Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims? Alan Strathern on BBC News

In a recent post, Buddhist Monks as Hate Preachers & Sexual Abuse, I mainly referred to sad developments within the global Buddhist community where Buddhist monks spread words of hate, actions that harm others, themselves as well as people’s faith in Buddhism. Ashin Wirathu, a Burmese Buddhist monk, was even jailed in 2003 for inciting religious hatred. After his release in 2012, he has referred to himself as “the Burmese Bin Laden”.

In a BBC article Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims? Alan Strathern from Oxford University asks and examines “… why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?”

He makes clear in his article, that this is against a basic Buddhist principles as well as that where this is happening – in Burma and Sri Lanka – people are not facing an Islamist militant threat and the Muslims in both countries are “a generally peaceable and small minority”.

Strathern explains the violence from different angles – including power issues (“Faustian pact with state power”), national and religious identity (“many came to feel Buddhism was integral to their national identity – and the position of minorities in these newly independent nations was an uncomfortable one”). And he concludes his article by looking onto the violent events from a global perspective:

Even though they form a majority in both countries, many Buddhists share a sense that their nations must be unified and that their religion is under threat. The global climate is crucial. People believe radical Islam to be at the centre of the many of the most violent conflicts around the world. They feel they are at the receiving end of conversion drives by the much more evangelical monotheistic faiths. And they feel that if other religions are going to get tough, they had better follow suit.

However, there is one point, I don’t agree with Strathern. Though it is true that there has been violence by Buddhists and Buddhists used Buddhism to justify wars and violence against others – I object the following generalisation made by Strathern:

So, historically, Buddhism has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity.

because

1) One should discriminate between the people and the religion. Buddhism is in nature a peaceful religion which roots are non-violence, love, compassion and the teachings of interdependent origination. It are human beings that (ab)use religion to justify violence. Therefore, the faults Stathern attributes to Buddhism are not the faults of Buddhism but of the people who either ignore or twist Buddha’s teachings. All actions based on hatred, desire and ignorance are considered to be wrong and an object of abandonment in Buddhism. (It get’s more complicated and complex, when one considers the understanding of non-violence (ahimsa) in the context of the Bodhisattva ethics. In the book “Buddhist Warfare” one author goes even so far to claim that the ascetics of a monk could be also considered as violence. But if this author had a clear understanding of Buddhist principles, that violence is the wish to harm or all actions based on hatred, he could see that this view is not tenable from a Buddhist point of view, and from a mundane point of view it follows also those people who practice fasting to benefit their body are violent towards themselves.)*

2) Compared with the violence performed by other religious people in the name of their religion the amount of harm Buddhists have done to others (or humanity) by abusing Buddhism to justify war and violence seems to be not that much.

Alex Berzin writes about the conflict in Burma and Bangladesh:

Burma/Myanmar

One-third of the population in Northern Rakhine State in Arakan, Burma/Myanmar, is Muslim, while the rest is Buddhist. The two groups are of different ethnic origin and speak different languages. Between 1991 and 1992, a quarter of a million of these Muslims, known as Rohingyas, fled as refugees to Bangladesh. They fled, however, because of government discrimination and oppression. The military government, which officially promotes and associates itself with Buddhism, considers the Muslim population as foreign residents. Consequently, they deny them citizenship, restrict their movement, and limit their educational and professional opportunities. In 1995, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees assisted with the voluntary repatriation of 94% of these Muslim refugees. They are still receiving humanitarian aid and only slowly are some of them being issued government identity documents. Anti-Muslim riots at the hands of Buddhists, however, still occur. The Muslims allege that they are instigated and supported by the government. Much of the tension between the two religious and ethnic groups, however, stems from the preferential treatment given to non-Buddhists under British colonial rule. The present military government’s preferential treatment of Buddhists may be seen as a reaction to this. Without a change of government policy, it seems unlikely that settlement of Buddhist-Muslim tensions in Burma/Myanmar can be settled by religious dialogue alone.

Bangladesh

One percent of the population is Buddhist, while the vast majority is Muslim. The Buddhists live primarily in Chittagong District and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In 1988, an amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh was passed proclaiming an “Islamic way of life” for the country. Since then, the tension between the religious and secular factions within the government has increased. This has been greatly exacerbated, however, since 2001, with the “War on Terror.” The American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have fueled Bangladeshi Islamic fundamentalism and this has led to heightened persecution of non-Muslim minorities, including the Buddhists.

Alan Strathern’s article

More from BBC about the background of the conflict in Burma

More about Buddhism and Islam by Alexander Berzin

More about Violence and (Tibetan) Buddhism

* Non-violence or non-harmfulness is explained in the Abhidharma literature as follows:

Non-harmfulness (rnam par mi ‘tshe ba)
Regarding non-harmfulness, the Compendium of Knowledge says:

QUESTION: What is non-harmfulness?
RESPONSE: It is a mind of compassion and is involved with non-hatred. It has the function of not inflicting injury.

Just as it has been said above, non-harmfulness is a patience that, lacking malice, observes suffering sentient beings, thinking, “May they be free of that [suffering]!” This abandoning harm to sentient beings, or non-harmfulness, is the essence of the meaning of the Conqueror’s scriptures. It is taught [in sutra]:

Patience is the supreme austerity.
The Buddha said, “Patience is supreme nirvana.”
An ordained one who harms or injures another
Is not a trainee-in-virtue.

Even the Conqueror’s teaching in the context of bestowing a water strainer in the Vinaya procedural rite is a fine distinction of compassion. Since one must definitely turn away from harming others as well as their bases, the necessity of equipping oneself with a strainer for the sake of abandoning harm to creatures in water has been taught. And on the occasion of giving the instructions, one is cautioned about the necessity to abide in the four qualities that makes one a trainee-in-virtue:

Even when derided, do not deride in return.
Even when someone gets angry at one, do not get angry in return.
Even when hit, do not hit back.
Even when one’s faults are exposed, do not expose others’ faults.

Therefore, if the intelligent ones analyze and understand this well, they will be able to understand that abandoning harmfulness is the essence of the teachings.

From “A Necklace for Those of Clear Awareness Clearly Revealing the Modes of Minds and Mental Factors” by Ye-she Gyel-tsen, Translated from the Tibetan by Toh Sze Gee

  Last edited by tenpel on June 24, 2013 at 9:41 am

Comments

  1. The Devils Advocate says:

    Tenzin, you interpret the following as being of central import in the piece
    “He makes clear in his article…….people are not facing an Islamist militant threat and the Muslims in both countries are “a generally peaceable and small minority”.I think the following passage is equally relevant”

    I think the following is also important

    “Even though they form a majority in both countries, many Buddhists share a sense that their nations must be unified and that their religion is under threat.The global climate is crucial. People believe radical Islam to be at the centre of the many of the most violent conflicts around the world. They feel they are at the receiving end of conversion drives by the much more evangelical monotheistic faiths. And they feel that if other religions are going to get tough, they had better follow suit.”

    I for one find the threat of the spread of fundamentalist Islam a frightening reality and there is no doubt in my mind that it is such sentiments that have fueled these dreadful riots. Nevertheless, the question still remains s to what should be done about a faith whose leaders have brazenly and repeatedly declared their aim of world domination and whose scriptures make such statements as “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”
    Is non-violence and the patience of non retaliation the best response in such a situation? Perhaps we should consult the King of Shambala??

    • Thank you. To my shame I have to confess I lacked time to do it properly.

      I do also not agree with “So, historically, Buddhism has been no more a religion of peace than Christianity.” This statement is a bit controversial for me because compared with the (ab)use of other religions to justify violence Buddhism was comparative peaceful, and in heart, it is a peaceful religion by all means.

      I will add the passage you quote.

    • I finished now the update of the post and included a brief explanation of non-violence from the Abhidharma literature.

    • I for one find the threat of the spread of fundamentalist Islam a frightening reality and there is no doubt in my mind that it is such sentiments that have fueled these dreadful riots. Nevertheless, the question still remains s to what should be done about a faith whose leaders have brazenly and repeatedly declared their aim of world domination and whose scriptures make such statements as “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

      Is non-violence and the patience of non retaliation the best response in such a situation? Perhaps we should consult the King of Shambala??”

      My understanding is that being frightened does not justify the application of violence but the application of the Dharma. Fear comes from ego-clinging. Freedom comes from non-hatred, these are the Buddha’s teachings.

      In Islam there are also different streams and traditions you cannot just – like Ole Nydahl and many other Islam-phobic people do – speak of THE Islam while there are many Islams, including tolerant forms. You can quote also from the Bible, the Kalachakra tantra to “demonstrate” that Christianity and Buddhism teach violence but doing this ignores the fine distinctions made in those religious traditions and is by itself a fundamentalist approach, one, that takes scriptures literally.

      I added a link to two essays by Alex Berzin about Holy War in Buddhism and Islam.

      Even the concept of Jihad is by far more refined than most people know. The meaning of Jihad has three levels: 1) fighting the inner enemies 2) correcting misrepresentations of Islam 3) defending Islam when attacked – this is at least what I remember from a discussion with a Muslim Iman in Berlin.

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        Nevertheless the threat of violence and religious domination are very real threats and people seem frightened to talk about this elephant in the room because of political correctness and appearing ‘uncool’ from a Buddhist perspective. In the real world rather than the idealistic one, non violence in return for aggression leads to more bullying and oppression-remember Pastor Niemoller? ‘first they came for the socialists but I didn’t speak out because I was not a socialist’ and so on? In the end, because he kept quiet, they came for him!
        I.remember a few years back when HH commented that, on the issue of gay sex, he had no authority to comment and that if change in the Buddhist response to the issue were to be effected, representatives should gather and discuss. If someone suggested that Islamic scholars gather to root out those verses in the Quran which advocate violence towards non believers and the oppression of women, ther lives would be in danger! Sorry but, while I don’t condone what is happening in Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand ( where Islamists have been murdering Thai Buddhists for quite some time now) I can certainly see where thes militant Buddhists are coming from and, while I abhor violence in all it’s forms, if someone came threatening to kill my family ( or anyone), I would certainly use violence to prevent it if necessary

        • The elephant in the room and threats have always been there, also at the time of the Buddha. But the Buddha didn’t encourage to fight outer enemies. Or was any of his monks encouraged or sent by the Buddha to go for war?

          The threat is also not THE Islam, a threat is fundamentalism – which we have also in Buddhism and among non-religious people. Most often threats are felt strongly by people with a lot of hostility who project it on others – e.g. George Bush – and go for war.

          And if there is a real threat, that is not projected, the first question should be how to address it from the pov of dependent arising and to understand the nature of it to address it on the least violent or the most non-violent way. Of course from a practical as well as from a Mahayana approach, to avoid greater harm for a majority, the use of violence to prevent greater harm, is considered to be acceptable.

          Some clarification of terms and understandings first:

          Non-violence (ahimsa; rnam par mi ‘tshe ba) is explained in “Buddhist Warfare” as follows:

          A similar breadth is found in the Sanskrit term for violence, hiṃsa. Hiṃsa is the root of ahiṃsa, the word for nonviolence made popular by Mohandas Gandhi. The literal definition of hiṃsa means “to desire to harm.”

          The Dalai Lama states in In Exile from the Land of Snows: The Definitive Account of the Dalai Lama and Tibet Since the Chinese Conquest, John Avedon, p. 132:

          In theory violence and religious views can be combined but only if a person’s motivation, as well as the results of his actions, are solely for the majority of people.

          Under these circumstances and if there is no other alternative, then it is permissible. Now regarding Tibet, I believe that a militant attitude is helpful for maintaining morale among our youth, but a military movement itself is not feasible. It would be suicidal.”

          and in the New York Times the Dalai Lama says:

          The Dalai Lama Says Terror May Need a Violent Reply

          Dalai Lama, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and one of the world’s most prominent advocates of nonviolence, said in an interview yesterday that it might be necessary to fight terrorists with violence, and that it was “too early to say” whether the war in Iraq was a mistake.
          “I feel only history will tell,” he said. “Terrorism is the worst kind of violence, so we have to check it, we have to take countermeasures.”

          But he emphasized that “the real antidote” to terrorism in the long run is “compassion, dialogue — peaceful means” — even with terrorists. “We have to deal with their motivation,” he said. “Terrorism comes out of hatred, and also short-sightedness”

          He likened Osama bin Laden to a butcher who had grown inured to slaughtering animals. With terrorists, the Dalai Lama said, applying a Buddhist analysis, ”their whole mind is dominated by negative emotions.”

          This is of course distinct different from the concept of pacifism – that is understood differently by different people – but in general is (says my MAC Lexicon):

          the belief that war and violence are unjustifiable and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.
          ORIGIN early 20th cent.: from French pacifisme, from pacifier ‘pacify’.

          Many people confuse non-violence with pacifism without understanding first both approaches and their differences. This creates a lot of confusion.

          With respect to the rest of your comment:
          1) The tolerance of HH the Dalai Lama is not that of the majority of Buddhists. Your example is fallacious, why? Because there would be no majority for a change on the stance of homosexuality as there is no majority for the introduction of women’s full ordination. Many of the Buddhists can be as fundamentalist as other fundamentalists. For instance when Sera Je Geshe Lharampa Bhikshu Rinchen Ngudrup published a book that proved that full ordination for women is possible in the Tibetan tradition (his main approach can be understood by his paper The Flawless Ordination of Bhikshunis by Bhikshu only Sangha he presented in Hamburg 2007) he received death threats – so it was said in Hamburg 2007 – and Geshe Dawa published an article that claimed that Geshe Rinchen Ngudrup’s actions would be even worse than what THE “Anti-Buddhist” Lang Dharma had done in Tibet.
          2) Buddhism is not to point the finger on other religions and to feed one’s fears and delusions but to see the own faults and to work to overcome them.
          3) If you use violence and your violence is based on delusions it will only create in the long run harm for you – no matter what your belief is – at least according to the Buddha and his teachings about Karma. Attachment and hate – derived from ego-clinging – is what fuels and creates conflicts and war. There is no peace as long as they abide in one’s mind.

          • The Devils Advocate says:

            Thanks Tenzin
            I conclude that the rule is non violence and that the exception is where the mind is free from delusion and motivated by compassion-in such a case, some violence is permissible( smacking a child for playing with fire might be an example here
            In the 1980s I heard HH advise someone that if you are being pursued by someone who wishes to shoot you dead and you have a gun, you should return fire but aim for his legs!
            I admire your adherence to the principles of our faith, though I must say I find this somewhat idealistic, in the light of experience in the so called real world
            Love to you and all my enemies ( but watch out- I might some day be free of delusion and filled with compassion )

      • Thanks for clarifying this for me. I’ve seen the recent footage from Burma and was surprised to see how much the situation had escalated and didn’t understand the motivations behind it. I now have a clearer (not different) perspective.

        • Thank you. Would you like to share your perspective with us/me?

          • The Devils Advocate says:

            I think it would be a huge mistake to assume that the riots in Burma and Sri Lanka are driven by undeluded and compassionate rioters There can be little doubt that the cause of the riots is ignorance, fear and racial hatred. It is a great shame these rioters are portrayed as Buddhist because their motives and behaviour are certainly not that. It’s a little bit like referring to child molesters who happen to live in a Christian country as ‘Christian paedophiles’, thus blackening the name of the faith by association.

            • Thank you for your comments.

              I think everything starts with getting one’s view clear. The Eightfold Noble Path starts with Right View. Based on a good understanding of a phenomenon (like violence / non-violence) as the very first step one then has to check how much this view applicable in daily life and if one can really live up to this view etc.

              I agree that it might sound a bit idealistic what I wrote. However, the pacifist approach is by far more idealistic and I think it collapses easily with reality, while I think what I wrote is rather close to Buddha’s teachings, and not to far away from reality …

              I totally agree:

              I think it would be a huge mistake to assume that the riots in Burma and Sri Lanka are driven by undeluded and compassionate rioters There can be little doubt that the cause of the riots is ignorance, fear and racial hatred. It is a great shame these rioters are portrayed as Buddhist because their motives and behaviour are certainly not that.

              I think also this view makes sense:

              It’s a little bit like referring to child molesters who happen to live in a Christian country as ‘Christian paedophiles’, thus blackening the name of the faith by association.

              • the Devils Advocate says:

                Just to point out…non-violence or ahimsa as some translate it is not an aspect of the first phase of the Eightffold Path, Right View which actually comprises an appreciation of the Four Noble Truths, the Three Marks of Conditioned Existence and the Law of Karma according to the commentators on the Theravada path I am familiar with. Ahimsa is a Jain term appropriated first by Gandhi and then popularised in Western Buddhism by those holding orientalist views ( though I have heard the term is found in Ashokas edicts)
                Nevertheless it is a noble ideal and a worthy starting point for spiritual beings, though I still question it’s practicality in this violent world in which we live. While ideally it is something I would want to adhere to I could not practice it in relation to those intent on harming small children for instance. Nor do I believe that Dharma advocates this, reading between the lines of HHs comments above

                • the Devils Advocate says:

                  If it were an aspect of the Eightfold Path, it would perhaps be equivalent to the first part of Right Action, although non-harming and not killing are distinct concepts etymologically

                • I didn’t say that ahimsa has to do with right view. What I meant was: first one needs a clear understanding of what ahimsa is or is not. Without this all subsequent investigations might be misleading or erroneous because being based on a lack of good understanding. To this correct understanding I referred as a view and said that such a correct view=understanding of the term and its meaning is important. To highlight this I compared it with the Eightfold Noble Path saying that (similarly) the ENP also starts with right view. I could have added that correct view comes, before correct conduct and correct meditation (in Nyingmpa, Kagyu they stress view, conduct, meditation). The reference to Right View in the ENP was meant as a comparison or highlighting that a correct view of the object of investigation or discussion is of highest importance – because what follows from misunderstanding or a distorted view can only be misunderstandings and distortions.

                  Most people mix up pacifism with non-violence, and even more don’t understand that non-violence or non-harmfulness in Buddhism (going back to the Abhidharmas of Asanga and Vasubandhu) means not to inflict harm on others, the Tibetan term is rnam par mi ‘tshe ba. And when His Holiness speaks of non-violence he refers to this mental factor. We checked this with a Tibetan who works as a board member of one of the official Tibet Houses. So the use and term of non-violence HH the Dalai Lama uses is a term of the Buddhist Abhidharma and not of Gandhi or the Jains – though their understandings might be the same, similar or different. When I remember correctly Eliot Sperling says in his paper »Orientalism« and Aspects of Violence in the Tibetan Tradition that the 14th Dalai Lama got used to the word non-violence only via Gandhi and didn’t know it before and it were a new understanding he adopted. However, I am not so sure if this is tenable because non-violence is the meaning of the Tibetan term rnam par mi ‘tshe ba and it is a part of the Abhidharma literature. Maybe the Sanskrit term ahimsa was new to HH or a specific meaning Gandhi saw in it. I gave you an exact reference of what Tibetans understand under non-harmfulness or non-violence based on the Abhidharma and the tutor of the 7th Dalai Lama (when I remember correctly?) Yeshe Gyaltsen.

                  I don’t have the Asanga’s Abhidharmasamuccaya at hand to check how he defines this mental factor but I can check in two weeks. It is good to go back to the auhorative texts and their definitions and explanations if there is ambiguity or unclarity. In Guenther/Kawamura’s translation of Yeshe Gyaltsen’s The Necklace of clear understanding (p. 57), the translators translate rnam par mi ‘tshe ba with non-violence and Yeshe Gyaltsen states:

                  The Abhidharmasammuccaya explains non-violence as follows:

                  “What is non-violence? It is an attitude of loving kindness belonging to non-hatred. Its function is not to be malicious.”

                  Non-violence is patient acceptance which expresses itself in the sentiment of how wonderful it would be if suffering sentient beings would be from all their frustrations. Patient acceptance is an attitude no marred by the slightest idea of inflicting suffering. This non-violence and the rejection of harming others is the central idea of the Buddha’s teachings. …

                  Yeshe Gyaltsen lived 1713-1793 in Tibet and he used the Abhidharma scriptures from Asanga, so how can he have it from Gandhi or the Jains?
                  HH the Dalai Lama sometimes also says that all actions based on hatred are violence.

                  My understanding is:
                  To stop a harming action forcefully without hatred and without the wish to harm (or without the wish to inflict harm) but to stop that very action because it’s harmful for the person (and others) would not be violence, because there is no hatred and no wish to harm.

                • sankappa says:

                  Would just like to make clarification on such an important point regarding Right View. Non-harming and not taking life is indeed part of the first factor of the 8NP (Right View) as well as View concurrent with the 4NT and Dependent Origination. The whole of the discourse can be found here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel377.html

                  Part One: The Discourse on Right View (Sammaditthi Sutta)

                  1. Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Savatthi in Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Park. There the Venerable Sariputta addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Friends, bhikkhus.” — “Friend,” they replied. The Venerable Sariputta said this:

                  2. “‘One of right view, one of right view’ is said, friends. In what way is a noble disciple one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma?”

                  “Indeed, friend, we would come from far away to learn from the Venerable Sariputta the meaning of this statement. It would be good if the Venerable Sariputta would explain the meaning of this statement. Having heard it from him, the bhikkhus will remember it.”

                  “Then, friends, listen and attend closely to what I shall say.”

                  “Yes, friend,” the bhikkhus replied. The Venerable Sariputta said this:
                  The Wholesome and the Unwholesome

                  3. “When, friends, a noble disciple understands the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome, and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma.

                  4. “And what, friends, is the unwholesome, what is the root of the unwholesome, what is the wholesome, what is the root of the wholesome? Killing living beings is unwholesome; taking what is not given is unwholesome; misconduct in sensual pleasures is unwholesome; false speech is unwholesome; malicious speech is unwholesome; harsh speech is unwholesome; gossip is unwholesome; covetousness is unwholesome; ill will is unwholesome; wrong view is unwholesome. This is called the unwholesome.

                  • Thank you very much!

                    But this Sutta doesn’t specifically mention aviihimsa or non-violence. At the point where it gets concrete the ten unwholesome activities are listed but non-violence is not specifically mentioned. Do you know a Sutta where non-violence or avihimsa is specifically mentioned in the Pali canon?

                    • sankappa says:

                      Hi tenpel,
                      Yes, I thought this very point would be brought up, so I gave it some due consideration before posting. My conclusion and extrapolation on this point is, that non-harming and non-violence is implied here in Right View. Let’s consider the alternative. I.E. that harming and acts of violence perpetrated on other beings, though not resulting in the beings being killed through such acts, could ever be considered to be in accord with Right View. While I am not aware of a sutta that specifically states that non-harming and non-violence is Right View, there are many unambiguous mentions in other suttas categorically stating to abstain from harming, and therefore by extension, violence. This example is an excerpt from the Sallekha Sutta: The Discourse on Effacement:

                      Effacement

                      12. “But herein, Cunda, effacement should be practiced by you:[16]

                      (1) Others will be harmful; we shall not be harmful here — thus effacement can be done.[17]
                      (2) Others will kill living beings; we shall abstain from killing living beings here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (3) Others will take what is not given; we shall abstain from taking what is not given here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (4) Others will be unchaste; we shall be chaste here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (5) Others will speak falsehood; we shall abstain from false speech here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (6) Others will speak maliciously; we shall abstain from malicious speech here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (7) Others will speak harshly; we shall abstain from harsh speech here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (8) Others will gossip; we shall abstain from gossip here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (9) Others will be covetous; we shall not be covetous here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (10) Others will have thoughts of ill will; we shall not have thoughts of ill will here — thus effacement can be done.
                      (11) Others will have wrong views; we shall have right view here — thus effacement can be done.
                      … …
                      (44)

                      Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.008.nypo.html

                      It is interesting and important to note that points 2-11 in this sutta, address in order, exactly the same points stated at point 4 in The Discourse on Right View: The Sammaditthi Sutta. This is no coincidence, and therefore a more concrete reason why we can extrapolate that non-harming/non-violence is axiomatic and implied in the abstention from killing in Right View.

                      But drawing this back to the original discussion and to certain points leaning towards justification in comments made above, the violence being perpetrated on the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar cannot be justified, particularly when instigated and directly carried-out by Buddhist Monks, who have taken vows. This I believe, was the point which you have been making also, tenpel.

                      I would like to conclude this post with a couple of Dhammapada quotes directly relevant to this discussion and to the futility of violence and hatred as a resolution, in general:

                      3. He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.”

                      5. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

                    • Thank you sankappa. It could be as ‘The Devils Advocate’ known here also as ‘Anon’ suggests that later scholars recognized this principle of not inflicting harm as a key element of Buddha’s teachings and gave it a term. It could also be that the term existed already at the time of the Buddha like moksha, Samsara and other terms (and understandings).

                      I think it is save to say that not to inflict harm on others is a key/central element of Buddha’s teachings – even the Vinaya rules like not digging earth, to have a water filter etc. are all made in order to prevent harm to sentient beings (animals, nagas etc.) I also would consider that not to inflict harm onto others could be counted under Right View, because it is the view that must precede Right Intentions and Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood. It might be possible to count it also under Right Intentions.

                      But actual these might be scholastic issues, I think the key point of all of the discussion and the post is that “not to inflict harm on others” is a central element of Buddha’s teachings no matter how it is labelled.

                    • just some additional thoughts to this topic:

                      With respect to the claim that non-violence (=not wishing to harm sentient beings) is central to Buddha’s teaching. I think this can be derived also based on the rules for monastics: monastics should have a water filter in order to avoid to kill tiny insects contained in the water, one of the monastic activities, the rain retreat, was set up in order to avoid that many tiny insects are being killed by wandering monastic mendicants. The very first of the monastic vows is to abandon killing, which includes of course insects and all types of animals …

  2. The Devils Advocate says:

    “Yeshe Gyaltsen lived 1713-1793 in Tibet and he used the Abhidharma scriptures from Asanga, so how can he have it from Gandhi or the Jains?”
    The Jain faith predates Buddhism by several hundred years Asanga could therefore have easily procured it from them since he lived 4th century CE and Jainism proper died out in the 8th

    I would be interested to know where the earliest reference to non-harming appears since, according to Tähtinen’s: ‘Ahimsa. Non-Violence in Indian Tradition,(p10) ” in ancient Buddhist texts, ahimsa (or its Pāli cognate avihiṃsā) is not used as a technical term” I would be interested when it made its way into the Dharma dictionary. If it is not in ‘ancient’ texts and Asanga used it, we may have synchretistic elements here

    • I agree, I had this in mind when I wrote it. But they compiled the Abhidharma from the Buddhist schools of that time. For instance Vasubhandus Abhidharma is an encyclopaedia of seven Buddhist Abhidharmas.

      I would be interested to know where the earliest reference to non-harming appears since, according to Tähtinen’s: ‘Ahimsa. Non-Violence in Indian Tradition,(p10) ” in ancient Buddhist texts, ahimsa (or its Pāli cognate avihiṃsā) is not used as a technical term” I would be interested when it made its way into the Dharma dictionary. If it is not in ‘ancient’ texts and Asanga used it, we may have synchretistic elements here

      I think for this we need an expert like an Indologist, Sanskritist or so. I will keep that in mind and try to clarify it in the next two years if there is any opportunity.

  3. The Devils Advocate says:

    NB According to André Bareau
    ” Asaṅga had been a Mahīśāsaka when he was a young monk, and……….after he became a great master of the Mahāyāna,…………..he made up what can be considered as a new and Mahāyānist Abhidharma-piṭaka” Made up? Is this perhaps where the term entered the Buddhist lexicon?.

    • Has he any proof that he made it up? Vasubandhu, the half brother of Asanga (when I remember correctly) compiled his Abhidharmakosha from the seven existent Abhidharma texts of his time. His Abhidharma is that of the Vaibashikas and his interpretation that of Sutrantikas (when I remember correctly). In Vasubhandhu’s Abhidharma text – that slightly differs from Asangas presentation of mind and mental factors – you can find non-violence too:

      ROOT TEXT
      Faith, conscientiousness, pliancy,
      Equanimity, shame, embarrassment,
      The two roots, non-harmfulness, and
      Effort always arise in the virtuous. [2.25]

      (1) Faith which clears the mind of the afflictions and secondary afflictions,
      (2) conscientiousness which cherishes those possessing excellent qualities,
      (3) pliancy which is a serviceability of mind,
      (4) equanimity which is a mind that arises spontaneously that does not come under the control of laxity and excitement, and that, among the three
      equanimities in general, compositional factor equanimity, equanimity feeling, and immeasurable equanimity, is the former,
      (5) shame,
      (6) embarrassment,
      (7-8) the two roots which are non-attachment and non-hatred, these two being [respectively] an awareness that is without attachment by its own
      strength for its object and an awareness that is a complete engagement which is without hatred by its own strength towards its object,
      (9) non-harmfulness which is a complete non-engagement in inflicting injury upon others, and
      (10) effort which is mind that delights in virtue, as the subject, are the many levels of virtue because they are mental factors that always arise in the retinue of all virtuous minds and do not arise in the retinue of others.

      Do you think he also made this up? You can check his authority here:
      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/vasubandhu/
      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/abhidharma/

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        The Buddha made the Dharma up-that doesn’t invalidate it

        • The Devils Advocate says:

          It looks to me like, at some point, the Buddha’s non harming attitude was ‘classified’ as ahimsa by scholars ( or perhaps even the Buddha himself) by adopting the term ahimsa , a term from outside the Buddhist tradition and which pre-dated the Buddha and his teaching. This would not be unusual as there is evidence from within the Vedic tradition that certain practices that subsequently manifested as ‘Buddhist’ existed before the Buddhas time. The argument would appear to be based around from whence the term originated, or who exactly coined the phrase and IMO thus far it would seem to be the Jains ( though they too seem to have looked to the Vedic tradition for some of their ideas)

          • The Devils Advocate says:

            Ahimsa as a term appears in the Yajur Veda which was written between 1000 and 600 BCE Jainism is not considered a Vedic tradition but developed in parallel to it and there was certainly a borrowing of terms at the time, for example samsara and moksha were common currency at the time and an early Jain saint is even mentioned in the Vedas. Point is, many ‘Buddhist’ terms were actually borrowed from the traditions that pre dated it I have yet to see evidence however that the Buddha himself used the term and that is the focus of much scholastic debate, both on and offline I await evidence based confirmation and would welcome these from others

            • The Devils Advocate says:

              Sankappa
              You state
              “My conclusion and extrapolation on this point is, that non-harming and non-violence is implied here in Right View.”
              it would seem to me that it to assert that something is ‘implied’ on the basis of ‘extrapolation’ is a rather subjective way of reaching conclusions.
              Firstly, I have looked at this subject for some years and have NEVER found the ahimsa listed in any sutra/sutta
              Secondly, I have never come across the listng of non-violence under the Right View category
              If ahimsa IS an aspect of the Eightfold Path, it falls within the category of Right Action, where one refrains from killing
              You refer specifically to “the abstention from killing in Right View” This is incorrect.
              “And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action.”
              —Magga-vibhanga Sutta
              Right view on the other hand is
              “Knowledge with reference to suffering, knowledge with reference to the origination of suffering, knowledge with reference to the cessation of suffering, knowledge with reference to the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering: This is called right view”
              There is no mention here of not killing, though one might extrapolate that it arises due to “the way of practice leading to the cessation of suffering” However, that way of practice is via Right Action. This is not extrapolation, nor is not killing ‘implied’ here-it is specific and not interpretive
              With respect

              • sankappa says:

                Hi The Devils Advocate (TDA),

                You say:

                “Firstly, I have looked at this subject for some years and have NEVER found the ahimsa listed in any sutra/sutta”

                TDA, I’m not sure how you have missed this in my post as I bolded the very reference to ahimsa, from the Sallekha Sutta, but I will quote the relevant passage again:

                (1) Others will be harmful; we shall not be harmful here — thus effacement can be done.[17]

                And here again form the Magga-vibhanga Sutta, which you quoted from yourself, so I am not sure why you did not see the reference to harmlessness in the second factor of the 8NP, Right Intention/Resolve/Thought (Samma Sankappa):

                “And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.

                TDA you also say:

                “If ahimsa IS an aspect of the Eightfold Path, it falls within the category of Right Action, where one refrains from killing”

                This is incorrect. As I have just illustrated form the above quote ahimsa is part of the definition of Right Intention, not Right Action. Now this is interesting, as it appears that we are both wrong here, but perhaps not. View conditions –> Intention conditions –> Actions. Therefore, if non-harming is a factor of Right Intention it has to originate from Right View to become part of Right Intention/Thought/Resolve and not result in harmful actions. This makes sense because Right View is the forerunner and conditions all other factors of the 8NP. Hence it is axiomatic that Right View includes ahimsa/avihimsa, as I originally stated.

                TDA you also say:

                ”You [that is I] refer specifically to “the abstention from killing in Right View” This is incorrect.”

                TDA, I am not sure how you have come to this conclusion. Perhaps you did not read my first post where I quoted from no less than the Sammaditthi Sutta (the discourse on Right View) showing a direct quote for the unwholesomeness of killing; or is it perhaps you are limiting the definition of Right View to just the Magga-vibhanga Sutta? If so, this is incorrect. There are numerous suttas that outline Right View, however the Sammaditthi Sutta is considered to be the most far reaching, where Sariputta includes in Right View, wholesome/unwholesome, the four nutriments, the 4NT, dependant origination and the taints (perhaps this is why it is referred to as the discourse on Right View). So there is no misunderstanding, here is the relevant section form the Sammaditthi Sutta, referring directly to not killing:

                4. “And what, friends, is the unwholesome, what is the root of the unwholesome, what is the wholesome, what is the root of the wholesome? Killing living beings is unwholesome; taking what is not given is unwholesome; misconduct in sensual pleasures is unwholesome; false speech is unwholesome; malicious speech is unwholesome; harsh speech is unwholesome; gossip is unwholesome; covetousness is unwholesome; ill will is unwholesome; wrong view is unwholesome. This is called the unwholesome.

                • The Devils Advocate says:

                  I think you misunderstand me I refer to the use of the actual term ahimsa in the original Pali texts
                  Otherwise, I await a clear unambiguous, uninterpreted reference to any citation which specifically states that not killing ( the concept you first referred to at May 5, 2013 at 6:34 am and clearly equated with ahimsa) is anything other than Right Action
                  OTOH, I am happy to concede on this point if it means an end to narrow minded debates using scripture as a weapon!!Thats not what Dharma knowledge is for after all
                  As I said, with respect

                  • The Devils Advocate says:

                    I think Ive got it!The intention not to harm others is right intention:not harming others is right action! By George, hes got it!

                  • sankappa says:

                    TDA,
                    I think my points have been made clearly and concisely, and it is actually that you have not understood or do not want to understand what I have presented. I am getting the feeling that you are becoming defensive and aggressive, so for me to make further effort I believe will serve no purpose.

            • true, moksha and samsara (as well as Karma and rebirth and all the explanations of the concentrations and absorptions) existed already before the Buddha. I think that a sober understanding of the origins of ahimsa needs expertise. I don’t have this.

          • Could be. Some say that the Vedic tradition would be even the remainder of the 3rd Buddha (Krukuchandra?).

            • The Devils Advocate says:

              ” I also would consider that not to inflict harm onto others could be counted under Right View, because it is the view that must precede Right Intentions and Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood. It might be possible to count it also under Right Intentions.”
              Not to inflict harm on others is an aspect of Higher Morality, rather than Higher Wisdom and it involves restraining oneself from performing a physical action of harming others. It is not the intention to do so, which would certainly precede the restraint, and the intention would certainly be Right intention. Nevertheless, the actual physical refraining from harming others is Right Action, which falls under Higher Morality, not Higher Wisdom. One could argue for the interdependence of the Three Higher Trainings, but the distinctions between the individual characteristics should not be overlooked; the Buddha divided the Three into the Eightfold Path for a reason

              • I agree. It belongs definitely and foremost to Higher Morality, and the intention to do so belongs to Right Intention.

                Since such a view of not harming others is (or should be) based on an understanding and reasons of the faults of such an action wisdom is also involved, therefore it has a taste of wisdom, discriminating intelligence. But formally one would quite likely not count it under Right View. Nevertheless – at least for me – it has a taste of a view based on reasoning. People who have “a view” or “understanding” that it doesn’t matter to harm or not to harm and who actively deny karma then this is Wrong View, such a thinking is counted as a view. Hence those who don’t neglect actions’ consequences (Karma) but acknowledge it don’t have a Wrong View but a ‘Correct View’.

                As you say, the Three Higher Trainings are very interdependent, one supports the other, therefore an investigation can approach this topic from different angles. However, at the moment it seems very reasonable to me as you say that non-violence (rather) belongs to Higher Morality or Right Intention than to Right View.

                Thank you very much!

  4. The Devils Advocate says:

    Just in case the other posts I wrote are lost
    The recognition that killing leads to suffering and abandoning killing leads to happiness is Right View
    The intention to abandon killing is Right Intention
    Abandoning killing is Right Action
    Now can we have some peace and quiet!

  5. Joanne says:

    Weren’t the first words the Buddha spoke, “Commit no harm. Tame your mind.”? Isn’t the discussion regarding ahimsa irrelevant– does it matter whether Buddha said ahimsa, or avihimsa? Does it matter whether non harming is part of the Jain and Vedic traditions– is the word ahimsa something which someone owns? Not sure what this conversation is about.

  6. The Devils Advocate says:

    It may seem irrelevant to you But to others it is relevant Thank you for the reminder of the Buddhas first words But no, they weren’t his first words which were: “Seeking but not finding the house builder, I traveled through the round of countless births. Oh, painful is birth ever and again! House builder you have now been seen. You shall not build the house again. Your rafters have been broken down; your ridge-pole is demolished too. My mind has now attained the unformed nibbana and reached the end of every kind of craving.” (Dh. 153-54.) There is also a belief that his first words concerned the inability of others to understand the truth he had found and his invention to retire to the forest. but thanks for the customary lecture on how to practice!

    • The Devils Advocate says:

      Profound, peaceful, unelaborated, luminous, uncompounded:
      I have found a truth (dharma) which is like nectar.
      But as no-one can understand,
      I will not speak of it but abide near the forest.

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        According to the Tibetan view, these were his fist words
        Notably, Lord Buddha was reluctant to tell others how to practice even after he became enlightened Perhaps Western Dharma people could learn something from this

  7. The Devils Advocate says:

    Well that seems to be a conversation stopper for Western Buddhists! And no bad thing-what a waste of time it is telling others how they should practice-like using a heavy and cumbersome mirror to see the imperfections on the face of others! (Is that lecturing others?)

    • The Devils Advocate says:

      Yes, a very contrived and deliberate silence-at least one poster was perhaps out dining with the old Garde.(or busy chatting off page with a self appointed internet guru) Still, at least that means they dont have to admit to their mistake.
      Just to reiterate for when high tea with the bespectacled leprechaun is over……………..
      The recognition that killing leads to suffering and abandoning killing leads to happiness is Right View
      The intention to abandon killing is Right Intention
      Abandoning killing is Right Action

      “I AM the Messiah; now F**@ OFF”

      • In case you refer to me: I just have no time.. Sorry.

        • The Devils Advocate says:

          Not you silly! My intention was otherwise (intention Pali Sankappa)

          • Be kind to her. She is exploring the Pali and this is a very virtuous activity, praiseworthy indeed. Understanding forms slowly, and every trial to understand and share, every quote from a Pali sutra and input is praiseworthy. I think you are often far too cynical. See the good things in others ;-)

            • Someone sent me this today: A Call for Kindness, George Saunders’s Advice to Graduates:

              It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

              Now, the million-dollar question: What’s our problem? Why aren’t we kinder?

              Here’s what I think:

              Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

              Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

              So, the second million-dollar question: How might we DO this? How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

              http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/?smid=tw-share&_r=1&

        • In case you mean me, I have been away. In Wisconsin seeing HHDL. I’ve returned, weary, nothing further to say here, little time with much more fruitful activities on my mind.

          • No, I didn’t mean you Joanne.

            Anon (TDA) is so easily in attacking others and in this case sankappa who made a new start after NKT and is exploring and getting used to the Pali scriptures. This behaviour (by Anon) puts people off the discussion. While kind and clear discussion can help everybody being harsh only discourages people or at least doesn’t help them really. I don’t like this because it is not helpful for others.

  8. The Devils Advocate says:

    Your right-I hate you

  9. The Devils Advocate says:

    “She is exploring the Pali and this is a very virtuous activity,”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-22478474

    Wagner opera to revive language of Buddha

    Wagner Dream links Wagner’s dying days in Venice with his interest in Buddhism
    Continue reading the main story
    Related Stories

    An opera written by composer Jonathan Harvey about Richard Wagner is to be partly performed in Pali, the ancient language spoken by Buddha.

    Welsh National Opera (WNO) director David Pountney said the ancient Asian language was the most appropriate for the production, titled Wagner Dream.

    In the show, a dying Wagner reflects on his own unfinished Buddhist opera.

    The original English text for the Buddhist characters has been translated by academics into Pali.

    The British composer, who died in 2012, was keen for this to happen to “enhance and clarify the cultural dialogue” of the opera, Pountney said. Wagner’s part is sung in German.

    “[Wagner Dream] brings together a giant of the Western musical tradition, Richard Wagner, with ideas and narrative elements from the Buddhist tradition,” Pountney said.

    “We felt that the impact of this cultural dialogue would be enhanced by letting each of these two worlds speak in its own language rather than being confused by both being rendered in a third language, English.”

    ‘Amusing challenges’
    The Pali parts were translated by Professor Richard Gombrich, president of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, who said the task “brought some amusing challenges”.

    Yeah

  10. Human Rights Watch Report

    »All You Can Do is Pray«

    Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State
    April 22, 2013

    This 153-page report describes the role of the Burmese government and local authorities in the forcible displacement of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims and the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Burmese officials, community leaders, and Buddhist monks organized and encouraged ethnic Arakanese backed by state security forces to conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population. The tens of thousands of displaced have been denied access to humanitarian aid and been unable to return home.

    http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/04/22/all-you-can-do-pray-0

  11. Just had a brief discussion with a researcher about this topic, he said:

    1) this topic is not new, it is only new to Western media
    2) Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Burma is strongly bound to national identity, which led to its raise but also brings in nationalism and its disadvantages
    3) Buddhists are organised mainly only locally without any higher, central authority. This has some benefits but also the disadvantage that local fanatics can do what ever they like to do – in the name of Buddhism – without that there is any higher authority who can stop them
    4) Muslims were brought to Burma by the colonizing British empire, and the Muslims had their own (questionable) ways of dealing with Burmese which made the Muslims not very beloved. So the fractions between both ethnics has a long history, rooted in colonialism and the role the Muslims played in it.

    We decided to make an interview about the violence in both Burma and Sri Lanka, and its background. Media have not covered the backgrounds well, he said.

  12. A friend sent me this piece from a discussion forum, where some researchers discuss this case:

    It may vaguely interest you that I asked the same question, mostly to extremist monks, in Sri Lanka during the 80s.

    Genocidal violence was seen by the monk extremists, not so much as directly sanctioned by scripture, but as a logical outgrowth of Buddhist scripture. Many held the position that ethnic Singha nationalism was a defense of Buddhism, the only true pure form of which existed in Sri Lanka (Nobody made the Japanese-style argument that the whole country was an ordination platform, but the Singha were clearly seen as the defenders of the last defensible outpost of the truth in these degenerate times.). Defending Buddhism is necessary to preserve the only route out of suffering. Not defending it would lead to its disappearance in our times and thus it’s non-defenders would be the cause of continued suffering. Being the cause of suffering is a clear violation of vows and the whole purpose of Buddhism. (Some of this fusion of ethnic nationalism and religion also stems from the Buddhist monks’ earlier adoption of what they saw as a highly successful American Protestant approach.)

    When I met the most prominent monk advocate of this view, he began by giving me a lecture on how Buddhism taught the protection of all life and thus he protected even the ants in the temple. I said that I understood how this was based in the teachings of Buddhism but I asked what teachings of Buddhism he was drawing on when he gave a speech the day before advocating the execution of every (Hindu)Tamil in Sri Lanka. He explained that when you’re reborn as an ant your brain is very small so you have few options in life. (Hindu) Tamils are born human and so have choices. They can immediately end their lives when they realize they are (Hindu) Tamils and try again in the cycle of rebirth. If they obstinately resigned alive, every (Hindu) Tamil man, woman, and child should be driven into the sea and their heads cut off. If they continue to live they would accumulate bad karma as enemies of Buddhism and suffer bad rebirths. Murder would really be a way of preventing their furthe!
    r suffering.

    Conversion, of course, could not be trusted, but they might get lucky enough to be reborn as a Buddhist. I’m pretty sure he did not consider Christian Tamils or Hindu Tamil tea plantation Tamils to be significant enough to warrant condemning.

    At that time, such arguments were never applied to Muslim Tamils. They were seen by many Singha as at worse neutral in the war and no one wanted to push them to the other side.

    • Well, that’s alright then. Buddhists are doing them a favour if they kill them. Sounds like an excuse for a difficult problem. When people feel threatened, for whatever reason, the excuses for reaction emerge. Let’s face it, if someone attempts to kick your head in, the first instinct is protect yourself, unless you know different.

      • The Devils Advocate says:

        The Dharma is terminally ill, primarily from self inflicted wounds If we do not seize the essence now and cease pontificating, tomorrow it may be gone

    • Thank you.

      I made an interview with Thierry Dodin about the violence in Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Burma part will be published in the next issue of a German Buddhist magazine. From the pov of what Buddhists can do with respect to Burma: it are mainly the Burmese Theravada monks who must criticize and condemn the actions of those few Buddhist monks in Burma who abuse their status and monastic robes to inflict schism, violence and murder in their own society. The conflicts are not religious in nature but these are social and ethnic conflicts.

      I hope I can soon offer the full interview in English with sheds light on the broad and complex background …

  13. Here an attempt by an Iranian Ayatollah to attribute the violence in Burma to the Jews by claiming that Jews Invented Buddhism: http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/iranian-ayatollah-claims-jews-invented-buddhism

    • Or alternatively, an article by a Jewish journalist about a Muslim ayatollah who believes that God created everything, including a buddhism fabricated by Jews- sounds like discrimination against shugden worshippers to me.btw who created that?

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