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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 10 74 a great contribution to anglophone students of Buddhism by publishing an English translation of Paul Demiéville’s ground- breaking 1957 essay, “Le bouddhisme et la guerre.” When Demiéville’s piece was first published it was preceded by an essay on the Japanese warrior monk (sōhei) tradition, and it sought to demonstrate that this was not an aberrant cultural phenomenon. It is a fascinating work, exploring a number of paradoxes with respect to Buddhism and violence. One only wishes that the editors had also included the essay on the war- rior monks with which it was originally paired. Mahayana Buddhist ethicists, Demiéville explained, made a number of exceptions permitting violence under certain cir- cumstances. While Buddhism may have played a role in the demilitarization of certain Buddhist communities, Demiéville pointed out that it did not have this effect everywhere. The essay details a number of examples of Buddhist involvement in violent conflicts, drawing primarily on premodern Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Tibetan historical sources. Next is Stephen Jenkins’ essay on the Satyakaparivarta, a Mahayana scripture composed sometime during the first half of the first millennium. This scripture appears to be addressed to kings, and provides them with religious sanction for engag- ing in warfare and torturing and executing prisoners. The essay provides abundant background information, but unfor- tunately Jenkins does not provide a clear introduction to the scripture that is the ostensible focus of the essay, and includes only one short quotation from it. This is followed by a short but fascinating article by Derek Maher that explores the Fifth Dalai Lama’s attempt to jus- tify the violence against rival religious groups inflicted by his Mongol allies in 1642. The essay is nicely complemented by Vesna Wallace’s contribution, which focuses on the legal system adopted by the Mongols following the conversion of the Ordos and Tümed Mongols to the Geluk tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in the late sixteenth century. The essay cov- ers the outlawing of traditional Mongolian shamanism and the attempts to legitimate the practices of torture and capital punishment that persisted well into the modern period. The remaining four chapters focus on the modern era. Brian Victoria’s essay, “A Buddhological Critique of ‘Soldier-Zen’ in Wartime Japan,” is the latest contribution in his oeuvre, which has focused on the militant roles of some Zen priests in Japan during the wars of the twentieth century. In this essay, Victoria explores the concept of “soldier Zen” (gun- jin zen) advocated by several prominent Zen masters, and introduces the history and key figures of this period. Though he covered this in more depth in his 1997 book Zen at War, here he advances the somewhat radical thesis that “by virtue of its fervent if not fanatical support of Japanese militarism, the Zen school, both Rinzai and Soto, so grievously violated Buddhism’s fundamental tenets that the school was no longer an authentic expression of buddhadharma.” Although extremely thought provoking, this essay has sev- eral problems. First, his blanket condemnation of the Japanese Zen tradition fails to acknowledge the complexity of the situ- ation in wartime Japan. It is by no means the case that Zen Buddhists universally supported the war effort; some resisted it, as Victoria himself has documented in his earlier writings. Moreover, Victoria engages in what we might term “construc- tive Buddhist theology,” in that he takes a very strong and controversial position regarding “Buddhism’s fundamental tenets.” He rejects, for example, the Buddhist scriptures that permit bodhisattvas to engage in violence provided that their underlying motivation is compassionate. Victoria is of course entitled to this opinion, one that is likely shared by other contemporary Buddhists. However, his definition of “Buddhism’s fundamental tenets” is so restric- tive that it seems unlikely that many (perhaps any?) Buddhist traditions would meet his high standard for an “authentic expression of buddhadharma.” While Victoria’s article revisits a facet of Buddhism that is now well known, largely due to his own efforts, Xue Yu brings to light a chapter in Chinese Buddhist history that is poorly understood in the West. This is the history of Buddhism in China during the early Communist era, from 1949 to 1953. He demonstrates how many Buddhists, no doubt aware of the challenge that the Communist state posed to their religion, went out of their way to demonstrate their nationalism. This included patriotic support of the Korean War effort that used the very same flexible interpretation of Buddhist ethical teach- ings that Victoria condemns in his essay. The volume then turns to two contemporary Buddhist conflicts, one in Sri Lanka and the other in Thailand. Daniel Kent’s essay, “Onward Buddhist Soldiers,” goes beyond the usual approach of works on Buddhism and violence, which is to explore justifications for violence provided by Buddhist scriptures or Buddhist leaders. Kent instead focuses on how Buddhist monks minister to soldiers in the Sri Lankan army. He contends that they attempt to tread the fine line between encouraging and discouraging the soldiers to kill. They focus on intentionality, urging the soldiers to act with wholesome inten- tions. Any violence, they explain, should be motivated not by unwholesome passions such as hatred, but rather by relatively positive intentions, such as the desire to protect the innocent. Jerryson’s contribution focuses on the most recent develop- ment, the outbreak of violence over the last decade in southern Thailand. This is a region with a large Malay Muslim popula- tion in what is otherwise an overwhelmingly Buddhist country. The essay focuses on the commissioning of “military monks” (thahānphra) to protect Buddhist temples and monasteries, Reviews