern Sri Lanka

One of them, Naropa University, was founded in Buddhist universities in the United States often have a strongly pronounced sectarian character. For a school with Buddhist roots that is not openly and officially sectarian, however, suspicions of a hidden religious agenda may be highly damaging. Several lawsuits were brought against Soka University of America originally founded by Soka Gakkai, a Japanese neo-Buddhist denomination by disgruntled former employees who alleged mistreatment based on their lack of Buddhist beliefs Woo The lawsuits, while never succeeding at court, still demonstrated how potentially damaging a perceived religious bias may be in a modern, pluralistic environment.

The idea of Buddhist education changed significantly in recent years compared to the heydays of Buddhist modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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Then, the emphasis was squarely put on the simultaneous need for both preservation of the traditional, canonical text—based Buddhist learning and exposure to the modern curriculum—subjects like English being needed to compete against Christian missionary activity and to bring Buddhism to the world beyond its traditional homeland. Today, Buddhist textual learning in the language of tradition Pali, Classical Chinese, etc.

In these societies, Theravada Buddhism provides the grounds on which modern national identity and nation-state legitimacy are built. Inasmuch as the maintenance of sasana is understood as a primary national task, Buddhist education tends to preserve much more conservative character than, for example, in South Korea or Japan, where Buddhism does not play a decisive role in defining national identity and where Buddhist universities largely joined the mainstream of the modern educational market. However, in such highly industrialized and urbanized societies of Mahayana tradition as South Korea or Japan, the textual learning in the language of tradition, using the traditional methods memorization of relevant passages, disputation, etc.

Especially in Japan, more relativizing and critical approaches toward Buddhist doctrine are much more accepted at the Buddhist centers of learning compared to most Theravada societies. However, in the larger community, Buddhism mostly occupies a niche as the provider of certain—mainly funerary—ritual services, and as such, it is hardly associated with the attempts by some Buddhist scholars to make it into a tool of social criticism and improvement.

Notoriously, in most traditional Buddhist societies of Asia, karma theory is being continuously ab used to legitimize the existing socioeconomic order, with all its inherent injustices and contradictions Victoria All the development of modern Buddhism education during the last century and a half notwithstanding, Buddhism generally has failed to become a tool of positive, liberational changes.

Whereas the niche that Buddhism occupies on the religious market is significantly different from its role in Euro-American societies, Western Buddhism—which has been developing its own educational structures since the s—does not seem to essentially differ from its Asian counterparts in that it offers individual-level escape from the problems created by the consumerist market society, rather than a solution to these problems.

However, at the same time, the epistemological and axiological alternatives to modern rationality, with its trademark indifference to individual human suffering see Bauman , of which Buddhism spreads consciousness through its modernized educational infrastructure, are important in perspective as a potential tool for cultural and sociopolitical changes. Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and the Holocaust. Find this resource:. Callahan, Paul E. Dhammasami Khammai. PhD dissertation, Oxford University. Accessed March 24, London: Routledge, 10— Gombrich, Richard, and Gananath Obeyesekere.

Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism)
Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism)
Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism)
Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism)
Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism) Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism)

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