Volume 4, Issue 2, 2016
Buddhism, Blasphemy, and Violence
Debate, Magic, and Massacre
The High Stakes and Ethical Dynamics of Battling Slanderers of the Dharma in Indian Narrative and Ethical Theory
This paper examines Indian Buddhist debate narratives, royal historiographies, and hagiographies in conjunction with Buddhist systematic thought on wrong-view, wrong-speech, slander and the sins of immediate retribution. Buddhists narratives are rich with examples of debates in which the wealth and estates of both monastic institutions and their donors were at stake. Forced conversion is a common feature. Slandering the Dharma had a direct relationship to sins considered forms of harm to the Buddha, such as confiscation of property or desecration of sacred objects, and defined as the worst sins leading directly to hell. Buddhist texts often denigrate others’ beliefs and practices and, although their responses to being reviled preclude anger, use of force against enemies of Buddhism is modeled by the Buddha, ideal kings, deities, and wizards. Many examples of mass violence by Buddhist kings against those who oppose the Dharma or harm its saints are exhibited.