The great "religions of peace" like Christianity and Islam had some quite turbulent events that seem in major conflict with their primary commandments, but still in the name of faith - even "within" (like bloody wars between catholics and protestants).

Buddhism shuns all violence, but I'm curious how true to this philosophy did the believers remained through ages. Was there ever any major conflict involving violent confrontation, in which Buddhists would fight (violently, not passively) in defense of their religion? Are there any "shameful moments of Buddhism" like there are so many in other major religions?


3 Answers 3


It's not a major violent conflict like a war or something, but Buddhist monks have been involved in violent anti-muslim protests in Myanmar and in Sri Lanka in the last few years. An organization called Bodu Bala Sena, which is Sinhalese for 'Buddhist Power Force', has been stirring up and supporting these protests. The organisation was founded by two Buddhist monks with the goal to:

support militancy against minorities to preserve the dominance of the Buddhist majority (source The Economist)

However, since they left their monastery it is questionable if the founders can still be seen as Buddhist monks. More info also in this recent Time newsarticle.

  • 5
    That article about Bodu Bala Sena attacking muslims is so shamefully biased and twisted. It all started when the muslims in the area blatantly attacked a monk who was just going in a van to attend an alms giving. A mob of muslims were blocking the road and the driver of the van honked to signal them to make way. They got riled by that and attacked the driver and the monk. asianmirror.lk/news/item/… Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 18:53
  • @SankhaKulathantille Since I've never been in Myanmar or Sri Lanka so I can't verify the BBS article I posted, but in the link you've posted the BBS monk says "They (the muslims) want us to attack them and create a huge drama over that.". I find that very hard to believe.
    – THelper
    Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 6:22
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    That's not so hard to believe if you knew what's going on here. There are so many foreign funded groups within Sri Lanka who are trying to create religious and ethnic unrest. The objective is to make it look like the minorities are being discriminated specially when the US and some western countries are desperately trying to bring a human rights resolution against Sri Lanka. The country is developing at a fast pace after the war and some countries just can't stand it. They want to destabilize the country and create something like an Arab spring here. Look at what's happening to Thailand. Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 15:59
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    Yes, the BBS is founded by 2 monks. But they are more of a nationalistic movement than a Buddhist movement. They get involved in conflicts whenever the law and order fail to protect the human rights of Buddhists. But they do not represent the Sangha or the Buddhist community in Sri Lanka Commented Aug 23, 2014 at 17:33
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    I find this article about protests in Myanmar rather thought-provoking...
    – Rabbit
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 10:59

Suggested reading: Buddhist Warfare - Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergenmeyer. A view of the contents:

  • Making Merit through warfare according to the Arya-Bodhisaattva-upayavisaya-nirdesa-sutra

  • Sacralized Warfare: The Fifth Dalai Lama and the discourse on religious violence.

  • Soldier-zen in wartime Japan

  • Buddhists in China during the Korean War

  • Onward Buddhist Soldiers: Preaching to the Sri Lankan Army

  • Militarizing Buddhism: Violence in Southern Thailand

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    Was any of these on religious background? E.g. Korean war was definitely a part of the Cold War, no religious background at all.
    – SF.
    Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 17:58
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    The Sri Lankan army did not go to war in the name of Buddhism or against another religion. They waged war against terrorists to protect the sovereignty of the country. Commented Aug 20, 2014 at 18:01
  • @Sankha Kulathantille As Buddhists they should let go of attachments to their country, shouldn't they?
    – michau
    Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 9:27
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    Yes, but they went to war as patriots. Not as Buddhists. Or not because they wanted to convert people to Buddhism. Commented Aug 30, 2014 at 9:34

Zen at War describes the role of Zen in the Japanese militarism in the 19th and the 20th century. A quote from Harada Daiun Sogaku (after Wikipedia):

[If ordered to] march: tramp, tramp, or shoot: bang, bang. This is the manifestation of the highest Wisdom [of Enlightenment]. The unity of Zen and war of which I speak extends to the farthest reaches of the holy war [now under way].

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