If Hitler Invented the Theravada School…

Compassion of the Buddha

The Theravada School is one tradition of at least eighteen lineages that developed from the teachings of the single Buddha. Each of these schools differed in interpretation, nuance and contextualisation. The Theravada School continuously speaks of ‘compassion’, ‘loving kindness’ and ‘wisdom’, and yet as a tradition its attitudes are often the exact opposite to what this rhetoric suggests or would seem to imply. Generally speaking, I respect the Theravada tradition and perceive the Pali Suttas as a treasure of humanity. The Pali Suttas are preserved by the Theravada, but they are the property of the Buddha freely bequeathed to humanity free of charge and for all times. There are many aspects of the Theravada School that are admirable and useful for humanity, but there are other aspects that I reject as being unnecessary and of a decidedly right-wing orientation (hence the title of this article). The Theravada School developed its attitudes and conventions many generations after the death of the Buddha – formulated by head-monks or demanded by kings, ministers or others with influence and authority within society. Contrary to the content of the Pali Suttas, the Theravada School has a derogatory attitude toward the laity. Despite lay men and women attaining enlightenment during the lifetime of the Buddha – the Theravada School claims that such an achievement is impossible. Women are viewed as inferior to men, and unable to achieve enlightenment. According to the Theravada School, only men can realise enlightenment and even then, only as an ordained monk. The best a woman can hope for is to obey every demand a man makes, and earn a rebirth as a man! This type of superstition is denied by the Buddha but encouraged by the Theravada School. This is the patriarchy and misogyny that exists within the Theravada School. Although the monastics of the Theravada School do no work, and daily beg their food and clothing from the general public, the Theravada rhetoric is one of continuous disrespect for the lay-community, and even has a rule forbidding the monks from instructing lay-people in any advanced Dhamma-teaching. Perhaps the most disturbing examples of discrimination, however, within the Theravada School is that aimed against those suffering illness and disability. This is a disgusting tradition that thankfully the Mahayana Schools completely reject. There are rules forbidding any man (or woman) from joining the monastic order who suffer from the five diseases which are Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Epilepsy, Cancer and Asthma – and who are Army Officers, Debtors, Criminals, Slaves, Eunuchs, Hermaphrodites, Parricides, Matricides, those with Deformities, the Deaf, the Blind and those Under 20-years Old. The discrimination against the Disabled is appalling in my view and seems distinctly fascistic. The poor, the ill and the Disabled are some of the most oppressed people living within society and who need the most compassion from others. To be rejected by Buddhist monks in this way is a terrible convention that should be reformed and/or abolished. 

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