A response to "Criticizing Buddhism"

by Richard Gilliver, The Buddhist Channel, July 17, 2013

I would like to write in response to Nidhi Singh's recent letter entitled Criticizing Buddhism.

While they have every right to voice their opinion, I would like to provide some thoughts that may balance their views on things. I do not mean this as an attack on the writer but 'from the outside' it does appear to be a rather one sided criticism.
Firstly, I do not believe the Buddhist Channel is 'assaulting' Buddhism. For us in the West it provides news on Buddhism that our own media either leaves out or demotes to the very smallest story. For example I wasn't even aware of the attack at Bodh Gaya until I read it on here. It seems to me that their reporting of the violence between Buddhists and Muslims has been fair and balanced.
I think its criticizing Buddhists who partake in violence against Muslims shows the integrity rather than an 'assault'. Many organisation would seek to present a much more one sided view, such balance such be applauded.
Regarding calling Muslims 'followers of a sick and rabid religion', and the examples the writer cites. I think the author should perhaps reflect on his own advice 'Please learn more about real Buddhism.'....but replace Buddhism with Islam.
I would like to take his own points as reference.
'whose founder Mohammad who had no qualms on marrying a 9 year old girl'
I'm sure many culturally Buddhists have also married younger girls, India itself has a history of arranged child marriages and in the past many countries, including European ones have had a much younger marriageable age. Why would he have had qualms about marrying someone it was culturally acceptable to marry? I do not understand this point. I agree that in our modern context the idea is rightly despicable to us, but we should, if we are to criticise something try to look at it in a contextual, balanced view. Mohammad, as I understand it, was following the practice of his culture at the time. We should change the context and view our own circumstances - when I married my wife was above the legal marriageable age, I also, from my cultural context had 'no qualms' about marrying her.
'thought women belonged in a harem'
His first wife was a business woman who he worked for (and who he was devoted to and did not take a second wife until she passed away) clearly he did not think all women belonged in a harem.
'non believers should be raped or killed'
May I suggest the writer track down a Quran and read it? Let's put it contextually, the Quran is the ultimate authority in Islam (and thus overrides the Sunnah and Hadith - the Quran clearly and explicitly states, many times, that non believers should not be killed (except when presenting a threat in warfare*) It states that anyone who doesn't believe will be punished by God in the next world - not by man in this one, neither does it say that non believers should be raped.
'Buddhists are told explicitly to overcome evil by good and the Good'
'Buddhists are allowed to defend righteousness -- not be pacifist in the face of evil'
* see this explanation. Both the writers statements here also apply to Muslims. The difficulty is that context is so very important, Buddhists 'defending righteousness' to the Buddhists is right, Muslims 'defending righteousness' to the Muslims is right. At the end of the day both sides of these troubles have overstepped the mark at one time or another and both see themselves as justified.
Maybe the real victor will be the side that does not react to the violence, or to nod ones head to the Dhammapada - 'better than victory over a thousand is a victory over our self'.
I hope the writer doesn't view this response as a criticism, they are entitled to their views of course and it is not my intention to criticise those views, I merely seek to provide a different context to the field those views are set in for the benefit of the writer to reflect upon.


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