Conflict and Peace in Buddhism

Authored by: Peter Friedlander

The Ashgate Research Companion to Religion and Conflict Resolution

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409410898
eBook ISBN: 9781315613505
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041832


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Buddhist involvement in war appears to be a paradox if Buddhism is seen as a world renouncing pacifist religion. However, when Buddhist dharma (teaching) is seen through the model called the two wheels of dharma then there is no paradox. One wheel of dharma is the sangha (the monastic community) and the other wheel is the king, and in return for the sangha supporting the state, the state supports Buddhism. Sources of conflict have been seen in Buddhist traditions as the drivers that condition action and the preferred method for conflict resolution is discussion leading to a consensus agreement with spiritual authority. However, whilst inner peace in the sangha is to be maintained by acceptance of spiritual authority, in the secular state Buddhism has also always sanctioned the exercise of state power, including violence, or the threat of violence, in order to maintain peace in the world. In this article I will explore both Buddhist models for understanding the relationship between the sangha and the state and also the history of Buddhist involvement in wars in Asia and its current engagement with peace movements.

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