Persecution of Buddhism

Many Buddhists have experienced persecution from non-Buddhists and other Buddhists during the history of Buddhism. Persecution may refer to unwarranted arrest, imprisonment, beating, torture, or execution. It also may refer to the confiscation or destruction of property, or the incitement of hatred toward Buddhists. The first persecution of Buddhists placed in the 2nd century BC by Indian King Pushyamitra.[1]

Pre-modern persecutions of Buddhism

Sassanids

In 224 CE Zoroastrianism was made the official religion of the Persia, and other religions were not tolerated, thus halting the spread of Buddhism westwards.[2] In the 3rd century the Sassanids overran the Bactrian region, overthrowing Kushan rule,[3] were persecuted with many of their stupas fired.[2] Although strong supporters of Zoroastrianism, the Sassanids tolerated Buddhism and allowed the construction of more Buddhist monasteries. It was during their rule that the Lokottaravada followers erected the two colossal Buddha statues at Bamiyan.[3]

During the second half of the third century, the Zoroastrian high priest Kirder dominated the religious policy of the state.[3] He ordered the destruction of several Buddhist monasteries in Afghanistan, since the amalgam of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism manifested in the form of a "Buddha-Mazda" deity appeared to him as heresy.[3] Buddhism quickly recovered, however, after his death.[3]

Persecution under the Sunga Pusyamitra

Pusyamitra Sunga (reigned 185 to 151 BCE) assassinated the last Mauryan emperor Brhadrata in 185 BCE, and subsequently founded the Sunga dynasty. From the mid 3rd century BC, under Ashoka, Buddhist proselytization had begun to spread beyond the subcontinent. Buddhist texts such as the Ashokavadana and Divyavadana, written about four centuries after his reign, they contain accounts of the persecution of Buddhists during his reign. They ascribe to him the razing of stupas and viharas built by Ashoka, the placement of a bounty of 100 dinaras on the heads of Buddhist monks and describe him as one who wanted to undo the work of Ashoka.[4] However, some historians have rejected Pushyamitra' s persecution of Buddhists and the traditional accounts are often described as exaggerated. The Asokavadana legend has been likened to a Buddhist version of Pusyamitra's attack of the Mauryas, reflecting the declining influence of Buddhism in the Sunga Imperial court. Later Sunga kings were seen as amenable to Buddhism and as having contributed to the building of the stupa at Bharhut.[5] The decline of Buddhism in India did not set in until the Gupta dynasty.

Hepthalites

Central Asian and North Western Indian Buddhism weakened in the 6th century following the White Hun invasion who followed their own religions such as Tengri and Manichean.[3] Around 440 CE they conquered Sogdiana then conquered Gandhara and pushed on into the gangetic plains.[2][3] Their King Mihirkula who ruled from 515 CE suppressed Buddhism destroying monasteries as far as modern-day Allahabad before his son reversed the policy.[3]

Emperor Wuzong of Tang

Emperor Wuzong of Tang (814-846) indulged in indiscriminate religious persecution, solving a financial crisis by seizing the property of Buddhist monasteries. Buddhism had flourished into a major religious force in China during the Tang period, and its monasteries enjoyed tax-exempt status. Wuzong closed many Buddhist shrines, confiscated their property, and sent the monks and nuns home to lay life. Apart from economic reasons, Wuzong's motivation was also philosophical or ideological. As a zealous Taoist, he considered Buddhism a foreign religion that was harmful to Chinese society. He went after other foreign religions as well, all but eradicating Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism in China, and his persecution of the growing Nestorian Christian churches sent Chinese Christianity into a decline from which it never recovered.

King Langdarma of Tibet

Langdarma was a Tibetan King, who reigned from 838-841 CE. He is believed to have been anti-Buddhist and a follower of the Bön religion.

Oirat Mongols

The Oirats (Western Mongols) converted to Tibetan Buddhism around 1615. The Dzungars were a confederation of several Oirat tribes that emerged suddenly in the early 17th century. The Dzungar Khanate was the last great nomadic empire in Asia. In 18th century, the Dzungars were annihilated by Qianlong Emperor in several campaigns. About 80% of the Dzungar population, or around 500,000 to 800,000 people, were killed during or after the Manchu conquest in 1755-1757.[6]

The Kalmyk Khanate was founded in the 17th century with Tibetan Buddhism as its main religion, following the earlier migration of the Oirats from Dzungaria through Central Asia to the steppe around the mouth of the Volga River. During the course of the 18th century, they were absorbed by the Russian Empire, which was then expanding to the south and east. The Russian Orthodox church pressured many Kalmyks to adopt Orthodoxy. In the winter of 1770-1771, about 300,000 Kalmyks set out to return to China. Their goal was to retake control of Dzungaria from the Qing Dynasty of China.[7] Along the way many were attacked and killed by Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, their historical enemies based on inter-tribal competition for land, and many more died of starvation and disease. After several grueling months of travel, only one-third of the original group reached Dzungaria and had no choice but to surrender to the Qing upon arrival.[8]

Persecution by militaristic regimes

Imperial Japan

Main article: Haibutsu kishaku

Buddhist monks were forced to return to the laity, Buddhist property confiscated, Buddhist institutions closed, and Buddhist schools reorganized under state control in the name of modernizing Japan during the early Meiji Period.[9] The state-control of Buddhism was part of Imperial Japanese policy both at home and abroad in Korea and other conquered territories.[10]

Persecution in Myanmar

The Government of Myanmar has attempted to control Buddhist institutions through coercive means, including the intimidation, torture, and murder of monks,[11] After monks played an active role in the protest movements against the military dictatorship in 2007, the state cracked down on Buddhist monks and monasteries.[12]

Persecution by Nationalist Political Parties

Persecution in the Republic of China under Kuomintang

During the Northern Expedition, in 1926 in Guangxi, Kuomintang Muslim General Bai Chongxi led his troops in destroying Buddhist temples and smashing idols, turning the temples into schools and Kuomintang party headquarters.[13] It was reported that almost all of Buddhist monasteries in Guangxi were destroyed by Bai in this manner. The monks were removed.[14] Bai led a wave of anti foreignism in Guangxi, attacking American, European, and other foreigners and missionaries, and generally making the province unsafe for foreigners. Westerners fled from the province, and some Chinese Christians were also attacked as imperialist agents.[15] The three goals of his movement were anti-foreigism, anti-imperialism, and anti-religion. Bai led the anti-religious movement, against superstition. Muslims do not believe in superstition (see Shirk (Islam)) and his religion may have influenced Bai to take action against the Idols in the temples and the superstitious practices rampant in China. Huang Shaoxiong, also a Kuomintang member of the New Guangxi Clique, supported Bai's campaign, and Huang was not a Muslim, the anti religious campaign was agreed upon by all Guangxi Kuomintang members.[16]

During the Kuomintang Pacification of Qinghai the Muslim General Ma Bufang destroyed Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with support from the Kuomintang government.[17] Ma served as a general in the National Revolutionary Army, and sought to expand the Republic of China's control over all of Qinghai, as well as the possibility of bringing Tibet back into the Republic by force. When Ma Bufang launched seven expeditions into Golog, killing thousands of Tibetans, the Republic of China government, known as the Kuomintang, supported Ma Bufang.[18] Ma was highly anti-communist, and he and his army wiped out many Tibetans in the northeast and eastern Qinghai, and also destroyed Tibetan Buddhist temples.[19]

Persecution by Christians

South Korea

Some South Korean Buddhists have denounced what they view as discriminatory measures against them and their religion by the administration of President Lee Myung-bak, which they attribute to Lee being part of the Somang Presbyterian Church in Seoul.[20] The Buddhist Jogye Order has accused the Lee government of discriminating against Buddhism and favoring Christianity by ignoring certain Buddhist temples but including Christian churches in certain public documents.[20] In 2006, according to the Asia Times, "Lee also sent a video prayer message to a Christian rally held in the southern city of Busan in which the worship leader prayed feverishly: 'Lord, let the Buddhist temples in this country crumble down!'"[21] Further, according to an article in Buddhist-Christian Studies: "Over the course of the last decade [1990s] a fairly large number of Buddhist temples in South Korea have been destroyed or damaged by fire by misguided Christian fundamentalists. More recently, Buddhist statues have been identified as idols, and attacked and decapitated in the name of Jesus. Arrests are hard to effect, as the arsonists and vandals work by stealth of night."[22] A 2008 incident in which police investigated protesters who had been given sanctuary in the Jogye temple in Seoul and searched a car driven by Jigwan, executive chief of the Jogye order, led to protests by Buddhists who claimed police had treated Jigwan as a criminal.[20]

In March 2009, in an effort to reach out to Buddhists affected by recent events, the President and First Lady participated in a Korean Buddhist conference where he and his wife were seen joining palms in prayer during chanting along with participants.[23] The discomfort among the Buddhists has gradually appeased since then.[24][25]

Sri Lanka

Under British rule, Christians were openly favoured for jobs and promotions.[26] Robert Inglis, a prominent 19th century British Conservative, likened Buddhism to "idolatry" during a parliamentary debate over the relationship of "Buddhist priests" to the British colonial government, in 1852.[27] During the Sri Lankan Civil War, Buddhists were at the hands of many terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.[28]

Vietnam

Main articles: Buddhist crisis, Hue Vesak shootings, Hue chemical attacks and Xa Loi Pagoda raids

Buddhists were discriminated against under the government of President Ngô Đình Diệm.

As early as 1953 rumoured allegations had surfaced of discrimination against Buddhists in Vietnam. These allegations stated that Catholic Vietnamese armed by the French had been raiding villages. By 1961, the shelling of pagodas in Vietnam was being reported in the Australian and American media[29]

After the Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem came to power in South Vietnam, backed by the United States, he favoured his relatives and co-religionists over Buddhists. Though Buddhists made up 80% of Vietnam's population, Catholics were favoured for high positions in the army and civil service. Half of the 123 members National Assembly were Catholic. Buddhists were also forced to get special government permits to hold large meetings, a stipulation generally made for meetings of trade unions.[30] In May 1963, the government forbade the flying of Buddhist flags on Vesak. After Buddhist protesters clashed with government troops, nine people were killed.[30] In protest, the Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death in Saigon.[31] On August 21, the Xa Loi Pagoda raids led to a death toll estimated in the hundreds.

Persecution by Hindus

India

Hiuen-Tsang, who visited India from 629 to 645 AD, describes the influence of a south Indian Brahmin queen on her husband who ordered the execution of many thousand Buddhists including 8,000 in Madurai alone. Kalhana’s Rajatarangini (written by a Shaivite scholar about 1149 AD and the first Brahmin account of India’s historic past from the time of Yudishthira) relates that Mihirikula, the Hun ruler was converted by Brahmins (in 515 AD) and unleashed a wave of violent destruction on Buddhist monasteries in Punjab and Kashmir.[32]

Historian S. R. Goyal has attributed the decline and disappearance of Buddhism from India to the hostility of the Brahmanas. An incident often cited is the destruction of the Bo Tree and Buddhist images by Saivite King, Shashanka, persecution by Pusyamitra Sunga (185 BC to 151 BC) who detested the Law of the Buddha had set fire to the Sūtras, destroyed Stupas, razed Samgharamas and massacred Bhikkus and even killed the deity of the Bodhi tree. There is also mention of the Huna onslaught on Taxila, the persecution of Buddhist monks by Mihirkula.[33][34]

Nepal

The banishment of Buddhist monks from Nepal was part of a government campaign to suppress the resurgence of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal in the early decades of the 20th century. There were two deportations of monks from Kathmandu, in 1926 and 1944.

The exiled monks were the first group of monks to be seen in Nepal since the 14th century. They were at the forefront of a movement to revive Theravada Buddhism which had disappeared from the country more than five hundred years ago. The Rana regime disapproved of Buddhism and Nepal Bhasa, the mother tongue of the Newar people. It saw the activities of the monks and their growing following as a threat. When police harassment and imprisonment failed to deter the monks, all of whom were Newars, they were deported.[dubious ]

Among the charges made against them were preaching a new faith, converting Hindus, encouraging women to renounce and thereby undermining family life and writing books in Nepal Bhasa.[35][36]

Persecution by Muslims

Afghanistan

Main article: Bamiyan Buddhas

The giant Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed by the fundamentalist Taliban regime in 2001 in defiance of worldwide condemnation.

Bangladesh

­A 25,000-strong mob set fire to at least five temples and dozens of homes throughout the town and surrounding villages after seeing the picture, which they claimed was posted by Uttam Barua, a local Buddhist man, AFP reported.[37]

India

Various personages involved in the revival of Buddhism in India such as Anagarika Dharmapala and the The Mahabodhi Movement of 1890s as well as Dr. B. R. Ambedkar hold the Muslim Rule in India responsible for the decay of Buddhism in India.[38][39][40][41][42]

In 1193, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, a Turkish commander, seized control of Delhi, leaving defenseless the northeastern territories that were the heart of Buddhist India. The Mahabodhi Temple was almost completely destroyed by the invading Muslim forces.[39] One of Qutb-ud-Din's generals, Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, invaded Magadha and destroyed the great Buddhist shrines at Nalanda.[43] The Buddhism of Magadha suffered a tremendous decline under Khilji.[39]

In 1200 Muhammad Khilji, one of Qutb-ud-Din's generals destroyed monasteries fortified by the Sena armies, such as the one at Vikramshila. Many monuments of ancient Indian civilization were destroyed by the invading armies, including Buddhist sanctuaries[44] near Benares. Buddhist monks who escaped the massacre fled to Nepal, Tibet and South India.[45]

According to the Isdhoo (Laamu Atoll), monks from monasteries of the southern atoll of Haddhunmathi were brought to Malé and beheaded.[45]

Timur destroyed Buddhist establishments and raided areas in which Buddhism had flourished.[46][47]

Mughal rule also contributed to the decline of Buddhism. They are reported to have destroyed many Hindu temples and Buddhist shrines alike or converted many sacred Hindu places into Muslim shrines and mosques.[48] Mughal rulers like Aurangzeb destroyed Buddhist temples and monasteries and replaced them with Islamic mosques.[49]

The Ladakh Buddhist Association has said: "There is a deliberate and organised design to convert Kargil's Buddhists to Islam. In the last four years, about 50 girls and married women with children were taken and converted from village Wakha alone. If this continues unchecked, we fear that Buddhists will be wiped out from Kargil in the next two decades or so. Anyone objecting to such allurement and conversions is harassed."[50][51]

Myanmar

The violence and long lasted tention was reignited on the 28th of May 2012, It was reported that daughter of U Hla Tin, of Thabyechaung Village named Ma Thida Htwe aged 27 was brutally raped then killed by three Muslim men. These men were later arrested.[52][53][54] On March 20, 2013, at about 9 in the morning U Khin Maung Win and Daw Aye Aye Naing came to New Weint Sein gold shop (Muslim-owned) to sell their gold comb. The Bangali-Muslim shop-owner and her elder sister slapped the Rakhine Buddhist couple. The Rohingya Muslim husband of the shop-owner Htun Htun Oo (a) Ar-shid and his employee Nyi Nyi came in and started hitting U Khin Maung Win with timber 2x4 pieces. They both were yelling out that the Rakhine Buddhist couple and their children were trying to rob their gold shop. As their Muslim relatives from other Rohingya gold shops nearby joined the brutal attack and bullied on the Rakhine family the bystanders started shouting at them to stop such unjust violence and they then called the police.[55]

At that day, a Buddhist monk from Hanzar village of One-dwin township had come into the Meiktila town as a passenger on a motorbike and they were unknowingly riding through the Da-hart-tan Muslim ward the biggest Muslim quarters in Meiktila. Already-agitated Muslims saw the Buddhist monk and chased the motorbike and managed to strike the Buddhist monk from behind with a sword and he fell to the ground from his pillion-riding position on the motorbike. He had a long deep gash on back of his head just above his left ear. Muslim mobs forcefully took off his robe and brutally dragged the direly-wounded Buddhist monk into the nearby Myo-ma Mosque. Once inside the mosque they poured acid and petrol all over the wounded Buddhist monk and burned him alive.[56] Burmese-Buddhist workers , Selayang in Malaysia were killed by Bengali-Muslims On May 30, 2013[57]

Thailand

Primarily Buddhist Thailand has been involved in a fight with Muslim insurgents in the South. Buddhists have been beheaded[58] and clergy and teachers are frequently threatened with their lives.[59] Shootings of Buddhists are quite frequent in the South,[60][61] as are bombings,[62] and attacking religious establishments.[63]

Persecution under Communism

Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge actively persecuted Buddhists during their reign from 1975 to 1979.[64] Buddhist institutions and temples were wantonly destroyed and Buddhist monks and teachers were killed in large numbers.[65] A third of the nations monasteries were destroyed along with numerous holy texts and items of high artistic quality. 25,000 Buddhist monks were massacred by the regime.[66] The persecution was undertaken because Pol Pot believed Buddhism to be "a decadent affectation". He sought to eliminate Buddhism's 1,500 year old mark on Cambodia.[66]

China

Since the communist revolution, Buddhism was at times severely restricted and brought under state-control. During the cultural revolution, Buddhists were actively persecuted and sent for re-education, and temples, statues, and sutras were vandalized and destroyed. In recent years, Buddhism has been enjoying a revival but most Buddhist institutions are within the confines of the state.

Tibet

Although many temples and monastories have been rebuilt after the cultural revolution, Tibetan Buddhists have largely been confined by the Government of the People's Republic of China.[67] Buddhist monks and nuns have been reported tortured and killed by the Chinese military, according to all human rights groups.[68] There were over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet, and nearly all were ransacked and destroyed by the Chinese communists, mainly during the Cultural Revolution.[69]

Mongolia

Buddhist monks were persecuted in Mongolia during communist rule up until democratization in 1990.[70] Khorloogiin Choibalsan complied with the orders of Joseph Stalin, destroying almost all of Mongolia's over 700 Buddhist monasteries and killing thousands of monks.[71]

North Korea

Religious practices are severely restricted in North Korea, as many religious denomination are persecuted by the communist regime. Nevertheless, Buddhists in North Korea reportedly fared better than other religious groups—particularly Christians. The government seems to discourage religion while encouraging the cult of personality surrounding the Supreme Leaders of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Soviet Union

Buddhism was persecuted and looked down upon by the Soviet authorities. Adherents were brutally attacked by the authorities.[72]

Vietnam

Despite the communist regime's hostility, Buddhism is still widely practiced in Vietnam. According to Human Rights News, "Vietnam continues to systematically imprison and persecute independent Buddhists as well as followers of other religions."[73] The leaders of the Unified Buddhist Congregation of Vietnam, Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do were imprisoned for decades.

References

Further reading

  • Al-Biladhuri: Kitãb Futûh Al-Buldãn, translated into English by F.C. Murgotte, New York, 1924.
  • Elliot and Dowson: The History of India as told by its own Historians, New Delhi reprint, 1990.
  • Majumdar, R. C. (ed.), The History and Culture of the Indian People, Volume VI, The Delhi Sultanate, Bombay, 1960; Volume VII, The Mughal Empire, Bombay, 1973.
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