Today, in Myanmar (Burma), Rohingya Muslims are being persecuted by Buddhists. At the head of this movement is Ashin Wirathu. Ashin Wirathu, who has the title of Buddhist monk but not the functioning, is a politician, a man of power who harangues the crowds, speaks to their vilest aspects, federates them around him in the hatred of others.
Often in history there has been collusion between religion and politics, and this has always been harmful. Historically, the Rohingya lived in predominantly Muslim territories – they came from Bangladesh. If we stop at this historical fact, if we add the nationalism of the Burmese junta – Burma, which is mostly Buddhist – Buddhist nationalism can be opposed to Muslim invaders. In this case, we are far from the Buddhist vision, in which all human beings are of the same nature and the rapports between them managed by a pure and compassionate heart; pure of all discrimination, of all racism.
Relying on differences in religious and national status, as the monk Ashin Wirathu does by identifying members of another religion as scapegoats- as causing all that is wrong with the country- is a serious perversion of religion. One could even speak of a Buddhist holy war, of a Buddhist radicalism which aims, by violence, to impose its hegemony.
Ashin Wirathu is prisoner of mental, dualistic and warlike approach. His vision of reality is distorted by hatred and ignorance. He does not see things with his eye of Buddha, with a mind cleansed of all aversion, all interest.
We would like to say that these acts of persecution and those who commit them are not Buddhist, since a Buddhist should not give in to illusions; in this case mental constructions of nationalism and idenitity.
For a practitioner of the Buddha Way, all forms of life must be protected, all human beings are brothers and sisters. For an authentic religious person, the enemy is not to be sought outside but inside ourselves. The practice of zazen allows us to see the three poisons that drive us: ignorance, greed and aversion, and to not follow them.
We thus return to our original nature, our Buddha nature, and strive to act in the world animated by the buddhas’ wisdom and compassion.
We totally condemn Ashin Wirathu’s actions and send all our prayers to the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.