No Buddhist bullets in Thai turmoil
Paul Kay | 23 January 2014
... While this type of extremist Buddhist leadership seems absent in Thailand, and monks do not have a strong presence in the political protests in the Thai capital, there is concern about the partisan involvement of some high profile monks and Buddhist associations.
Well known 58-year-old Luang Pu Buddha Issara, abbot of Or Noi Temple just west of Bangkok, was appointed to oversee one of the seven main anti-government protest sites designed to shut down the capital. Another Buddhist group supporting the protestors is Santi Asoke, the so-called Dhamma Army, led by monk Phra Bodhirak. Begun in the 1970s, this is a small ascetic splinter group of socially engaged Buddhists.
On the government side, many point to the wealthy Dhammakaya sect's support for the Shinawatra clan. Begun in the 1970s, the centre of this sect's activities is an enormous futuristic shrine just north of Bangkok whose huge dome is encrusted with thousands of gold Buddha statues.
A recent opinion piece in the Bangkok Post criticised Dhammakaya's association with the powerful Shinawatras, saying it 'has heightened public concern that the Dhammakaya's capitalist version of Buddhism — that money can buy merit and nirvana — will dominate the entire clergy and Thai Buddhism'.
So there are a few monks and some Buddhist groups openly supporting one side or the other in the conflict. But what seems absent is any bigger religious discussion of the morality or basic principles that might guide a way forward. The only cogent discussion in this vein I've seen has come from Sanitsuda Ekachai, an assistant editor at the Bangkok Post in a series of incisive opinion pieces she's written over the last few months.
A few brief quotes give a flavour of her arguments: 'Buddhism teaches tolerance and inter-relatedness of all beings. What kind of Buddhists are we — red (pro-government), yellow (anti-government), or in between — to support violent acts to purge the objects of someone's hatred from the earth?'
'As self-proclaimed Buddhists, we must ask ourselves a few questions too. Should we let hatred prevail over goodwill? Should we allow extremism to lead to more bloodshed? Are our political views worth dying for or having other people killed? ... We don't need monks who side with a particular political camp and fan hatred. We need monks who live by the Buddha's teachings.'
In this time of turmoil and political upheaval, perhaps Thailand needs monks and lay leaders who not only live by the teachings of the Buddha, but who also speak out forcefully in a non-partisan way about them.http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article. ... uGT-N9FCk1