Thursday, May 30, 2013

Radical Buddhism

A Buddha Statue in My Meditation Garden

There was an article in yesterday's paper about a new outbreak of religious violence in Myanmar. The article featured a picture of a mob of "radical Buddhists" - mostly young men, some of them monks in their saffron robes, all carrying clubs and cudgels as they roamed the streets of Bangkok burning mosques and destroying Muslim schools and shops. Apparently this strain of radical Buddhism is a growing phenomenon in Myanmar.

As I read that article yesterday, and looked at that picture, I literally laughed out loud at the ludicrous incongruity conjured up in me when I see a mob of so-called "radical Buddhists," armed, angry and destructive.  For me, these violent and dangerous Buddhists are a living icon of how people can so distort and destroy what a religion is really all about,  making it unrecognizable from it's original intent and purpose. 

After all, of all the major world religions, Buddhism is known for its emphasis upon a gentle respect for  the harmony of all living creatures. The Buddha taught, "Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating but by love. Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good."

Nowadays we think of a "radical" as someone who is an extremist - someone at the "far-left" or "far- right" of a religious or social movement, often violent and outspoken. But this is not what the word "radical" originally meant.

The word "radical" comes from the latin, "radix," meaning "root." Something or someone who is "radical" grows out of the base, or stem, or root. So, when it comes to religion, a "radical" is someone who comprehends the "core" idea of a religious path and acts accordingly.

I believe that there is a common "core" in every one of the major world religions - practicing compassion and showing mercy are at the fundamental center of all the many diverse spiritual paths.  

So I think all religious people ought to be "radicals" and "fundamentalists."

The Buddha taught: In compassion lies the world's true strength - 

Jesus taught: Love one another...judge not lest you be your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

Muslims begin every prayer in the name of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful, and the Prophet teaches that faithful followers of Islam should be compassionate and merciful as God is compassionate and merciful.

So yes, I'd like to see more radicals in this world - radical Christians, radical Buddhists, radical Muslims, radical Jews and Hindus - all practitioners of unbounded hospitality,  always merciful, and deeply compassionate.


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