6. Armageddon in a Tokyo Subway

Disclaimer: This is a journal for my class on Religious Violence. It is generally written as if it is addressing my teacher, Chuck, and is written in relation to the book Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer.

Juergensmeyer starts off the chapter “Armageddon in a Tokyo Subway”, by saying that perhaps the place one feels least likely to find religious violence, is in Buddhism.

He really hit the nail on the head with that one.

When I think of Buddhism, I think of enlightenment (haha, it’s also the translation and for some reason right now that seems hysterical). I think of meditation. I think of Yaz. I already you this, but one of the people who has had the most influence over my life (one of my four father figures) is Buddhist and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about his beliefs. So, yes, when I think of Buddhism I don’t think of violence.

But nothing is ever completely black or white. This chapter illustrates this supremely well.

The gas bombing that occurred in the Tokyo subway on the morning of March 20, 1995 was done to illustrate the truth of a leader’s prophecies about an imminent apocalyptic war. Five scientists boarded the train and released vials of poisonous sarin gas, killing quite a few of the commuters who were aboard and injuring thousands more.

The important part of that sentence, in my mind at least, is not the type of gas nor even the number of people they killed. It is WHO did this–scientists. Five male, young scientists. This all goes back to the thought (which I think I mentioned in the journal on Islam’s neglected duty) that our enemies are stupid–when they’re not. Having thought about it more, I think it’s a form of comfort; if we consider our opponents to be unintelligent then we don’t have worry that they may be correct in what they are doing–we can simply write it off as the actions of madmen.

Which is what we do. Foolishly.

You know, Buddhists put up with a lot of prejudice–more so, maybe, than any other religion save for that of Witchcraft (pop culture has pretty much decimated that). The standard person doesn’t know enough about Sikhism or Islam or Hinduism to properly mock it. Jewish people are too close to Christianity (which is taboo, for some reason–and if you don’t think so, wait just a second or five), but Buddhism–oh, people know what (where it should be “who”) the Buddha is. Because somehow, during the course of history, it has become something that people are constantly mocking–whether they do it consciously or not. It’s a moot point, anyhow. Buddha fountains where the water shoots out the belly button, Buddha planters, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha everywhere (there’s a song called “Ms. New Booty” that I’m ashamed to admit I just sang that to). Whether it’s some attempt to make us seem cultural and enlightened, I’m not sure–all I know is that if you replaced Buddhist symbols with Christian ones, there would be a riot. The perhaps most appropriate example (and I own one of these somewhere–twenty-five cents at a garage sale) is that of the T-shirt which is inscribed with a Buddha, with words around the image that say, “Rub my belly for good luck.” Really? REALLY?

How rude is that to everyone of the Buddhist faith? If we took a T-shit and put Jesus on it and wrote “Kiss my feet for salvation” (I was trying to find something relatively parallel), there would be absolute outrage. I’m positive someone would try to sue us for SOMETHING. Because you just don’t do that to Christian symbols. It’s blasphemous.

Wait. How is it appropriate for us to do the same thing to people of different faiths?

It’s not. End of story.


~ by spim on October 23, 2008.

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