A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Buddhists the not so peaceful

Talking with a friend over coffee, who I have discussed Buddhism with; he raised a question that took me a moment to reply to. He asked how the monks who follow Shaolin fighting styles can be following the same path as say the Dalai Lama. I started by explaining, that as a Buddhist, my view is that we are all on the journey to enlightenment, but on different paths, and different progression on those paths. Part of it can also be attributed to the Chinese fable of the Monkey King. During the Tang Dynasty a monk named Xuanzang traveled to the west to learn and bring back copies of the Prajnaparamta. These writings form part of the basis of Mahayana Buddhism. This is historically accurate and well documented. However the trip soon became the stuff of legend and mythology. Sun wu kong was a mischievous monkey who had developed supernatural abilities. He was able to create clones of himself, or to alter his size from that of the smallest insect to as large as a city. He caused so much trouble that the Buddha pinned him under a mountain or a millennium. When Xuanzang is about to undertake the perilous return journey to China, Sun wu kong is given the responsibility of being his bodyguard. The journey and its perils are the basis of one of the most well known stories throughout Asia. Looking at the social and political aspects of this time, Buddhism is seen not as a peaceful philosophy, but rather one that protects what is right, and seen as a source of power in the lives of everyday people. Monks are seen as the ultimate protectors of knowledge and society. Unlike the west where state and religion are supposed to be separate, Buddhism is to be the foundation of society. A good king or leader is seen as wise, just, and compassionate. Thailand’s king Bhumibol Adulyadjev is the Protector of Buddhism and Protector of all other Religions. To the vast majority of Thais he is seen as a dhammajara. In the same way The USA considers itself to be a Christian country, in Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia Buddhism is an integral part of not only the peoples individual identity, but also of their ethnic, cultural, and national identity.

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