Did the Indo-Greeks play a crucial role in promoting Buddhism?

Did the Indo-Greeks play a crucial role in promoting Buddhism?

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Did Buddhism become a widespread religion primarily due to the political support of the Indo-Greek rulers of India who favored it in opposition to Jainism?

You have the right idea, but it is a little off base. I can explain. You probably already know about Alexander the Great and his conquests. Throughout the Afro-Eurasian continent, Alexander set up garrisons, or small military towns, to rule over a certain area and claim it for Macedonia. The soldiers in these areas set up their own societies, with Greek entertainment, agriculture, and language. After he died, however, his empire split, and his top military elites, or the generals, set up their own empires. One of these empires was the Seleucid Empire, ruled by Seleucus.

However, in the turmoil after his death, Chandragupta Mori founded the Mauryan Empire in what is present day India and pushed north into the Seleucid empire. After a few brief battles, the Seleucid and Mauryan empires agreed upon a treaty, and they participated in cultural and intellectual exchange. Keep in mind that the area that is now the Mauryan empire was once inhabited by the garrisons, so there was a large Greek influence in the Mauryan Empire, leading to a melting pot of cultures, beliefs, and ideas. New advancements were being made in roads and bridges, making transport through the Hindu Kush mountain range possible. These roads tended to lead directly into the Mauryan empire. At the same time, there were other nomadic influences like the Kushans and the Parthians, so the world was becoming more integrated. The Kushans promoted religious diversity, which will become more important later.

The overlap between the Seleucid and Mauryan empires affected new ideas and influenced one another. One main "bump" for Buddhism was Menander's belief that Buddha was a God. This evolved into Mahayana Buddhism, but keep in mind that only because of these Hellenistic/Greek influences was Mahayana Buddhism created. The idea of gods was contributed by the Greeks and adopted by Indians, creating an Indo-Greek culture. Mahayana Buddhism also believed in Bodhisattvas, or people who were ready to reach nirvana but held back to help others. When a Mahayana Buddhist died, they entered a rudimentary form of heaven, a "Buddha land", for those almost ready to reach nirvana. This convinced many less devoted individuals to become Buddhist because it didn't require the immediate renouncement of all desires, making it seem more enticing and possible. The Kushans promotion of Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism expanded the Buddhist sangha, or followers. At the same time, there was a lot of literature being written about the Buddha, with ideas and intellectual exchange becoming more and more seamless.

So, to conclude, yes, Indo-Greeks were vital to the spread of Buddhism.

History of the Indo-Greek Kingdom

The History of the Indo-Greek Kingdom covers a period from the 2nd century BCE to the beginning of the 1st century CE in northern and northwestern India. There were over 30 Indo-Greek kings, often in competition on different territories. Many of them are only known through their coins.

Many of the dates, territories, and relationships between Indo-Greek kings are tentative and essentially based on numismatic analysis (find places, overstrikes, monograms, metallurgy, styles), a few Classical writings, and Indian writings and epigraphic evidence. The following list of kings, dates and territories after the reign of Demetrius is derived from the latest and most extensive analysis on the subject, by Osmund Bopearachchi and R. C. Senior.

The invasion of northern India, and the establishment of what would be known as the "Indo-Greek kingdom", started around 200 BCE when Demetrius, son of the Greco-Bactrian king Euthydemus I, led his troops across the Hindu Kush. Apollodotus, may have made advances in the south, while Menander, led later invasions further east. Following his conquests, Demetrius received the title ανικητος ("Anicetus", lit. invincible), a title never given to any king before. [1]

Written evidence of the initial Greek invasion survives in the Greek writings of Strabo and Justin, and in Sanskrit in the records of Patanjali, Kālidāsa, and in the Yuga Purana, among others. Coins and architectural evidence also attest to the extent of the initial Greek campaign.


Possible early missions Edit

Unconfirmed Sinhalese sources assert that missionaries of King Ashoka, introduced Buddhism into Southeast Asia, approximately in the 3rd century BC. Various Buddhist sects competed with Brahmanism and indigenous animistic religions over approximately the next millennium during this period, Indian culture was highly influentia. [4]

Funan Edit

The Funan Kingdom that flourished between 100 BC and 500 CE was Hindu, with the kings of Funan sponsoring the worship of Vishnu and Shiva. Buddhism was already present in Funan as a secondary religion in this era. [5] Buddhism began to assert its presence from about year 450 onward, and was observed by the Chinese traveler Yijing toward the close of the seventh century.

Two Buddhist monks from Funan, named Mandrasena and Saṃghabara, took up residency in China in the 5th to 6th centuries, and translated several Buddhist sūtras from Sanskrit into Chinese. [6] Among these texts is the Mahāyāna Mahāprajñāpāramitā Mañjuśrīparivarta Sūtra. [7] This text was separately translated by both monks. [6] The bodhisattva Mañjuśrī is a prominent figure in this text.

Chenla Edit

The Kingdom of Chenla replaced Funan and endured from 500700. Buddhism was weakened in the Chenla period, but survived, as seen in the inscriptions of Sambor Prei Kuk (626) and those of Siem Reap dealing with the erection of statues of Avalokiteśvara (791). Some pre-Angkorean statuary in the Mekong Delta region indicate the existence of Sanskrit-based Sarvāstivāda Buddhism. [ citation needed ] Khmer-style Buddha images are abundant from the period of 600800. Many Mahāyāna bodhisattva images also date from this period, often found alongside the predominantly Hindu images of Shiva and Vishnu. An inscription from Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap province, dated about 625, states, that the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are flourishing. [8] [ dubious – discuss ]

Angkor Edit

The transition from Hindu god-king to Mahayana bodhisattva-king was probably gradual and imperceptible. The prevailing Vaishnavite and Shaivite faith traditions gave way to the worship of the Gautama Buddha and the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

The Buddhist Sailendra kingdom exercised suzerainty over Cambodia as a vassal state during the end of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth centuries. King Jayavarman II (802869), the first real Khmer king of the Angkor Empire, proclaimed himself Hindu god-king and identified himself with Shiva. Nevertheless, he was increasingly friendly to and supportive of Mahayana Buddhist influence throughout his kingdom. [9] Mahayana Buddhism became increasingly established in his empire. The form of Mahayana Buddhism that was propagated in the Srivijaya lands was similar to the Pala Dynasty Buddhism of Bengal, and of the Nalanda University in northern India.

The Bengal University of Nalanda in Megadha (now Behar) was the theological center of Mahayana Buddhism under the protection of the Pala Dynasty [750-1060]. Shivaist interpretations of Buddhism, tinged with Tantric mysticism (that may have revived portions of pre-Aryan northeastern Indian faith traditions) were worked out in Megadha and then were exported throughout insular and peninsular Southeast Asia, particularly to Java. Yashovarman I (889-910), who ruled from the vicinity of Rolous in the late ninth century, seems to have been a Shivite Buddhist influenced by Nalanda syncretism. His successors (notably Jayavarman IV) dedicated themselves to Hindu trinity such as Vishnu and Brahma, as well as to Shiva, with whom they continued to be identified by hereditary families of priests. Rajendravarman II studied Buddhism intensely. [8]

The Sailendra dynasty also built the fantastic Mahayana Buddhist temple Borobudur (750–850) in Java. Borobudur appears to have been the inspiration for the later fabulous Angkor building projects in Cambodia, particularly Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. [ citation needed ]

The primary form of Buddhism practiced in Cambodia during Angkor times was Mahayana Buddhism, strongly influenced with Tantric tendencies.

The prevalence of Tantrayana in Java, Sumatra and Kamboja [Cambodia], a fact now definitely established by modern researches into the character of Mahayana Buddhism and Saivism in these parts of the Indian Orient. Already in Kamboja inscription of the 9th century there is definite evidence of the teaching of Tantric texts at the court of Jayavarman II. In a Kamboja record of the 11th century there is a reference to the 'Tantras of the Paramis' and images of Hevajra, definitely a tantric divinity, have been recovered from amidst the ruins of Angkor Thom. A number of Kamboja inscriptions refer to several kings who were initiated into the Great Secret (Vrah Guhya) by their Hindu Brahmin gurus the Saiva records make obvious records to Tantric doctrines that had crept into Saivism. [9]

But it was in Java and Sumatra that Tantrayana seems to have attained greater importance. There Mahayana Buddhism and Shaivism, both deeply imbued with tantric influences, are to be seen often blending with one another during this period. The Sang Hyang Kamahayanikan, consisting of Sanskrit versus explained by an Old Javanese commentary, professed to teach the Mahayana and Mantrayana. [9]

The presence and growing influence of Buddhism continued as the Angkor empire increased in power. King Yosavarman built many Buddhist temples in 887–889, representing the mandala of Mount Meru, the mythical axis of the world. The largest of these temples is Phnom Kandal or "Central Mountain" which lies near the heart of the Angkor complex.

King Rajendravarman II (944968) "studied Buddhism intensely. Although he decided to remain a Shivaist, he appointed a Buddhist, Kavindrarimathana, chief minister. Kavindrarimathana built shrines to Buddha and Shiva. Jayavarman V (son of Rajendravarman) also remained a devote of Shiva. He, too, permitted his own chief minister, Kirtipandita, to foster Mahayana Buddhist learning and divination." [9]

Suryavarman I Edit

Suryavarman I (1006–1050) [10] is considered the greatest of the Buddhist kings, with the exception of Jayavarman VII.

The origins of Suryavarman I are unclear but evidence suggests that he began his career in northeastern Cambodia. He came to the throne after a period of disputes between rival claims to the Khmer throne. Claim to the Khmer throne did not exclusively include paternal lines but also recognized the royal maternal line, giving prominence to whichever line successfully supported the legitimacy of the claim. [11]

A strong proponent of Mahayana Buddhism, he did not interfere or obstruct the growing presence and dissemination of Theravada Buddhism during his reign.

Indeed, inscriptions indicate he sought wisdom from wise Mahayanists and Hinayanists and at least somewhat disestablished the Sivakaivalya family's hereditary claims to being chief priests (purohitar). Surayvarman's posthumous title of Nirvanapada, 'the king who has gone to Nirvana' is the strongest evidence that he was a Buddhist." [9]

Jayavarman VII Edit

Jayavarman VII (1181–1215), the most significant Khmer Buddhist king, worked tirelessly to establish as the state religion of Angkor. [ citation needed ] Jayavarman VII was a Mahayana Buddhist, and he regarded himself to be a Dharma-king, a bodhisattva, whose duty was to "save the people" through service and merit-making, liberating himself in the process. Jayavarman withdrew his devotion from the old gods and began to identify more openly with Buddhist traditions. His regime marked a clear dividing line with the old Hindu past. Before 1200, art in the temples mostly portrayed scenes from the Hindu pantheon after 1200, Buddhist scenes began to appear as standard motifs.

During Jayavarman VII's reign, there was a shift away from the concept of devaraja god-king, toward the concept of the Sangha, the concept of monks. In former times, great effort and resources were invested into building temples for elite brahman priests and god-kings. Under Jayavarman, these resources were redirected to building libraries, monastic dwellings, public works, and more "earthly" projects accessible to the common people.

While Jayavarman VII himself was Mahayana Buddhist, the presence of Theravada Buddhism was increasingly evident.

This Singhalese-based Theravada Buddhist orthodoxy was first propagated in Southeast Asia by Taling (Mon) monks in the 11th century and together with Islam in the 13th century in southern insular reaches of the region, spread as a popularly-based movement among the people. Apart from inscriptions, such as one of Lopburi, there were other signs that the religious venue of Suvannabhumi were changing. Tamalinda, the Khmer monk believed to be the son of Jayavarman VII, took part in an 1180 Burmese-led mission to Sri Lanka to study the Pali canon and on his return in 1190 had adepts of the Sinhala doctrine in his court. Chou Ta-Laun, who led a Chinese mission into Angkor in 1296-97 confirms the significant presence of Pali Theravada monks in the Khmer Capital." [5]

Decline of Angkor and the emergence of a Theravada kingdom Edit

After the 13th century Theravada Buddhism became the state religion of Cambodia.

King Jayavarman VII had sent his son Tamalinda to Sri Lanka to be ordained as a Buddhist monk and study Theravada Buddhism according to the Pali scriptural traditions. Tamalinda then returned to Cambodia and promoted Buddhist traditions according to the Theravada training he had received, galvanizing and energizing the long-standing Theravada presence that had existed throughout the Angkor empire for centuries.

During the time Tamalinda studied at the famous Mahavihara Monastery in Sri Lanka (1180–1190), a new dynamic type of Theravada Buddhism was being preached as the "true faith" in Sri Lanka. This form of Buddhism was somewhat militant and highly disciplined in reaction to the wars with the Tamil that nearly destroyed Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 9th and 10th centuries. As Theravada Buddhism struggled for survival in Sri Lanka, it developed a resiliency that generated a renaissance throughout the Buddhist world, and would eventually spread across Burma, Chang Mai, the Mon kingdoms, Lana, Sukothai, Laos, and Cambodia. [12]

In the 13th century, wandering missionaries from the Mon-Khmer-speaking parts of Siam, Burma, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka played an important part in this process.

When Prince Tamalinda returned after ten years of ordination, he was a Thera, a senior monk, capable of administering ordination into this vigorous Theravada lineage, which insisted on orthodoxy and rejected Mahayana "innovations" such as tantric practices.

The mass conversion of Khmer society to Theravada Buddhism amounted to a nonviolent revolution every all level of society. Scholars struggle to account for this sudden and inexplicable transformation of Khmer civilization. Theravada Buddhism succeeded because it was inclusive and universal in its outreach, recruiting the disciples and monks from not only the elites and court, but also in the villages and among the peasants, enhancing its popularity among the Khmer folk. [12]

The post-Angkor period saw the dramatic rise of the Pali Theravada tradition in Southeast Asia and concomitant decline of the Brahmanic and Mahayana Buddhist religious traditions. A 1423 Thai account of a mission to Sri Lanka mentions eight Khmer monks who again brought orthodox Mahavihara sect of Singhalese order to Kampuchea. This particular event belied, however, the profound societal shift that was taking place from priestly class structure to a village-based monastic system in Theravada lands. While adhering to the monastic discipline, monks developed their wats, or temple-monasteries, not only into moral religious but also education, social-service, and cultural centers for the people. Wats became the main source of learning and popular education. Early western explorers, settlers, and missionaries reported widespread literacy among the male populations of Burma, Thailand, Kampuchea, Laos, and Vietnam. Until the 19th century, literacy rates exceeded those of Europe in most if not all Theravada lands. In Kampuchea, Buddhism became the transmitter of Khmer language and culture. [5]

With the rise of Siam in the west and Vietnam in the east, the classical Angkor empire disappeared and the beginning of present-day Cambodia began. Cambodia became from this time forward a Theravada Buddhist nation.

Buddhist Middle Ages Edit

The Jinakalamali gives an account of the cultural connections between Cambodia and Sri Lanka in the fifteenth century. It states that 1967 years after the Mahaparinibbana of the Buddha, eight monks headed by Mahananasiddhi from Cambodia with 25 monks from Nabbispura in Thailand came to Sri Lanka to receive the umpasampada ordination at the hands of the Sinhalese Mahatheras.

As Angkor collapsed under the advancing jungles, the center of power of the Theravada Cambodia moved south toward present day Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh was originally a small riverside market center where the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap River converge.

Phnom Penh was founded when Lady Penh found a "four-faced Buddha" floating down the river on a Koki tree during the flooding season. She retrieved the Buddha image and had the Wat Phnom constructed to house the image. The four-faced Buddha [Buddha facing the four directions] is important in Khmer Buddhist iconography, signifying the establishment of the kingdom of the Buddha of the Future, Maitreya, who is often identified with the Buddha-king of Cambodia. The type of Buddhism practiced in medieval Cambodia has been widely studied by professor François Bizot and his colleagues at the École française d'Extrême-Orient. They have identified tantric and esoteric elements in this tradition and thus call it "Tantric Theravada".

After 1431 when the Cambodian kings permanently abandoned Angkor due to a Siamese invasion, the royal court was located on Udon Mountain, a few miles north of Phnom Penh. Siamese incursions from the west and Vietnamese invasions from the east weakened the Khmer empire. The Vietnamese invaders attempted to suppress Theravada Buddhism and force the Khmer people to practice Mahayana Buddhism. The Siamese, on the other hand, would periodically invade Cambodia and attempt to drive out the "unbelievers" in an attempt to protect the Theravada religion. This power-struggle between the two ascendant powers continued until the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century.

Colonial era Edit

Buddhism continued to flourish in Cambodia in the sixteenth century. King Ang Chan (1516–1566), a relative of King Dhammaraja, was a devout Buddhist. He built pagodas in his capital and many Buddhist shrines in different parts of Cambodia. In order to popularize Buddhism, King Satha (1576–1549), son and successor of King Barom Reachea, restored the great towers of the Angkor Wat, which had become a Buddhist shrine by the sixteenth century.

Each successive wave of European influence was accompanied by Catholic missionaries, but Theravada Buddhism proved surprisingly resistant to foreign attempts to convert the Khmer people. During the colonial period, the peace was periodically breached by outbreaks of religiously motivated violence, including periodic millenarian revolts.

During the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, Thailand's involvement in Cambodian politics extended Thai influence into religious matters as well. On King Norodom's invitation, monks from the Thai Dhammayuttika Nikaya established a Dhammayuttika presence in Cambodia. [13] The newly formed Thommayut order benefited from royal patronage, but frequently came into conflict with the existing Mohanikay (Maha Nikaya) lineage. [13] The Thommayut were sometimes accused of holding loyalty to the Thai court, rather than to the Khmer nation. [14]

During the era of French rule, convulsions of violence, led by Buddhist holy men, would periodically break out against the French. Significant advances were made in the education of Cambodian monks, both in specifically Buddhist topics and more general studies. [15] Primary education of Cambodian children continued to take place at temple schools. Monks were also encouraged to become involved in community development projects. [15]

Khmer Rouge era Edit

In 1975 when the communist Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia, they tried to completely destroy Buddhism and very nearly succeeded. By the time of the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, nearly every monk and religious intellectual had been either murdered or driven into exile, and nearly every temple and Buddhist temple and library had been destroyed.

The Khmer Rouge policies towards Buddhism—which included the forced disrobing of monks, the destruction of monasteries, and, ultimately, the execution of uncooperative monks—effectively destroyed Cambodia's Buddhist institutions. [16] Monks who did not flee and avoided execution lived among the laity, sometimes secretly performing Buddhist rituals for the sick or afflicted. [16]

Estimates of the number of monks in Cambodia prior to the ascension of the Khmer Rouge vary, ranging between 65,000 and 80,000. [17] By the time of the Buddhist restoration in the early-1980s, the number of Cambodian monks worldwide was estimated to be fewer than 3,000. [18] The patriarchs of both Cambodian nikayas perished sometime during the period 1975–1978, though the cause of their deaths is not known. [17]

Due to their association with the Thai monarchy, monks of the Thommayut order may have been singled out for persecution. [19]

Post-Khmer Rouge era Edit

Following the defeat of the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese forces, Buddhism initially remained officially suppressed in Cambodia. [16] Following challenges to the legitimacy of the Vietnamese-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea, policies towards Buddhism began to ease starting in the summer of 1979. [20] A group of monks who had been exiled and re-ordained in Vietnam during the Khmer Rouge period were sent to Cambodia, [21] and in 1981 one of their number, Venerable Tep Vong, was elected the first sangharaja of a new unified Cambodia sangha, officially abolishing the division between the Thommayut order and the Mohanikay. [20] The ordination of new monks was sponsored by the government as a public show of piety and lifted restrictions on ordination. [18]

Following the withdrawal of the Vietnamese military, the newly renamed Cambodian People's Party sought to align itself with the Buddhist sangha, declaring Buddhism to be Cambodia's "state religion" in a 1991 policy statement. [22] In 1991, King Sihanouk returned from exile and appointed a new sangharaja for each of the Thommayut and Mohanikay orders, effectively marking the end of the unified system created under Vietnamese rule in 1981. [23]

Since 1855, the Buddhist monastic community in Cambodia has been split into two divisions, excepting a brief period of unification between 1981 and 1991: the Maha Nikaya and the Dhammayuttika Nikaya. The Maha Nikaya is by far the larger of the two monastic fraternities, claiming the allegiance of a large majority of Cambodian monks. The Dhammayuttika Nikaya, despite royal patronage, remains a small minority, isolated somewhat by its strict discipline and connection with Thailand.

The Maha Nikaya monastic hierarchy—headed by the sanghreach (sangharaja)—has been closely connected with the Cambodian government since its re-establishment in the early-1980s [24] High-ranking officials of the Maha Nikaya have often spoken out against criticism of the government and in favor of government policies, including calling for the arrest of monks espousing opposition positions. [25] Officials from the Maha Nikaya hierarchy appoint members to lay committees to oversee the running of temples, who also act to ensure that temples do not become organizing points for anti-government activity by monks or lay supporters [26] Nevertheless, divisions within the Maha Nikaya fraternity do exist.

Modernists and traditionalists Edit

Divisions within the sangha between "modernists" and "traditionalists" were recorded in Cambodia as early as 1918. [27] Broadly speaking, "modernists" have attempted to respond to Western criticism of Buddhist institutions by re-interpreting Buddhist teachings—particularly those related to philosophy and meditation—in light of both modern secular knowledge and the textual source of Theravada teachings, the Pali Canon. [27] "Traditionalists", on the other hand, prefer to stick to the practices and teachings handed down through the monastic oral tradition, which have traditionally centered on the performance of merit-making ceremonies and the attainment of "heightened states" through concentration meditation. [27] Traditionalists have tended to reject modern interest in vipassana meditation as a foreign affectation, and have focused on the rote memorization and recitation of Pali passages rather than attempts to study, translate, and interpret the contents of the Pali tripitaka. [28]

For many years, Maha Ghosananda remained the most visible and recognizable figure of the Maha Nikaya modernists. [29] Through his Dhammayatra program and other attempts to use the influence of the sangha to effect social change in Cambodian society, Maha Goshananda brought to Cambodia a form of Engaged Buddhism not previously seen among Cambodian religious institutions. [30] This form of modernist, engaged Buddhism has proved very popular with Western Buddhists and NGOs, who have lent their support and funding to efforts by Maha Goshananda and other modernist leaders. [31]

High officials of the Cambodian government, by contrast, have tended to support the most conservative of the Maha Nikaya monks, particular the members of a segment known as the boran, an ultra-conservative movement that touts the worldly efficacy of the rote recitation of various Pali and Khmer prayers and discourses. [32] Monks in the boran movement do not typically possess a significant knowledge of Pali, instead focusing on the rote memorization and recitation of certain verses and scriptures considered powerful. [33] Boran monks maintain that by sponsoring recitations of these verses, lay supporters can accrue great merit that will result in immediate, worldly benefits, such as financial or career success. [28] A large number of senior Cambodian officials (including Hun Sen) have patronized boran temples, providing for extensive expansions and rich decoration of the most popular temples. [34] Boran monks also teach the efficacy of "group repentance" rituals, where, through the recitation of Pali texts, the karmic fruit of earlier misdeeds can be avoided or moderated. [35] These rituals, which developed from New Years repentance ceremonies, have become very popular among certain segments of Cambodian society, and have been conducted by the current Maha Nikaya sangharaja, Tep Vong. [35]

The Dhammayuttika order in Cambodia seems to occupy a middle position between the Maha Nikaya modernists and traditionalists. [36] Like the Dhammayuttika order in Thailand, they place a higher premium on scriptural study and knowledge of the Pali language than the monks of the traditionalist camp. At the same time, they have not embraced the modernist, engaged notion of monks as agents of social development, preferring instead to stick closely to traditional monastic roles of study, meditation, and providing merit-making opportunities for lay supporters.

"Young Monks" movement Edit

Another division in the Cambodian sangha can be seen in what has been called the "young monks" movement, a small group of politically active monks (primarily Maha Nikaya) voicing public opposition to the current government. [25] The "young monks" are primarily junior members of the clergy, drawn from temples in and around Phnom Penh. Unlike the engaged modernists, their interest is not in using the authority of the sangha to aide social development programs, but rather to express direct opposition to government policies and corruption. Since the 1993 UN-monitored elections, monks have been permitted to vote in Cambodia (a move opposed by some senior monks). While this has not resulted in any large-scale mobilization of the sangha as a political force, it has drawn some young monks farther into participation in parliamentary politics. Many of these young monks are associated with opposition figure Sam Rainsy and his political party, the SRP. [37]

Members of the young monks movement have participated in and organized public demonstrations in Phnom Penh, aimed at drawing attention to perceived government misdeeds. The Maha Nikaya hierarchy has condemned this form of political activism, calling for the arrest of some monks and defrocking others. [25]

Cambodian Buddhism was instrumental in fomenting Khmer national identity and the independence movement in the 20th century, leading to Cambodian independence as a sovereign state. [ citation needed ]

In their attempt to separate the Khmer people from their cultural allegiance to the neighboring Theravada Kingdom of Siam, the French encouraged a sense of Khmer identity by emphasizing Khmer-language studies and Khmer Buddhist studies. They established Pali schools within Cambodia to keep the Cambodian monks from traveling to Siam for higher education. These Khmer language study centers became the birthplace of Cambodian nationalism.

Cambodian Buddhism has no formal administrative ties with other Buddhist bodies, although Theravada monks from other countries, especially Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, may participate in religious ceremonies in order to make up the requisite number of clergy. Cambodian Buddhism is organized nationally in accordance with regulations formulated in 1943 and modified in 1948. During the monarchical period, the king led the Buddhist clergy. Prince Sihanouk continued in this role even after he had abdicated and was governing as head of state. He appointed both the heads of the monastic orders and other high-ranking clergy. After the overthrow of Sihanouk in 1970, the new head of state, Lon Nol, appointed these leaders. [38]

Two monastic orders constituted the clergy in Cambodia. The larger group, to which more than 90 percent of the clergy belonged, was the Mohanikay. The Thommayut order was far smaller. The Thommayut was introduced into the ruling circles of Cambodia from Thailand in 1864 it gained prestige because of its adoption by royalty and by the aristocracy, but its adherents were confined geographically to the Phnom Penh area. Among the few differences between the two orders is stricter observance by the Thommayut bhikkhus (monks) of the rules governing the clergy. In 1961 the Mohanikay had more than 52,000 ordained monks in some 2,700 wats, whereas the Thommayut order had 1,460 monks in just over 100 wats. In 1967 more than 2,800 Mohanikay wats and 320 Thommayut wats were in existence in Cambodia. After Phnom Penh, the largest number of Thommayut wats were found in Batdambang, Stoeng Treng, Prey Veng, Kampot, and Kampong Thum provinces. [38]

Each order has its own superior and is organized into a hierarchy of eleven levels. The seven lower levels are known collectively as the thananukram the four higher levels together are called the rajagana. The Mohanikay order has thirty-five monks in the rajagana the Thommayut has twenty-one. Each monk must serve for at least twenty years to be named to these highest levels. [38]

The cornerstones of Cambodian Buddhism are the Buddhist bhikkhu and the wat. Traditionally, each village has a spiritual center, a wat, where from five to more than seventy bhikkhus reside. A typical wat in rural Cambodia consists of a walled enclosure containing a sanctuary, several residences for bhikkhus, a hall, a kitchen, quarters for nuns, and a pond. The number of monks varies according to the size of the local population. The sanctuary, which contains an altar with statues of the Buddha and, in rare cases, a religious relic, is reserved for major ceremonies and usually only for the use of bhikkhus. Other ceremonies, classes for monks and for laity, and meals take place in the hall. Stupas containing the ashes of extended family members are constructed near the sanctuary. Fruit trees and vegetable gardens tended by local children are also part of the local wat. The main entrance, usually only for ceremonial use, faces east other entrances are at other points around the wall. There are no gates. [38]

Steinberg notes the striking ratio of bhikkhus to the total population of Cambodia. In the late-1950s, an estimated 100,000 bhikkhus (including about 40,000 novices) served a population of about five million. This high proportion undoubtedly was caused in large part by the ease with which one could enter and leave the sangha. Becoming a bhikkhu and leaving the sangha are matters of individual choice although, in theory, nearly all Cambodian males over sixteen serve terms as bhikkhus. Most young men do not intend to become fully ordained bhikkhus (bhikkhu), and they remain as monks for less than a year. Even a son's temporary ordination as a bhikkhu brings great merit to his parents, however, and is considered so important that arrangements are made at a parent's funeral if the son has not undergone the process while the parent was living. There are two classes of bhikkhus at a wat: the novices (samani or nen) and the bhikkhu. Ordination is held from mid-April to mid-July, during the rainy season. [38]

Buddhist monks do not take perpetual vows to remain monks although some become monks permanently. Traditionally, they became monks early in life. It is possible to become a novice at age seven, but in practice thirteen is the earliest age for novices. A bhikkhu must be at least twenty. The monk's life is regulated by Buddhist law, and life in the wat adheres to a rigid routine. A bhikkhu follows 227 rules of monastic discipline as well as the 10 basic precepts. These include the five precepts that all Buddhists should follow. The five precepts for monastic asceticism prohibit eating after noon, participating in any entertainment (singing, dancing, and watching movies or television), using any personal adornments, sleeping on a luxurious bed, and handling money. In addition, a monk also is expected to be celibate. Furthermore, monks supposedly avoid all involvement in political affairs. They are not eligible to vote or to hold any political office, and they may not witness a legal document or give testimony in court. Since the person of a monk is considered sacred, he is considered to be outside the normal civil laws and public duties that affect lay people. Some of these practices have changed in the modern period, however, and in the 1980s Buddhist monks have been active even in the PRK government. [38]

Women are not ordained, but older women, especially widows, can become nuns. They live in wat and play an important role in the everyday life of the temple. Nuns shave their heads and eyebrows and generally follow the same precepts as monks. They may prepare the altars and do some of the housekeeping chores. [38]

Buddhist monks traditionally were called upon to perform a number of functions in Cambodian life. They participated in all formal village festivals, ceremonies, marriages, and funerals. They also might have participated in ceremonies to name infants and in other minor ceremonies or rites of passage. Monks did not lead the ceremonies, however, because that role was given to the achar, or master of ceremonies the monk's major function was to say prayers of blessing. They were often healers and, in traditional Khmer culture, they were the practitioners whose role was closest to that of modern psychiatrists. [ citation needed ] [ dubious – discuss ] They might also have been skilled in astrology. The monk traditionally occupied a unique position in the transmission of Khmer culture and values. By his way of life, he provided a living model of the most meritorious behavior a Buddhist could follow. He also provided the laity with many opportunities for gaining merit. For centuries monks were the only literate people residing in rural communities they acted as teachers to temple servants, to novices, and to newly ordained monks. Until the 1970s, most literate Cambodian males gained literacy solely through the instruction of the sangha. [38]

After independence from France, young Cambodian intellectuals changed their attitude toward the clergy. In describing a general shift away from Buddhism in the late-1950s and early-1960s, Vickery cites the early work of anthropologist May Mayko Ebihara and his own observations. He suggests that the Khmer Rouge was able to instill antireligious feelings in younger males because the latter were losing interest in becoming monks even during their teenage years, the traditional temporary period of service. The monks themselves had abandoned some of their traditional restrictions and had become involved in politics. At intervals during the colonial period, some monks had demonstrated or had rebelled against French rule, and in the 1970s monks joined pro- government demonstrations against the communists. Anticlerical feelings reached their highest point among the Khmer Rouge, who at first attempted to indoctrinate monks and to force them to pass anticlerical ideas on to the laity. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, monks were expelled forcibly from the wats and were compelled to do manual labor. Article 20 of the 1976 Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea permitted freedom of religion but banned all reactionary religions, that were "detrimental to the country". The minister of culture stated that Buddhism was incompatible with the revolution and was an instrument of exploitation. Under this regime, to quote the Finnish Inquiry Commission, "The practice of religion was forbidden and the pagodas were systematically destroyed." Observers estimated that 50,000 monks died during the Khmer Rouge regime. The status of Buddhism and of religion in general after the Vietnamese invasion was at least partially similar to its status in pre-Khmer Rouge times. [38]

According to Michael Vickery, who has written positively about the People's Republic of Kampuchea, public observance of Buddhism and of Islam was reestablished, and government policies allowed Cambodians freedom to believe or not to believe in Buddhism. Vickery cites some differences in this reestablished Buddhism: religious affairs were overseen by the PRK's Kampuchean (or Khmer) United Front for National Construction and Defense (KUFNCD), the mass organization that supported the state by organizing women, youths, workers, and religious groups. [39] In 1987 there was only a single Buddhist order because the Thommayut order had not been revived. The organization of the clergy also had been simplified. The sangharaja (primate of the Buddhist clergy) had been replaced by a prathean (chairman). Communities that wanted wats had to apply to a local front committee for permission. The wat were administered by a committee of the local laity. Private funds paid for the restoration of the wats damaged during the war and the Khmer Rouge era, and they supported the restored wats. Monks were ordained by a hierarchy that has been reconstituted since an initial ordination in September 1979 by a delegation from the Buddhist community in Vietnam. The validity of this ordination continued to be questioned. In general, there are only two to four monks per wat, which is fewer than before 1975. In 1981 about 4,930 monks served in 740 wats in Cambodia. The Buddhist General Assembly reported 7,000 monks in 1,821 active wats a year later. In 1969 by contrast, observers estimated that 53,400 monks and 40,000 novice monks served in more than 3,000 wats. Vickery sums up his observations on the subject by noting that, "The government has kept its promise to allow freedom for traditional Buddhism, but does not actively encourage it." [38]

Martin offers another, more pessimistic, view of the religious situation in the late-1980s. In a 1986 study, she asserts that the PRK showed outsiders only certain aspects of religious freedom she also states that the few wats that were restored had only two or three old monks in residence and that public attendance was low. The monks were allowed to leave the wats only for an hour in the mornings, to collect their food, or during holy days. Lay people who practiced their faith were about the same ages as the monks, and they were allowed to visit the wats only in the evenings. A government circular had also instructed civil servants to stop celebrating the traditional New Year Festival. Some traditional Buddhist festivals still were tolerated, but the state collected a 50 percent tax on donations. Martin believes that Buddhism was threatened externally by state repression and by nonsupport and internally by invalid clergy. She noted that the two Buddhist superiors, Venerable Long Chhim and Venerable Tep Vong, were both believed to be from Vietnam. Venerable Tep Vong was concurrently the superior of the Buddhist clergy, vice president of the PRK's Khmer National Assembly, and vice president of the KUFNCD National Council. She quoted a refugee from Batdambang as having said, "During the meetings, the Khmer administrative authorities, accompanied by the Vietnamese experts, tell you, `Religion is like poison, it's like opium it's better to give the money to the military, so they can fight'." [38]

The extension of the Wat Phra Dhammakaya, which is 791 acres, was acquired in the name of the Dhammakaya Foundation, using the funds from followers who donated to the temple to expand the temple’s public area. This new public area’s purpose was to provide a peaceful sanctuary to facilitate meditation teachings, Buddhist events, and monastic ceremonies.

The extended land has been used for the propagation of Buddhism since the year 2528 B.E.(1985) By the year 2542 B.E.(1999), over 100,000 people came to attend each special Buddhist ceremonies. Today, the number is still growing rapidly, and the Sapa Dhammakaya , which once seemed large, often became even too small for many events.

The Dhammakaya Foundation has used the 791 acres for many public and peace events. For example, mass ordination programs , meditation retreats , youth moral festivals, Light of Peace ceremonies , and many more each year. The facilities can house up to 1,000,000 people each event, so it has been a very beneficial facility used for local gatherings, international gatherings, and peace advocacy events.

Milestones of Dhammakaya Foundation

Since August 2529 B.E.(1986) the Dhammakaya Foundation has become the United Nations-accredited Non-Governmental Organisation associated with the Departmen Public Information (DPI) and has since that date sent delegates to the Annual DPI/NGO Conference of the United Nations. In February 2542 B.E.(1999) the Dhammakaya Foundation has been participating in the Millennium People’s Assembly Network called for by the United Nations Secretary General. Kofi Annan.

On Earth day April 22, 2542 B.E.(1999) the Dhammakaya Foundation supported the promotion of 2000 International Year for the Culture of Peace which is proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. A hundred thousand Buddhist monks and novices have participated the ethic contest organised for support the culture of peace educational programme. On the same occasion, thousands of temple followers have signed the Commitment for Culture of Peace. The Commitment is drafted by a group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates which UNESCO is the focal point, and in response to an appeal signed by all the Nobel Peace Laureates -the first decade of the next millennium -the years 2544-2553 B.E.(2001-2010) -as the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World”.

The Dhammakaya Foundation has also demonstrated an co-operative participation in the seventy-two hours Interfaith Peace Building Project of the United Religions initiative in order to play an important role as a living pledge to a new and more hopeful future for all people. The programme will be held on from December 31, 2542 B.E.(1999) to January 2, 2543 B.E.(2000).Hundred thousand of people will participate in meditation and illuminate the Light of Peace of the Millennium.

During May 11-15, 2542 B.E.(1999), the Dhammakaya Foundation has sent 13 representatives to participate the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference, which is the largest international peace conference in history. Over 9,000 activists, government representatives and community leaders from over 100 countries attended the conference workshops and round tables mechanisms for abolishing war and creating a culture of peace in the 21 st century. The Dhammakaya Foundation also organized 3 sessions of Global Meetings on Meditation to provide interested participants in seeking the real peace from within.

The extension of the Dhammakaya Temple , which is 791 acres, was acquired in the name of the Dhammakaya Foundation, using the funds from followers who donated to the temple to expand the temple’s public area. This new public area’s purpose was to provide a peaceful sanctuary to facilitate meditation teachings, Buddhist events, and monastic ceremonies.

The extended land has been used for the propagation of Buddhism since the year 2528 B.E. By the year 2542 B.E., over 100,000 people came to attend each special Buddhist ceremonies. Today, the number is still growing rapidly, and the Sapa Dhammakaya , which once seemed large, often became even too small for many events.

The Dhammakaya Foundation has used the 791 acres for many public and peace events. For example, mass ordination programs, meditation retreats, youth moral festivals, Light of Peace ceremonies , and many more each year. The facilities can house up to 1,000,000 people each event, so it has been a very beneficial facility used for local gatherings, international gatherings, and peace advocacy events.

Since August 1986 the Dhammakaya Foundation has become the United Nations-accredited Non-Governmental Organisation associated with the Departmen Public information (DPI) and has since that date sent delegates to the Annual DPI/NGO Conference of the United Nations.
In February 1999 the Dhammakaya Foundation has been participating in the Millennium People’s Assembly Network called for by the United Nations Secretary General. Kofi Annan.
On Earth day 22 April 1999 the Dhammakaya Foundation supported the promotion of 2000 International Year for the Culture of Peace which is proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. A hundred thousand Buddhist monks and novices have participated the ethic contest organised for support the culture of peace educational programme. On the same occasion, thousands of temple followers have signed the Commitment for Culture of Peace. The Commitment is drafted by a group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates which UNESCO is the focal point, and in response to an appeal signed by all the Nobel Peace Laureates -the first decade of the next millennium -the years 2001-2010 -as the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World”.
The Dhammakaya Foundation has also demonstrated an co-operative participation in the seventy-two hours Interfaith Peace Building Project of the United Religions initiative in order to play an important role as a living pledge to a new and more hopeful future for all people. The programme will be held on from 31 December 1999 to 2 January 2000.Hundred thousand of people will participate in meditation and illuminate the Light of Peace of the Millennium.
During May 11-15, 1999, the Dhammakaya Foundation has sent 13 representatives to participate the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference, which is the largest international peace conference in history. Over 9,000 activists, government representatives and community leaders from over 100 countries attended the conference workshops and round tables mechanisms for abolishing war and creating a culture of peace in the 21st century. The Dhammakaya Foundation also organized 3 sessions of Global Meetings on Meditation to provide interested participants in seeking the real peace from within.

Buddha vehemently opposed the caste system in the society which was an ugly practice during the remote phase of history. Due to this opposition, the complexity of caste system vanished from society. As a result, society breathed a healthy atmosphere. And, as well it was adopted as a principle and it became a favorite side of society.

What Was The Caste System Then?

It is a system that involves any of the hereditary, social classes, and subclasses of South Asian societies. This system perpetuated a lot of evil including rituals based on animal sacrifices, conservation, fasting, and pilgrim. Simply put, Buddhism preached for the total equality of all mankind.

History of Religion in America

Introduction The issue of religious freedom has played a significant role in the history of the United States and the remainder of North America. Europeans came to America to escape religious oppression and forced beliefs by such state-affiliated Christian churches as the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. That civil unrest fueled the desire of America’s forefathers to establish the organization of a country in which the separation of church and state, and the freedom to practice one’s faith without fear of persecution, was guaranteed. That guarantee was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution (text) as, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. ”

The splintering of Christianity resulted in more than 900 denominations of that faith currently existing in the United States, of which the vast majority of Americans are members. The U.S. was the first western nation to be founded predominately by Protestants — not Roman Catholics. That fact alone expresses America’s willingness to experiment with the novel and a defiance of tradition. Its history includes the emergence of Utopian Experiments, religious fanaticism, and opening the door to such exotic religions as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Taoism. Such has been the winding road of religious evolution in America.

The role of religion among American Indians For untold generations before Europeans came to America, native peoples celebrated the bounty given to them by the Great Spirit. Across America, such Indian tribes as The Algonquians, The Iroquois, Sioux, and the Seminoles worshiped the Great Spirit, who could be found in animals as well as inanimate objects. Elaborate rituals and such dances as the Sundance, Round, Snake, Crow, Ghost and others were developed and led by such native leaders as Wodiziwob, Wovoka , Black Elk, Big Foot, Sitting Bull , and others. As white colonists drove Indians onto reservations, the fervency of their religious practices increased, even as Christian missionaries made inroads that influenced their spirituality.

Colonial religious splintering

Religious persecution and iron-fisted rule by state-affiliated Christianity in Europe began to loosen its hold in the 16th century when, for the sake of debate, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.

King Henry VIII founded the Church of England, owing to disagreements regarding papal authority. In later attempts to free themselves from the tie of the state governmental system imposed by the Church of England (Anglican Church), such denominations as the Reformed-Presbyterian churches and the European Free Church were formed.

Those religious parents gave birth to the next wave of Christian denominations. Reforms were brought by the Puritans to the American colonies. Such calls to “purify” the Anglican Church led to the birthing of the Baptists and Congregationalists in America. As later cries for reform and renewal took place, further splintering occurred among the Methodists, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists and Adventists, each bearing a diminished resemblance to their original parents.

Evangelical movement roots and branches

Evangelism has played an integral part in the history of religion in America, from colonial times to the present, while its methods of dissemination have changed dramatically. Spreading the “Good News” during colonial times was accomplished through books printed by the Puritans on the press brought to Boston in 1638, or carried across the Atlantic on ships loaded with colonists. During the Great Awakening of the 1740s, white Protestant evangelists proselytized to black Americans. The Methodists were most successful, owing to their belief in a “near” rather than “distant” god, self help, liberation of sin through conversion, and their lively preaching and singing methods of worship during evangelical revivals. During the 19th century, Methodists held camp meetings in the frontier states.

Evangelism turned to elaborate crusades in the 20th century when such preachers as Billy Sunday attempted to convince nonbelievers that they should "jump ship" from their ancestral Christian denominations. Tent revivals, broadcast by radio and television, were dynamic with charismatic preachers who captured the attention of millions of people.

"Televangelists" of the 1950s through the late 1980s brought a personality-based form of worship to the small screen, until scandals involving Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts, provoked widespread distrust of them. While they were relegated to cable TV networks, evangelistic websites slowly began to crop up on the Internet during the early 1990s. Because of the anonymous nature of that interactive communication tool, people felt more comfortable sharing their personal beliefs and faith over the Internet with a large audience, or with one unknown person. Media evangelists incorporated multimedia presentations with sound, the written word, movies and video technologies.

Major Protestant denominations in the colonies Although they crossed the Atlantic to be free of a state-sponsored religion, settlers' everyday lives were extensively shaped by their religious beliefs and practices. The First Amendment to the Constitution (narrative), which is called the “Establishment Clause,” states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Also, the relationship between religion and politics was established in Article VI of the First Amendment that states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The definition of the separation of church and state found in the U.S. Constitution has caused more disagreement than any other in the nation’s history. To prevent a return to a centralized, overbearing government, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, without which ratification by Virginia and New York would not have occurred.

To fully understand the impact of the spread of Christian denominations in America, it is important to look at them and their origins individually. Listed below is a brief summary of those denominations, beginning with a proto-denomination, The Puritans.

Puritans The Puritans came to the New England colonies to escape religious persecution. The Puritans later gave birth to the Baptists and the Congregationalists. Led by John Winthrop, 900 Puritan colonists landed in Massachusetts Bay. Managing to endure the hardships of pioneer life and accustomed to caring for each other’s needs, they prospered, and their numbers grew from 17,800 in 1640 to 106,000 in 1700. Their attempt to “purify” the Church of England and their own lives was based on the teachings of John Calvin. Using the New Testament as their model, they believed that each congregation and each person individually was responsible to God. Their belief that their destiny was predetermined, their self-imposed isolation, and religious exclusivity, would later lead to witch hunts beginning in 1688. The expulsion of Roger Williams in 1636 and Anne Hutchinson in 1638 was caused by their neighbors' fear of "evil" in their midst. The Puritans also were responsible for the first free schooling in America and established the first American college, Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Congregationalists Based on the Calvinist (Reformed) tradition and strictly opposed to external authorities, Congregationalists came to New England and established the Plymouth Colony in 1620. As part of the Separatist movement, Congregationalists broke from the Anglican Church and established independent congregations in which God was the absolute authority. Prone to splintering, those congregations experienced a great number of local schisms during the first Great Awakening in the 1740s. During the 1800s, membership declined as their Methodist and Baptist cousins continued to gain strength. Unitarianism developed as an offshoot of COngregationalism, initially due to disagreement over the reality of the Trinity. Over the years, their resistance to dependence and external secular and clerical authority has lessened. Many Congregationalist churches have subsequently merged with other churches from the Reformed tradition. Today their membership in the U.S. is slightly more than 120,000 members.

Methodists The tap root of Methodism was a group of Oxford University students, amongst whom were its founders, John and Charles Wesley. Begun within the Anglican Church, Methodists were not fleeing religious persecution from the Church of England when they came to the Mid-Atlantic colonies in the 1730s and ‘40s. When Francis Asbury arrived in 1771, Methodism comprised 1,160 members served by 10 preachers in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Asbury promoted circuit riding and thus increased American Methodism to 214,000 by the time of his death in 1816. Together with Philip William Otterbein, Reformed Church pastor Methodist preacher Jacob Albright, and Martin Boehm, Asbury created the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, and became one of its first bishops. One of the more liberal Christian denominations, the United Methodist Church has become the second-largest Protestant denomination in America with 8.6 million members.

Lutherans In no other American Christian denomination did national origin play such an important role in its history as the Lutheran Church. Members came from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway. The Lutherans settled on the East Coast and American Midwest, and celebrated worship services in their native tongues. From their first foothold in 1619, Lutherans began to establish a sum total of 150 synods. In the late 19th century, they began to merge as the Americanization process eliminated the language barriers that had previously kept them separate. After many previous mergers, three of the larger Lutheran bodies came together in 1988 to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which currently counts more than half of the Lutheran membership in the U.S. A more conservative branch is the Missouri Synod.

Presbyterians Bearing little resemblance to the liturgy, structure, and tradition associated with the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian and Reformed churches share a common origin in the teachings of John Calvin and the 16th century Swiss Reformation. By definition, the Presbyterian denomination is anchored in an active, representational leadership style for both ministers and lay members. Presbyterians mostly came from England, Scotland, and Ireland. With an elected body of elders (or presbyters) that work with the congregation’s ordained minister, their belief structure and practices are centered around the Bible and “the sovereignty of God.” Presbyterians make up one of the largest branches of Protestant Christianity today.

Quakers Founded in 1647 by English preacher George Fox, the Society of Friends emphasized a direct relationship with God. One’s conscience, not the Bible, was the ultimate authority on morals and actions. William Penn, whose writings about freedom of conscience (while imprisoned in England) formed the basis of religious understanding for Quakers around the world. Penn established what would later be called Pennsylvania, an American religious sanctuary in the late 17th century. He believed in religious toleration, fair trade with Native Americans, and equal rights for women. Quakers did not have a clergy or dedicated church buildings, and therefore held their meetings in which participants deliberated silently on issues and spoke up when “the Spirit moved them.” Dressed in plain clothes, Quakers preferred a simple life over one enjoyed by the aristocracy of England and the burgeoning merchant class in the colonies. They also shared an abhorrence of violence.

Major liturgical denominations in the colonies

The oldest Christian churches: Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, have left their unique stamp on the history of religion in America. Called "liturgical" for their adherence to an elaborate, set form of ritualistic worship practices, most of those churches observe seven sacraments throughout their members’ lives, whereas later Christian denominations usually celebrated only two. They practice an allegiance to certain creeds or doctrines that originated in the early centuries of the Christian church, and profess a succession of leadership from the founding of the Christian church at Pentecost.

Roman Catholicism Even though it was not the first to arrive in the colonies, Roman Catholicism ranks as the largest Christian tradition in the U.S. with 25.6 million members, or 23 percent of the population. Arriving with the Spanish in what is now Florida in 1513, and in the southwest and on the Pacific coast when Junípero Serra began to build missions in California, they received additional members when a group of colonists settled in Maryland in 1634. Roman Catholics had at one time held tightly to their cultural roots, but later joined the rest of American society. The American church has continued its allegiance to the pope, even though many of its members disagree with him on such issues as birth control, abortion, and women in the priesthood.

Anglicanism The Church of England (later the Episcopal Church in the U.S.) was first planted on American soil at the ill-fated Roanoke colony in Virginia, when their first services were held on August 13, 1687. Since that landing, they grew and experienced numerous schisms, especially in the 1970s when changes in their attitudes towards sexuality, women’s admission to the priesthood, and their Book of Common Prayer, aroused controversy. Their worship services are similar in some ways to those of Roman Catholicism, and their clergy orders are the same: bishops, priests, and deacons. They espouse an inclusive policy toward membership.

Eastern Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy in America consists of more than a dozen church bodies whose national origin is reflected by their names, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Eastern Orthodox beliefs are based on holy tradition, or doctrines from early Christianity, and the Bible. The decrees of church councils and the writings of early church fathers establish the authority of church beliefs. Their clergy consist of bishops, priests, and deacons. Their worship services are the most elaborate of all Christian traditions.

The rise and fall of utopian communities Utopian communities were established in America as places where adherents could achieve a perfect religious, political and social system. The first community was established by a group of Dutch Mennonites in 1663 near what is now Lewes, Delaware. Between 1663 and the American Revolution, approximately 20 communities were established. Some communal living arrangements were established for religious purposes, and often to withdraw from society. The great Harmonist Society, Christians who came from Germany during the late 1700s and 1800s, fled religious persecution, then flourished in Pennsylvania and Indiana. Other such utopian communities were established by the Amish and the Shakers.

Throughout its history, the U.S. has been fertile ground for such communal living arrangements, and provided an alternative to the mainstream culture, while still reflecting some of that culture’s fundamental values. By far, the most successful in U.S. history has been the Mormons, whose leader, Joseph Smith, established Mormon communities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. He produced the Book of Mormon and other religious texts, established missionary work around the world, and participated in temple construction, among other things in his brief 39 years.

During the 1960s and 70s, those seeking self-fulfillment and personal growth joined utopian communities, many with Eastern religious masters. The majority of such communities provided an alternative lifestyle that exemplified some of the best attributes that America's original forefathers sought to provide. While most are benign, some utopian-styled communities, such as Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas Charles Manson’s creation of “Helter Skelter” and the Jim Jones ill-fated settlement in Jonestown, Guyana, inflicted a disastrous impact on its members.

Ever-changing tide of 20th-century religious followings

As the fragmentation of Christian denominations accelerated, persons living in the 20th century experienced the ebb and flow of religious conservatism and liberalism. While technology raced to the moon and beyond, the following major events occurred during that fast-paced era:

Fundamentalism. The rise of fundamentalism occurred in reaction to liberal and progressive views of Americans in the mid-19th century, biblical higher criticism, and the influx of non-Protestant immigrants at the beginning of the last century. Fundamentalists became known for their desire to emphasize a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible, and time-honored cultural patterns. Distinctive roles for men and women, parents and children, clergy and laity, were defined by readings from the Bible.

Most famously known for their stand against Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection taught in public schools, the Fundamentalist movement also takes credit for birthing the Christian Right in Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, the rise of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movements' style of worship of speaking in tongues.

Israel gains statehood After centuries of persecution, the Jewish people carved out a piece of Palestine on May 14, 1948, that became home. According to historians, President Harry S. Truman offered his country’s recognition of Israel’s statehood for the sake of those who had suffered in the Nazi concentration camps, as well as the American Jewish population. Truman’s decision went against a tide of strong opposition as represented by highly respected Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who feared retaliation from Arab countries. America’s continued support of Israel has faced much criticism and support over the years, the latter notably among American evangelical churches.

Black leaders of the Civil Rights movement Forced to take positions of influence in their local churches during America’s Reconstruction era, the Bible Belt’s black ministers emerged before the public, beginning in the 1950s after Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a public transit bus. During the next 20 years, such impassioned leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X created more change in the public and private sectors than had been seen before. Congregations from African-American Southern churches swelled and created a sustained presence on the American religious scene.

Spiritual hunger of the Sixties and Seventies Young people of the 1960s and 1970s lived during tumultuous times, witnessing the shooting of apresident, fighting the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. In their rebellion against the "establishment," those Baby Boomers and somewhat older confederates participated in the Free Speech Movement, experimentation with psychedelic drugs promulgated by former Harvard professor Timothy Leary, and explored such great world religions as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Communes, run by eastern religious teachers, promised personal enlightenment and an escape from the complexity of modern society. Transcendental Meditation (TM) swept through America as young and old attempted to cope with society’s changing times. Beginning in 1965, the Jesus Movement swept the nation, offering inner transformation and a sense of togetherness not found in the drug culture where some 2,000 “hippies” had sought it.

New Age movement Buried in the psychic mysticism of the 1800s, the New Age movement emerged with clairvoyants and psychics giving advice on past and future lives, beginning in 1968. Having once identified with the wave of Eastern spiritual masters, New Agers began to look for answers in spirituality and the occult during the 1970s. Loosely organized in general, but also containing some highly structured groups and some authoritarian ones, the movement’s vision was one of universal transformation. The movement saw itself as part of a New Age with God as the universal bonding agent for all persons. Many different methods for a personal transformation weakened the efficacy of the movement as a whole, and by the 1980s, the movement had peaked. Hopes of imminent change in the social order faded by the 1990s. Those associated with New Age groups provided the basis for a full spiritual life with religious study and literature, learning experiences, and programs oriented towards spiritual practices and self-discipline. Scientology is the fastest-growing manifestation of the movement.

America continues to be a haven for those seeking religious freedom. Some 3,000 religious groups currently exist in the country. The residue from the New Age movement’s focus on a world view and lifestyle continue to benefit the relaxation of social divisions throughout the world in the new millennium. The fragmentation of Christian denominations has slowed, with a renewed interest in cooperation and ecumenism among many of those denominations. No longer considered a melting pot, the largely Protestant population is being exposed to the world’s “great religions” and multiple ethnic groups with Buddhist neighborhoods, Indian business owners, and Muslim colleagues. A growing antipathy toward the latter among some Americans stems from the infamous attack by terrorists on U.S. targets on September 11, 2001.


War has been an integral part of Buddhist states from day one.

Unfortunately, Buddhist views of war have become deeply misunderstood by the modern West. In the West today there is a view of Buddhism that is the product of commercial marketing of Buddhism rather than a historical reality. A key factor in this is the Dalai Lama. We're not judging whether he is a good or bad man. We're saying that the kind of pacifism that he is advocating is the view of the Dalai Lama, not the history of Buddhism or even Buddhism in Tibet.

Now to understand the history of Buddhism, you need to look at the history of Buddhism. The first major ruler to adopt Buddhism was Emperor Ashoka in ancient India. Now most historians know very little about the leaders of ancient India. There is a lack of historical evidence. We know a lot about their ideas, but we don't know about them. The myth in the West is that Ashoka had a policy of pacifism, but this is rubbish. As we have pointed out in our Totalitarianism in Ancient India page, India's first Empire was a ruthless totalitarian state. Now Ashoka expanded that empire to its largest extent. We're told that after it reached a certain size that he adopted pacifistic policies. But this is not true. As the leader of a large and sophisticated empire in the ancient world, could he really afford to adopt 1960's flower power? No, he could not. In order to keep his empire in place, he needed to keep the system of ruthless control intact. Furthermore, there is evidence that Ashoka was intolerant of other religions and even called for the mass murder of the Jains for the crime of "disrespecting the Buddha." 18,000 Followers of Jainism were put to death under Ashoka's rule [1].

Now the next major Buddhist state was the Bactrian Greek Empire which conquered a good part of the older ancient Indian Empire. This again was a military state, not a bunch of pacifists. The next Buddhist state after that was the Kushan Empire. Again, another warrior state.

In the first millennium, Buddhism expanded into China and became a major part of Chinese ideology. Then it spread into Tibet. When the Mongols decided to choose a religion, they chose a variant of Tibetan Buddhism, which is why Tibetan Buddhism is in Mongolia today as well as Tibet. Now we know that no one, with a straight face, would suggest that Kublai Khan was some sort of pacifist.

Then you also have a long history of warrior monks in China. You also have the philosophy of Chán, which later became the philosophy of Zen in Japan, which led to the development of the Samurai culture, which later became influential in World War II. The Japanese imperialists in World War II had a deep interest in Zen Buddhism. So all this shows that historically, Buddhism has not been explicitly a religion of pacifism, as many Westerners would like to believe.


Now in talking about Buddhism, we will first say that it is difficult to definitively say what exactly Buddhism is and what it is not, because there are different versions and sects of Buddhism. The three major sects are Theravada (prominent in South Asia), Mahayana (prominent in East Asia), and Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism in general encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices based on the teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha, with Nirvana as the goal of the Buddhist path. While Nirvana is a goal in many religious traditions (such as Hinduism and Jainism), in Buddhism Nirvana is described as the extinguishing of the fires that cause suffering. These fires are characterized as attachment, aversion and ignorance. The cessation of suffering, which is accomplished by letting go of desires and attachments, is described as the completion of peace.

Therefore, since the end of suffering is one of the main goals of Buddhism, many could say that Buddhism is "incapable of violence." In Buddhism, as well as other Eastern religions, there is a principle of non-violence called ahimsa, which literally means "not to strike." And yet, it seems that the Buddha's teachings on non-violence were not interpreted to put into practice an "uncompromising pacifism" or anti-military stance. Many of the early Buddhist texts assumed that war would be a fact of life, and well skilled warriors are viewed as necessary in defensive warfare.[2] In Pali texts (a collection of Theravada scripture) injunctions to abstain from violence are aimed at the Sangha (which is the monastic community), not the whole community. And while the Pali texts portray the ideal king as peaceful, this king is flanked by an army nevertheless. In various Buddhist commentaries and traditions, defensive war - or violence to prevent violence - has been promoted as a Buddhist principle. One example is the story of the compassionate ship captain in the Mark Tatz’ Skill in Means Sutra. In this story, a compassionate captain kills a criminal who is about to kill 500 people on a boat. Even though the captain will suffer negative karma for the sin of murder, his action is hailed as virtuous, because he prevented the deaths of 500 by killing one. [3]. So in some readings and interpretations of Buddhist scripture, there is a concept of just, or compassionate killing.

Are we saying that all Buddhism is violent and that there are no peaceful teachings to be found? No. But we're saying that a lot of Buddhist history has been misinterpreted as"flower power" by the West. There is an idea that there were absolutely no Buddhist wars to be heard of, or that the Buddhist principles were never used by any culture to justify violence. But this is simply not true.

The reality of Buddhist history is much more nuanced, and much more violent, than many Westerners would like to believe. So below we present a view of Buddhist history that is often omitted from Western classrooms and text-books.



The tradition of the warrior Buddhist monk in China is hundreds of years old. The most well known Buddhist warrior monks are the Shaolin monks.

The history of Shaolin monks began about 1500 years ago. The Shaolin Monastery is one of the most famous temples in China today, renown for its kung fu fighting monks. With amazing feats of strength, flexibility and pain-endurance, the Shaolin monks have created a world-wide reputation as Buddhist warriors. There are also plenty of examples throughout history where the Shaolin monks acted as a para-military force for different causes. For instance, in 618, the Shaolin monks fought on the side of a rebel official from the Sui Court, Li Shimin, who became the second Tang Emperor. In the mid-sixteenth century, they were called upon to fight Japanese pirates. Their order survived various pitfalls and setbacks - including China's "Cultural Revolution" starting in 1966, where monks were flogged through the streets, jailed, and their temples sacked. However, they survived this rocky period, and now the Shaolin monks are among the best known fighting monks on Earth. They put on martial arts displays at world capitals, and thousands of films have been made about their exploits. In fact, the 1982 film Shaolin Shi or "Shaolin Temple," was Jet Li's (Li Lianjie) debut film. The movie was based very loosely on the story of the monks' aid to Li Shimin, and became a huge smash hit in China. (Asian History)


At its height in 1300, the Mongol Empire had conquered land stretching from Korea to Hungary. Historians regard Mongol raids and invasions as some of the deadliest conflicts in human history. Their empire established itself through a series of brutal conquests and invasions throughout Western Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Large areas were entirely depopulated. Almost all towns that resisted the Mongols were subject to complete destruction. The Mongol invasions induced population displacement on a scale previously unseen in history. In fact, so many people were killed that carbon levels plummeted and huge swaths of cultivated land returned to forest.

The success of Mongol tactics hinged on terror. They wanted their subjects to think that their army was larger than it actually was, so part of the way they accomplished this feat was via mass killing. Other famous terror tactics of the Mongols include that of a later Mongolian chieftain, Tamerlane. He built a pyramid of 90,000 human heads in front of the walls of Delhi, in order to convince the town to surrender during his Indian Campaign. Then another tactic of terror favored by the Mongols was to catapult severed human heads over city walls to frighten the inhabitants and spread disease in the city's confines. In fact, many Historians attribute the spread of the Bubonic plague through Asia and Europe to the Mongol conquests.

Now considering the violence we have just described above, many Westerners would be completely shocked to discover that Tibetan Buddhism was a religious practice highly supported by the Mongols. Especially during and after the rule of Khubilai Khan. Now we're not saying that all Mongols were Tibetan Buddhists. A variety of religions flourished under the Mongolian Empire - including Islam and Christianity. The Mongols also had their own ethnic, shamanic traditions.

However, it would be a mistake to ignore the influence that Tibetan Buddhism had on the Mongols. (Tibetan Buddhism, The Mongolian Religion).


The Mongols were tolerant of many religions, and were particularly captivated by Buddhism - specifically Tibetan Buddhism. They recruited a number of Tibetan monks to help them rule China and promote the interests of Buddhism. The most important of these monks was a man named 'Phags-pa.' He was so successful that he became one of Khubilai Khan's closest advisers (Khubilai Khan was the grandson of Genghis Khan, and in addition to being a Mongolian ruler, he was an Emperor of China). Khubilai Khan and Phags-pa met around 1254, and Khubilai was very impressed with the young monk. Within a short time, Khubilai became 'Phags-pa's patron and 'Phags-pa became Khubilai's religious confidante. Khubilai even offered Phags-pa the title of State Preceptor in 1260 and Imperial Preceptor in 1270.

The Tibetan Buddhists had so much support from the Mongols, that Khubilai Khan even assisted them in their battle against the Daoists. Daoism was embroiled in a struggle with Buddhism at the time, that flared into a pitched battle with the actual monks of the two religions fighting one another. Khubilai Khan imposed severe limitations on the Daoists. He converted a considerable number of Daoist monasteries into Buddhist monasteries, some Daoist monks were defrocked, and some of the wealth and property of the Daoists was taken over by the Mongol state.

So why were the Tibetan Buddhists supported by the Mongols? Some historians say that the Tibetan faith was successful among the Mongols because of the similarities between their cultures. They had a mutual distance - geographically and culturally from the Chinese, both Mongolia and Tibet are high plateaus of Inner Asia, and their open steppes and cold, arid climate made both their people well-suited to nomadism. And some historians even say that it was easier for Mongols to mingle and associate with the semi-nomadic Tibetans, rather than the purely agricultural Chinese.

Centuries after the death of Khubilai Khan, Tibetan Buddhism gained further influence among the Mongols when Altan Khan, the king of the Tümed Mongols, first invited Sonam Gyatso, the head of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism to Mongolia in 1569. Gyatso did not accept the invitation the first time, but then accepted when he was invited again in 1578. Gyatso met with King Altan Khan at the site of Altan Khan's new capital, Koko Khotan (Hohhot), and Sonam Gyatso gave teachings to a huge crowd there. Then Sonam Gyatso publicly announced that he was a reincarnation of the monk Phags-pa who converted Khubila Khan, while Altan Khan was a reincarnation of Khubila Khan, and that they had come together again (in a new time period and incarnation) to cooperate in propagating the Buddhist religion. This claim was used by Altan Khan to legitimize the power of Mongolian nobility.

So if this is confusing, let us explain. Sonam Gyatso declared himself Dalai Lama, and then retroactively made his predecessors into the first and second Dalai Lamas, while declaring himself the third Dalai Lama. Sonam Gyatso then used his new title to seize monasteries that did not belong to his sect and destroy Buddhist writings that conflicted with his claim of divinity. The Dalai Lama who succeeded him enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle, filled with many mistresses, parties, and other activities that did not seem fit for an incarnated deity.

Then the next Dalai Lama after him (the 5th one) began construction on the Potala Palace in 1645, a magnificent structure with 1,000 rooms and 14 stories. Here the Dalai Lamas lived in the veritable lap of luxury until 1959, when the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama fled to India during the Tibetan Uprising.


For hundreds of years, competing Tibetan Buddhist sects engaged in violent clashes. In 1660, the 5th Dalai Lama was faced with a rebellion in the Tsang province, the stronghold of the rival Kagyu sect with its high lama known as the Karmapa. The 5th Dalai Lama called for harsh retribution against the rebels, directing the Mongol army to obliterate the male and female lines, and the offspring too “like eggs smashed against rocks…. In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names.” [4]

In 1792, many Kagyu monasteries were confiscated and their monks were forcibly converted to the Gelug sect (the Dalai Lama’s denomination). The Gelug school, known also as the “Yellow Hats,” showed little tolerance or willingness to mix their teachings with other Buddhist sects. In the words of one of their traditional prayers: “Praise to you, violent god of the Yellow Hat teachings/who reduces to particles of dust/ great beings, high officials and ordinary people/ who pollute and corrupt the Gelug doctrine.” [5] An eighteenth-century memoir of a Tibetan general depicts sectarian strife among Buddhists that is as brutal and bloody as any religious conflict might be. [6] (Friendly Feudalism: The Tibetan Myth)

So rather than being a picture of Shangri la, Tibetan history is not far different from that of the rivaling clashes among feudal lords in Europe. Much of the ideas of Tibetan pacifism derive from the current Dalai Lama. Yet even he was involved in war. Here he is with his CIA backed soldiers.


Just as Tibetan Buddhism was influential to Tibetan and Mongol warriors, Zen Buddhism would also play a role in developing ideas of the Samurai warrior in Japan.

Japanese religion historically has been characterized by a mixture of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. Shinto is an ethnic religion of the Japanese people. Buddhism was spread to Japan primarily through Korean and Chinese cultural influence. In the sixth century, the Korean king of Packche, anxious to establish relations with Japan, sent gifts and images of Buddha and copies of Buddhist texts, and from the sixth century onward, many Japanese people practiced both Shinto and Buddhism. Unlike in the West, many Asian religions are not exclusive, so they can be practiced simultaneously.


Zen Buddhism would later come to Japan in the 12th century. It is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty, a school originally known as "Chán." It was strongly influenced by Taoism and developed as a distinguished Chinese style of Buddhism. Then from China it spread to Vietnam, Korea, and then to Japan - where it became known as "Zen Buddhism." Zen Buddhism (as well as Shinto practices) would later influence Bushido, the code of the Samurai warrior during the Feudal Period of Japanese history. Bushido, "the way of the warrior," was a stringent moral code.

In Bushido (1899), Nitobe wrote: "SOURCES OF BUSHIDO, of which I may begin with Buddhism. It furnished a sense of calm trust in Fate, a quiet submission to the inevitable, that stoic composure in sight of danger or calamity, that disdain of life and friendliness with death. A foremost teacher of swordsmanship, when he saw his pupil master the utmost of his art, told him, 'Beyond this my instruction must give way to Zen teaching.'" (Gutenberg)

The sword, as a Buddhist symbol for cutting through delusion, became an object of veneration in Bushido. Of the sword, Nitobe wrote, "BUSHIDO made the sword its emblem of power and prowess. When Mahomet proclaimed that 'the sword is the key of Heaven and of Hell," he only echoed a Japanese sentiment.'" (Sacred-Texts)

While the Zen Buddhist part of the teaching focused on cultivating a stillness of mind in the chaos of battle, the Shinto part emphasized a loyalty to sovereignty and filial piety. "What Buddhism failed to give, Shintoism offered in abundance. Such loyalty to the sovereign, such reverence for ancestral memory, and such filial piety as are not taught by any other creed, were inculcated by the Shinto doctrines." (Gutenberg)


Around 1645, A Book of Five Rings was written by Miyamoto Mushashi. The five books refer to the idea that there are different elements in battle, just as there are different physical elements in life, as described by Buddhism, Shinto and Eastern religions. The idea of the four or five elements is popularized today in the Western study of Eastern religions. Yet what many Westerners may not know is that the fifth element is "void." The book of void is probably the most Zen influenced of the books. There is an emphasis on how one's consciousness and mind-set effect their skill in battle, and how clearing the mind - or making the mind empty - can help increase one's focus and clarity in the battle field.

While the age of the samurai warrior ended during the Meji period of modernization in Japan (1868-1912), many of these ideas would carry on into World War II to define ideas of nationalism and "just killing."



When many Westerners look at Japan during World War II, they think that this era was an aberration of Japanese history, and that ideas of Zen Buddhism historically promoted peace in the region. But the promotion of violence and national pride in World War II era Japan represent long term trends in Japan, the extension of Bushido and the warrior ethic of the samurai. In the same way that some Zen Buddhist ideas were used to develop a warrior code in Feudal Era Japan, these ideas were referenced once again by Japanese intellectuals and leaders to support the war effort in the 1930's and 40's.

What is interesting is that Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, one of the chief intellectuals involved in bringing Buddhism to the west, was a fervent supporter of the war. It was only after World War II that he repudiated these ideas.

In the 19th and 20th century, Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki was a notorious Japanese author of books and essays on Buddhism, Zen and Shin. His works and teachings were instrumental in spreading interest in both Zen and Shin (and Far Eastern philosophy in general) to the West. Suzuki was also a prolific translator of Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit literature. Suzuki spent several lengthy stretches teaching and lecturing at Western universities, and devoted many years to a professorship at Otani University, a Japanese Buddhist school.

Suzuki presents a version of Zen that can be described as "detraditionalized and essentialized." This resemblance is not coincidental, since Suzuki was also influenced by Western esotericism,[7] and even joined the Theosophical Society.

In the text, "The Making of Buddhist Modernism," the author McMahan stated. "In his discussion of humanity and nature, Suzuki takes Zen literature out of its social, ritual, and ethical contexts and reframes it in terms of a language of metaphysics derived from German Romantic idealism, English Romanticism, and American Transcendentalism [8]."

Another author marked Suzuki's approach as "incomprehensible":

. D. T. Suzuki, whose most cherished methodology seems to have been to describe some aspect of Zen as beyond ordinary explanation, then offer a suitably incomprehensible story or two by way of illustration. Obviously, Suzuki's approach captured the imaginations of generations of readers. However, while this approach substantiated Suzuki's authority as one with insider access to the profound truths of the tradition, another result was to increase the confusion in reader's minds. To question such accounts was to admit one did not "get it", to distance oneself even further from the goal of achieving what Suzuki termed the "Zen enlightenment experience" [9].


Suzuki has been criticized for defending the Japanese war-efforts and nationalistic ideals.

In 1896 as the war with China began, Suzuki wrote, "religion should, first of all, seek to preserve the existence of the state."(Kyoto Journal). Suzuki used poetic language in praise of Japanese soldiers. "Our soldiers regard their own lives as being as light as goose feathers while their devotion to duty is as heavy as Mount Taishan (in China). Should they fall on the battlefields, they have no regrets." (The Asia-Pacific Journal). This metaphor of "goose feathers" would become a major point of military indoctrination. Recruits and the young kamikaze ("divine wind") pilots were taught that their individual lives were meaningless and had no weight. Only total devotion to the emperor would give their existence meaning. Suzuki also popularized the bushido concept of the "sword that gives life" that was used over and over again to rationalize killing [10].

Years later, this concept was also referenced by Japan's ambassador Kurusu Saburo at the signing of the Tripartite Pact in 1941, which brought the three Axis Powers together. Ambassador Saburo declared that "the pillar of Japan is to be found in Bushido," and referenced the sword that gives life [11].

Japan’s major war began in 1931 with the invasion of Manchuria. From the mid-1930's, Zen academics and abbots embarked on an intellectual campaign to justify the war. They taught that "compassionate war" was a Bodhisattva practice and was of great benefit to Japan’s enemies. In 1937, two Soto Zen scholars claimed that Japan was motivated by the highest ideals of Buddhism: "there is no choice but to wage compassionate wars which give life to both oneself and one's enemy. Through a compassionate war, warring nations are able to improve themselves and war is able to exterminate itself " [12] During this period, millions of Chinese were dying and cities were being decimated.

In 1937, D. T. Suzuki was finishing Zen and Japanese Culture, in which he wrote that Zen "treats life and death indifferently" and "is a religion that teaches us not to look backward once the course is decided." [13]. He wrote that Zen "has no special doctrine or philosophy. It is therefore extremely flexible in adapting itself to almost any philosophy and moral doctrine as long as its intuitive teaching is not interfered with." Zen can be "wedded to anarchism or fascism, communism or democracy. or any political or economic dogmatism." [14].


The writer Brian Victoria delivered lectures in Germany in 2012 in which he revealed evidence of Suzuki's sympathy for the Nazi regime. "D.T. Suzuki left a record of his early view of the Nazi movement that was included in a series of articles published in the Japanese Buddhist newspaper, Chūgai Nippō, on October 3, 4, 6, 11, and 13, 1936."[15]

In this Suzuki expresses his agreement with Hitler's policies as explained to him by a relative living in Germany. "While they don't know much about politics, they have never enjoyed greater peace of mind than they have now. For this alone, they want to cheer Hitler on. This is what my relative told me. It is quite understandable, and I am in agreement with him." He also expresses agreement with Hitler's expulsion of the Jews from Germany. "Changing the topic to Hitler's expulsion of the Jews, it appears that in this, too, there are a lot of reasons for his actions. While it is a very cruel policy, when looked at from the point of view of the current and future happiness of the entire German people, it may be that, for a time, some sort of extreme action is necessary in order to preserve the nation."

Yet even after making these statements, Suzuki did express sympathy for individual Jews. "As regards individuals, this is truly a regrettable situation." [15]


The Nihonjinron-philosophy emphasizes the uniqueness of the Japanese. Suzuki attributes Japanese uniqueness to Zen. In his view, Zen embodies the ultimate essence of all philosophy and religion. He pictured Zen as a unique expression of Asian spirituality, which was considered to be superior to the western ways of thinking. [16]

Sharf criticizes this uniqueness-theses, as propagated by Suzuki: "The nihonjinron cultural exceptionalism polemic in Suzuki's work—the grotesque caricatures of 'East' versus 'West'—is no doubt the most egregiously inane manifestation of his nationalist leanings. [17]"


Yet in the aftermath of World War II, Suzuki completely changed his tune, and in 1963, he was even nominated for as Nobel Peace Prize.


So far, we have discussed aspects of Buddhist violence in the past, as well as some support for violence and war among Japanese Buddhists in World War II. However, is Buddhism all peace today - as many Westerners would agree? In the book Buddhist Warfare, authors Michael Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer would disagree.

In an article on religion-dispatches, Michael Jerryson discusses his encounters with Buddhist soldiers in Thailand.

In January 2004, violent attacks broke out in the southern provinces of Thailand, some of which were directed at Buddhist monks. These attacks renewed fears of Islamic separatism in the region. This southern region once known as the "The Islamic Sultanate of Patani" was annexed by Buddhist Thailand in 1902 as a buffer against British Malaya. Over the centuries, Malay Muslims have struggled to regain their political autonomy from Thailand. Whenever the central government was weak, southern Thai resistance flared. Since January 2004, the region has been under martial law. Violence is pervasive in the region people live in constant fear. And now while Thailand is over 90 percent Buddhist, the three southernmost provinces are more than 85 percent Malay Muslim.

In the 1960's groups such as the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) and Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) engaged in armed resistance and then attempted to negotiate with the Thai government. These organizations opposed policies requiring Muslims to bow to Buddhist statues, take Thai surnames, and abandon their Malay heritage and language of Bahasa Melayu. The Malay Muslim organizations called for changes to these regional policies and asked for limited autonomy. While the Thai government capitulated to some of their requests, the changes did not last long. Malay Muslim ambassadors who sought to negotiate with the Thai government, such as the religious leader and scholar Hajji Sulong, went missing and were later found dead. It is through these experiences that the Malay Muslim community developed a deep distrust of the Thai government and its promise of negotiations. This perspective is shared by Thailand’s southern neighboring country Malaysia, which had tried to broker peace negotiations. (Lionsroar)

In the 2004 attacks, thousands died in sporadic bombing and random shootings. Writer Michael Jerryson states that he went to Thailand in order to see Buddhist peace making in action in response to the violent attacks in 2004. But once he arrived, he says that there wasn't very much peacemaking to be seen. "During my visits between 2006 and 2008, southern Thai monks shared the challenges of living in their fear-infested communities. All but a few concentrated on survival peacemaking was the last thing on their minds." (religion-dispatches)

Since the 2004 attacks, the Thai government has militarized Buddhist temples, authorized clandestine military monks, and enforced brutal counterinsurgent directives and interrogation techniques (oftentimes on Buddhist temple grounds). So far, these actions have only worsened Muslim-Buddhist tensions.

Many other Buddhists in the region believe that military monks are essential to protecting Buddhism in southern Thailand, and that if Muslims drive the Buddhists out of southern Thailand, order and morality will be pushed out as well. (Lionsroar)

Religion in Thailand has also become a proxy for political conflict and corruption. The front runner for Supreme Patriarch (the head of the order of Buddhist monks in Thailand) is a 90-year-old abbot who is under investigation for a tax scam involving luxury cars. His competitor is a firebrand monk known for his part in street protests backed by the royalist military elite who helped usher in Thailand's junta back in 2014. This cleric says the government must honor a pledge to stamp out corruption. Thai Buddhist leaders battle over politics, sex and money scandals.

Buddhist violence against Muslims (and some Christians) is also intensifying in Myanmar.

The ethnic Rohingyas are an ethnic Muslim minority in the mostly Buddhist country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). They have been called the most persecuted people on Earth. They are unable to claim citizenship in Myanmar (where about 1.1m of them live in Rakhine). Things took a turn for the worse in 2012. Tensions were sparked by the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by three Muslim men, and so about 200 people were killed as Rakhine mobs rampaged through Sittwe and other parts of Rakhine to drive the Rohingyas from their midst. Tens of thousands of Rohingyas were forced into camps, cut off from their livelihoods, and barred from schools and hospitals.

Researchers at the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), a cross-disciplinary academic group, argue that some of this violence was organized. They spoke to Rakhine men who claimed they were bussed into Sittwe to attack Muslims, and were encouraged to bring knives. They were given free food for a day’s work. In the fervently anti-Muslim atmosphere of Myanmar, encouraged by both Buddhist monks and politicians concerned to defend their “race and religion” against the supposed Muslim threat, this is seen as "good politics." Professor Penny Green of the ISCI argues that the ethnic cleansing of 2012 was a stage in what she describes as the “process of genocide”. (The Economist).

Since 2012, the Rohingyas have been forced into squalid refugee camps after the local Buddhists turned on them. Human-rights groups warn that the situation in Rakhine is now so desperate that, in the words of the Simon-Skjodt Centre of America’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, which campaigns to prevent genocide, the Rohingyas are “at grave risk [of] additional mass atrocities and even genocide”. (The Economist). Many of these ethnic minorities have even been forced to do harsh physical labor without pay. Now hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to southern Bangladesh. And yet despite the violence, most of the Rohingyas have remained fairly peaceful, choosing flight over fight.

In Myanmar, a strong ultranationalist group is helping the country's ruling party to win votes by pushing anti-muslim laws. The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) used its parliamentary majority to push through anti-islamic laws with the belief that the Buddhist nationalist group, Ma Ba Tha would help them get votes. Formally known in English as the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, Ma Ba Tha grew out of the “969” movement, also led by monks, which called for a ban on interfaith marriages and a boycott of Muslim businesses. (United Humanists).

Ironically, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese social democratic stateswoman who won a Nobel Prize for being a human rights activist, has turned a blind eye toward the suffering of Muslims in her own country. Aung San Suu Kyi's 'silence' on the Rohingya: Has 'The Lady' lost her voice?

Did the Indo-Greeks play a crucial role in promoting Buddhism? - History

An important legacy of the Mongols' reign in China was their support of many religions.

Islam, for example, was well supported, and the Mongols built quite a number of mosques in China. The Mongols also recruited and employed Islamic financial administrators — a move that led to good relations with the Islamic world beyond China, in particular with Persia and West Asia. [Also see The Mongols' Mark on Global History: Relations with Islam]

The Mongols were also captivated by Buddhism — particularly the Tibetan form of Buddhism — and they recruited a number of Tibetan monks to help them rule China and promote the interests of Buddhism. The most important of these monks was the Tibetan 'Phags-pa Lama. This policy resulted in an astonishing increase in the number of Buddhist monasteries in China, as well as in the translation of Buddhist texts.

Even Nestorian Christianity was promoted by the Mongols, partly because Khubilai Khan's own mother was an adherent of that faith.

There was one religion, however, that did not have Mongol support: Daoism. Daoism was at that time embroiled in a struggle with Buddhism that often flared into actual pitched battles between the monks of the two religions. The Mongols, siding with the Buddhists, did not look favorably upon the Daoists. In fact, at a meeting in 1281 where Buddhist and Daoist monks debated the merits of their individual religions, Khubilai Khan supported the Buddhists and imposed severe limits on Daoism. As a result of this meeting, a considerable number of Daoist monasteries were converted into Buddhist monasteries, some Daoist monks were defrocked, and some of the wealth and property of the Daoists was taken over either by the Mongol state or by Buddhist monasteries. [Chinggis Khan, on the other hand, favored Daoism. Read more about Chinggis Khan's Legacy of Religious Tolerance]

For more on the Mongols' tactic of religious tolerance, see:
• The Mongols' Mark on Global History: Religious Tolerance

→ NEXT: Cultural Life Under Mongol Rule

Autumn Colors on the Ch'iao and Hua Mountains by Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), National Palace Museum, Taipei


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Ashoka, also spelled Aśoka, (died 238? bce , India), last major emperor of the Mauryan dynasty of India. His vigorous patronage of Buddhism during his reign (c. 265–238 bce also given as c. 273–232 bce ) furthered the expansion of that religion throughout India. Following his successful but bloody conquest of the Kalinga country on the east coast, Ashoka renounced armed conquest and adopted a policy that he called “conquest by dharma” (i.e., by principles of right life).

How did Ashoka become so famous?

Ashoka’s fame is largely due to his pillar and rock edicts, which allowed him to reach a wide audience and left a lasting historical record. He is remembered as a model ruler, controlling a vast and diverse Mauryan empire through peace and respect, with dharma at the centre of his ideology.

What were Ashoka’s achievements?

Ashoka was able to rule over the vast and diverse Mauryan empire through a centralized policy of dharma that favoured peace and tolerance and that administered public works and social welfare. He likewise patronized the spread of Buddhism and art throughout the empire.

How did Ashoka come to power?

Ashoka was the third emperor of the Mauryan dynasty, grandson of its founder Chandragupta and son of the second emperor, Bindusara. Upon Bindusara’s death, Ashoka and his brothers engaged in a war of succession, and Ashoka emerged victorious after several years of conflict.

What were Ashoka’s beliefs?

After Ashoka’s successful but devastating conquest of Kalinga early in his rule, he converted to Buddhism and was inspired by its doctrine of dharma. Thereafter, he ruled his empire through peace and tolerance and focused on public works and building up the empire rather than expanding it.

In order to gain wide publicity for his teachings and his work, Ashoka made them known by means of oral announcements and by engravings on rocks and pillars at suitable sites. These inscriptions—the rock edicts and pillar edicts (e.g., the lion capital of the pillar found at Sarnath, which has become India’s national emblem), mostly dated in various years of his reign—contain statements regarding his thoughts and actions and provide information on his life and acts. His utterances rang of frankness and sincerity.

According to his own accounts, Ashoka conquered the Kalinga country (modern Orissa state) in the eighth year of his reign. The sufferings that the war inflicted on the defeated people moved him to such remorse that he renounced armed conquests. It was at this time that he came in touch with Buddhism and adopted it. Under its influence and prompted by his own dynamic temperament, he resolved to live according to, and preach, the dharma and to serve his subjects and all humanity.

Ashoka repeatedly declared that he understood dharma to be the energetic practice of the sociomoral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, mercifulness, benevolence, nonviolence, considerate behaviour toward all, “little sin and many good deeds,” nonextravagance, nonacquisitiveness, and noninjury to animals. He spoke of no particular mode of religious creed or worship, nor of any philosophical doctrines. He spoke of Buddhism only to his coreligionists and not to others.

Toward all religious sects he adopted a policy of respect and guaranteed them full freedom to live according to their own principles, but he also urged them to exert themselves for the “increase of their inner worthiness.” Moreover, he exhorted them to respect the creeds of others, praise the good points of others, and refrain from vehement adverse criticism of the viewpoints of others.

To practice the dharma actively, Ashoka went out on periodic tours preaching the dharma to the rural people and relieving their sufferings. He ordered his high officials to do the same, in addition to attending to their normal duties he exhorted administrative officers to be constantly aware of the joys and sorrows of the common folk and to be prompt and impartial in dispensing justice. A special class of high officers, designated “dharma ministers,” was appointed to foster dharma work by the public, relieve suffering wherever found, and look to the special needs of women, of people inhabiting outlying regions, of neighbouring peoples, and of various religious communities. It was ordered that matters concerning public welfare were to be reported to him at all times. The only glory he sought, he said, was for having led his people along the path of dharma. No doubts are left in the minds of readers of his inscriptions regarding his earnest zeal for serving his subjects. More success was attained in his work, he said, by reasoning with people than by issuing commands.

Among his works of public utility were the founding of hospitals for people and animals, the planting of roadside trees and groves, the digging of wells, and the construction of watering sheds and rest houses. Orders were also issued for curbing public laxities and preventing cruelty to animals. With the death of Ashoka, the Mauryan empire disintegrated and his work was discontinued. His memory survives for what he attempted to achieve and the high ideals he held before himself.

Most enduring were Ashoka’s services to Buddhism. He built a number of stupas (commemorative burial mounds) and monasteries and erected pillars on which he ordered inscribed his understanding of religious doctrines. He took strong measures to suppress schisms within the sangha (the Buddhist religious community) and prescribed a course of scriptural studies for adherents. The Sinhalese chronicle Mahavamsa says that when the order decided to send preaching missions abroad, Ashoka helped them enthusiastically and sent his own son and daughter as missionaries to Sri Lanka. It is as a result of Ashoka’s patronage that Buddhism, which until then was a small sect confined to particular localities, spread throughout India and subsequently beyond the frontiers of the country.

A sample quotation that illustrates the spirit that guided Ashoka is:

All men are my children. As for my own children I desire that they may be provided with all the welfare and happiness of this world and of the next, so do I desire for all men as well.

The Chaldeans in the Bible

The Chaldeans may be best known from the Bible. There, they are associated with the city of Ur and the Biblical patriarch Abraham, who was born in Ur. When Abraham left Ur with his family, the Bible says, "They went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan. " (Genesis 11:31). The Chaldeans pop up in the Bible again and again for example, they are part of the army Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, uses to surround Jerusalem (2 Kings 25).

In fact, Nebuchadnezzar may have been of partial Chaldean descent himself. Along with several other groups, like the Kassites and Arameans, the Chaldeans kicked off a dynasty that would create the Neo-Babylonian Empire it ruled Babylonia from about 625 B.C. until 538 B.C., when the Persian King Cyrus the Great invaded.

"Chaldean" A Dictionary of World History. Oxford University Press, 2000, and "Chaldeans" The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Timothy Darvill. Oxford University Press, 2008.

"Arabs" in Babylonia in the 8th Century B. C.," by I. Ephʿal. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 94, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar. 1974), pp. 108-115.


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