On the bombing at Bodh Gaya, Buddhism’s holiest site

Though we still don’t know who carried out the attacks or why, the basic details seem pretty straight-forward:

  • 8 or 9 small explosions took place early this morning in and around the Mahabodhi Temple today
  • at least two foreign monks were injured (one Tibetan and one from Burma/Myanmar)
  • no one was killed
  • one person has been detained by police for questioning
  • Immediate response from the Bauddh Commune International (local Buddhist group) was a peace vigil

You can watch IBN’s latest coverage here:

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While the response of the local Buddhists speaks volumes, I find it helpful to look at the words of great Buddhists in times like these. The Buddha himself had simple enough advice:

“Hatred is not overcome by hatred,
By love alone is hatred overcome.
This is an eternal law.”

—- Dhammapada v.5

“All tremble at the rod.
All fear death.
Comparing others with oneself,
one should neither strike nor cause to strike.”

—- Dhammapada v.129



Simply sitting with these verses is enough.

While we may send our wishes – for healing, for love, for support – to those effected, let us not forget the perpetrators who also tremble, fear, and hold great pain inside them. And let us not forget those hurt and killed in the Canada crude oil train explosion, in the airplane crash in San Francisco, or the nine dead and dozens wounded in Chicago over the weekend, just to name a few other examples of the profound suffering to be found in this human existence.

Let us not talk of ourselves as victims or them as murderers, but rather let us see our common, very flawed, humanity and ask:

how can we make it better?

  • Prateyeka

    It is important to focus on compassion and peace as the Buddha taught, but these are instructions for pacifying the emotions not dulling the mind. We should not let our fear of our aggressive emotions blind us to the other half of the Buddha’s teaching on wisdom. There is right view, and there is wrong view. The tribal idea of holy war, which is a major element of all three Abrahamic religions, is a very real example of wrong view, and we should not be afraid to point it out regardless of its political incorrectness. Those who are likely responsible for these bombings have been smashing their way through buddhist civilisations since they left the Arabian peninsula. It is not enough for them to rule the lands they conquer. They must also chop the heads off statues and bomb pilgrims who are the paragons of peace and tolerance in this world. It would not occur to the two courageous bodhisattvas who were injured to speak against the disgusting violence done to them or the bellicose ideology that justifies it. I will speak against it. Saccharine odes to compassion be damned, I will speak against it.

    This unpleasant but necessary truth being uttered, I hope one day that the rays of my compassion will touch the souls of the bombers and the blind clerics, who will certainly reap the karma of immediate consequence for what they have done.

    • justinwhitaker

      Dear Prateyeka,

      Yes there are wrong views and it is wise to speak against them; just keep in mind that how you speak, when you speak, etc are important. Speak harshly and/or skew facts out of anger and you’re likely to only make the situation worse.

      Some of those ‘paragons of peace and tolerance’ have recently been implicated in spreading hatred in their own lands toward Muslims – this surely is not helpful, is it?

  • DurgaMata

    This has nothing to do with right or wrong views – as you say below, Prateyeka. It is just about fear of difference. The Buddhists are forgetting the teachings of their religion and trying to drive out what is a small minority in their country of basically peaceful people. They desperately need to be reminded of the teachings of Buddhism before we have another genocide on our hands.

    It is all about fear, rumour and prejudice.

    I am sure you are aware of this, but if not, the following article will help.

    (Reuters) – Security forces struggled to control Buddhist mobs who burned Muslim homes on Wednesday for a second day in the northern Myanmar city of Lashio in a dangerous widening of ultra-nationalist Buddhist violence.

    Scores of young men and boys on motorbikes and on foot marauded through the city of 130,000 people, some singing nationalist songs, a day after a mosque and religious school were torched.

    One person was killed and four were wounded in fighting, Ye Htut, spokesman for President Thein Sein, said in a Facebook post. Police fired guns to disperse the crowds, he said.

    The violence in this city in a mountainous region near Myanmar’s northeastern border with China, about 700 km (430 miles) from the commercial capital Yangon, shows how far anti-Muslim anger is spreading in the Buddhist-dominated country.

    The religious unrest erupted in western Rakhine State last year and spread into the central heartlands and areas near Yangon this year.

    The unleashing of ethnic hatred since 49 years of military rule ended in March 2011 raises questions over whether the reformist Thein Sein has full control over security forces as Myanmar sees its most dramatic changes since a coup in 1962.

    By early evening, Muslims shops and homes were still burning in one quarter of Lashio. There was no sign of Muslim residents.

    “I don’t know where the Muslims are. They all ran away,” said Kyaw Soe Win, a Buddhist resident of the mixed neighborhood where motorbikes and household possessions lay burning in the streets. Nearby, a man with a sword and a stick combed through the remains of a burned-out shop.

    In other regions, such as Rakhine State where hundreds were killed last year, and in the central city of Meikhtila where at least 44 people died in March, there have been signs of ethnic cleansing, and of impunity for those inciting it.

    Lashio is a test of whether the government can bring the widening anti-Muslim unrest under control.

    As in Meikhtila, journalists were attacked. Two freelance reporters working for The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) were beaten as a mob looted a restaurant, the Norway-based broadcaster said. Memory cards from their cameras were taken.

    “I got beat up and left with a bleeding head and my colleague also took a hit on the back. We were just watching the situation with cameras around our necks when a large group of people arrived on motorbikes and started attacking us,” one of the reporters was quoted by DVB as saying.


    State television said a mosque, a Muslim religious school and a number of shops were gutted by fires started on Tuesday by Buddhists who rampaged after hearing reports of a Muslim man setting a Buddhist woman on fire and badly wounding her. State media said calm had returned by Wednesday.

    Myanmar, where Muslims make up about 5 percent of the 60 million population, has struggled with the unrest since June last year when fighting between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya erupted in western Rakhine State.

    That was followed by organized Rakhine attacks on Rohingya communities in October that New York-based Human Rights Watch said amounted to ethnic cleansing. The government calls the stateless Rohingya illegal “Bengali” immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

    British tourist Stephen Barker, 46, told Reuters he saw a group of about 100 machete and stick-carrying youths rallying around his hotel in the early afternoon, including four or five monks. Police and military moved them on and arrested half a dozen people.

    “I got a light for my cigarette from one and he told me to kill all Bengalis while waving this 18-inch blade around.”

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    You’ve got to recognize and fight evil.

    It just doesn’t go away on it’s own.

  • Jennifer L Myers

    Yes. I agree with Steve. Evil does not go away on its own. We must recognize it for what it is, and fight it. I believe this is a misconception some people have about Buddhism – that its teachings of peace and non-violence mean we should just let other people do whatever they want to and tolerate everything. This is not Buddhism. We must actively confront and battle ignorance and evil.

    • justinwhitaker

      The question I would have is “how do we confront it?” With violence of our own? – I hope not. But just what measures do we take, locally and globally, to ‘battle ignorance and evil’?

      • Jennifer L Myers

        Of course we do not respond to violence with violence. That is contrary to what Buddhism teaches. I would say by actively making efforts to share our Buddhist teachings, or any teachings of peace, compassion and non-violence with others. Even if it’s just talking to one person at a time. Taking action in our community and being able to distinguish what “evil” really is when it isn’t always crystal clear. For example, for me and for many people, racism and discrimination is a form of evil that shouldn’t be tolerated. So what can I (we) do to fight this?

        • justinwhitaker

          Good good. I hope that things like this blog ‘share our Buddhist teachings’ to some extent and I also try to share on a one-on-one level (tonight I discussed Buddhism with a couple people after observing a day of fasting for Ramadan – see recent posts for details). I agree it’s not easy to distinguish evil, and often even more difficult to know how to skilfully respond to it, but I think inviting as many ‘others’ (people of different backgrounds/beliefs/experiences) into conversation is an important starting point.

  • ProudIslam

    We drove you polytheists from India remember? We are just moping up the pieces. We hit where it hurts.