The Buddha may have been the first spiritual teacher to overtly base his teaching upon anti-racism. A true Buddhist harbours no hate in either mind or body towards others, but quietly works to uproot ignorance in the mind and to perpetuate enlightened wisdom in the world. However, despite this firm philosophical foundation, racism and intolerance towards others has spread into some aspects of Buddhism; a corruption of the Buddha’s pristine teachings by Western imperialist attitudes. In fact modern Japanese nationalism imported from the West (since 1868) has often imbued racism into Buddhist philosophy, and this exactly mirrors the Western racism observable in various Buddhist countries throughout Southeast Asia today, with its emphasis upon pursuing a destructive ‘anti-Islamic’ rhetoric. Racism is also readily observable in the West through the opinions and attitudes held by various individuals who have voluntarily ‘embraced’ what appears to them to be the ‘exotic’ path of Asian Buddhism. Western-style racism is also observable throughout the so-called ‘pro-Tibetan’ movement in the West and its a priori position of racial hatred toward China, Chinese culture and the Chinese people. This is compounded by the fact that some middle class people in the West form ‘Western’ Buddhist groups that are inherently ‘anti-Asian’ in essence, (that is their members quite naturally hold ‘racist’ viewpoints toward Asian people and Asian cultures), whilst simultaneously wearing robes, shaving their heads, and ascribing to themselves ‘Asian’ sounding names. In many ways this parodies the odious ‘black and white minstrels’, whereby in the Buddhist sense, ‘white’ Europeans dress-up in ‘foreign’ clothing and pretend to ‘mimic’ Asian culture. Whereas black consciousness and political awareness groups have successfully campaigned to get this type of racist misrepresentation ‘removed’ from mainstream entertainment, no such ‘Asian’ movement has so far succeeded to the same degree, or in the same manner, although awareness of this issue definitely exists amongst various Asian groups from both within and outside of Asia. The problem for Asian Buddhism in the West is that its Eurocentric mimicry has gone unopposed and has become acceptable to the mainstream, but what about Buddhism in the East?
Buddhism in the East is the home of true Buddhism. The Buddha taught a philosophy of psychology and behaviour that essentially revolutionised how humanity viewed existence and its self. He did this probably before the Greeks had their ‘awakening’ and over two thousand years before Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels managed a similar feat with their theory of Scientific Socialism in the 19th century CE. However, despite this pure philosophy that emphasises the uprooting of greed, hatred and delusion through the act of meditation, over the last four hundred years or so, Asia has been subjected to the most ruthless occupation and manipulation by the forces of Western imperialism and colonialism. This has exposed the Asian people to all the negative aspects of the Western mind-set, mediated through racism, violence and sexual promiscuity. Racism and religious bigotry became the currency through which Europeans and Asians interacted, and Asians were judged either ‘worthy’ or ‘unworthy’ by their colonial masters, depending entirely upon how well they succumbed to, or resisted the racial terror. Western colonialism throughout Asia spread a rampant Christianisation that used ‘intolerance’ and ‘racism’ as its primary mainstays. This rapid importation of a foreign, and highly aggressive religion demanded that all Asian belief systems be either abandoned, radically altered, or be subservient toward the Western Christian Church and the capitalist ideology it overtly supported.
Today, the anti-Muslim sentiment that exists within some groups of Asian Buddhism is directly the result of the historical importation of Western racism and prejudice into Asian communities during the imperialist era, and of the spread of Islamophobia from the West through direct and contemporary Western, political influence, and through social media. Why do certain Buddhist monks living in Thailand or Burma hold-up anti-Muslim placards written in English, and not in the language of their respective countries or communities? To whom are these Buddhist monks showing their racist attitudes? Certainly not to their fellow Buddhists, or even to the Muslims they so claim to hate. The Western distortion that creates ‘racism’ in the minds of some Asians is simple to discern as it is the exact inverse of the teachings of the Buddha. Western racism is premised upon greed, hatred, and delusion, whereas the Buddha’s message is premised upon non-greed, non-hatred, and non-aggression. As ‘racism’ toward anyone is the manifestation of ‘hatred’, then it is obvious that Buddhists who ‘hate’ anyone (including Muslims) are not following legitimate Buddhist teachings, but rather the prescriptions of Western racism.
This intolerance, however, manifests in other ways, such as that of religious bigotry and distorted fundamentalism. Many Asian Buddhists, mimicking the behaviour of those who follow theistic religions, have developed an inappropriate ‘fundamentalist’ attitude toward Buddhist teachings and traditions that are ‘theistic’ in nature, and which denigrate the Buddha (and his image) into something approaching a ‘god-like’ entity. This thinking is ‘threatening’ in nature, and demands a certain type of unquestioned obedience toward an assumed ‘orthodoxy’ – the very position that the Buddha denied as being spiritually valid. This is Buddhism mimicking Eurocentric Christianity, and manifesting an intolerant ‘nationalistic’ attitude that is essentially ‘fascist’ in nature. Buddho-fascism (like Islamo-fascism) is a creation of Western imperialism that has successfully exported religious intolerance and bigotry around the world. Buddhists in Asia who hold such views are political ‘fascists’ and not spiritual Buddhists. All Asian (and Western Buddhists) have to do to rectify this situation is apply the genuine teachings of the Buddha, and uproot greed, hatred, and delusion from the human mind, and greed, hatred, and delusion from human interaction.