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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
RANDY ROSENTHAL 49 writes, “Evidence obtained by Al Jazeera shows conclusively that the recent surge of anti-Muslim hatred has been anything but random. In fact, it’s the product of a concerted government campaign clearly aimed at promoting instability and undermining the opposition by stirring up the forces of militant nationalism.” Stoakes responsibly notes that none of this evidence is clear proof of the connection between the government and Ma Ba Tha, but it is nevertheless illuminating. If the government has been corrupting men wearing the robes of a monk, then Buddhism is not being used as a rallying cry of hatred and exclusion, but rather as a veil for it. In this crisis, the term “Buddhist” is used to designate cultural identity, not a religious belief or practice. Someone who identifies as a Buddhist doesn’t necessarily follow the teachings of the Buddha. Even in the Buddha’s time, there were “bogus monks” who tried to join the sangha. These were not true monks but merely “men in yel- low robes,” and were ejected from sangha gatherings. Therefore, we should understand the situation in Myanmar as a cultural conflict rather than a religious conflict. In order to focus on addressing the actual situation more effec- tively and responsibly, it’s important to understand the complex political and ethnic issues more deeply. The military government of Myanmar is cynically using Buddhism to manipulate people to behave with violence and hatred rather than compassion and gener- osity. Until now, conversations about Myanmar have tended to get mired in debate about whether Buddhism is a nonviolent religion. Perhaps we should leave Buddhism out of it. It appears the eruptions of violence against the Rohingya and other Muslim groups across Myanmar were organized and planned—not spontaneous, communal, or unintended consequences of democratization.