Persecution of Buddhists

Persecution of Buddhists

Many Buddhists have experienced persecution from non-Buddhists during the history of Buddhism. Persecution may refer to unwarranted arrest, imprisonment, beating, torture, or execution. It also may refer to the confiscation or destruction of property, or the incitement of hatred toward Buddhists.

Pre-modern Persecutions of Buddhism


In 224 CE Zoroastrianism was made the official religion of the Persia, and other religions were not tolerated, thus halting the spread of Buddhism westwards. Ehsan Yar-Shater, "The Cambridge History of Iran", Cambridge University, 1983, ISBN 0521246938 pg. 860-861] In the 3rd century the Sassanids overran the Bactrian region, overthrowing Kushan rule, Alexander Berzin, "Historical Sketch of Buddhism and Islam in Afghanistan and Buddhists", November 2001, Online Article from the Berzin Archives. [ | Last accessed 3 January 2007] ] were persecutedwhat with many of their stupas fired. Although strong supporters of Zoroastrianism, the Sassanids tolerated Buddhism and allowed the construction of more Buddhist monasteries. It was during their rule that the Lokottaravada followers erected the two colossal Buddha statues at Bamiyan.

During the second half of the third century, when the Zoroastrian high priest Kirder dominated the religious policy of the state. He ordered the destruction of several Buddhist monasteries in Afghanistan, since the amalgam of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism mainfested in the form of a "Buddha-Mazda" deity appeared to him as heresy. Buddhism quickly recovered, however, after his death.

Persecution under the Sunga Pusyamitra

Pusyamitra Sunga (reigned 185 to 151 BCE) assassinated the last Mauryan emperor Brhadrata in 185 BCE, and subsequently founded the Sunga dynasty. From the mid 3rd century BC, under Ashoka, Buddhist proselytization had begun to spread beyond the subcontinent. Buddhist texts such as the "Ashokavadana" and "Divyavadana", written about four centuries after his reign, they contain accounts of the persecution of Buddhists during his reign. They ascribe to him the razing of "stupas" and "viharas" built by Ashoka, the placement of a bounty of 100 dinaras on the heads of Buddhist monks and describe him as one who wanted to undo the work of Ashoka. Ashok Kumar Anand, "Buddhism in India", 1996, Gyan Books, ISBN 8121205069, pg 91-93] However, some historians have rejected Pushyamitra' s persecution of Buddhists and the traditional accounts are often described as exaggerated. The Asokavadana legend has been likened to a Buddhist version of Pusyamitra's attack of the Mauryas, reflecting the declining influence of Buddhism in the Sunga Imperial court. Later Sunga kings were seen as amenable to Buddhism and as having contributed to the building of the stupa at Bharhut. [ Akira Hirakawa, Paul Groner, "A History of Indian Buddhism: From Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana", Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1996, ISBN 8120809556 pg 223] . The decline of Buddhism in India did not set in until the Gupta dynasty.


Central Asian and North Western Indian Buddhism weakened in the 6th century following the White Hun invasion who followed their own religions such as Tengri, Nestorian Christianity and Manichean. Around 440 CE they conquered Sogdiana then conquered Gandhara and pushed on into the gangetic plains. Their King Mihirkula who ruled from 515 CE suppressed Buddhism destroying monasteries as far as modern-day Allahabad before his son reversed the policy.

Emperor Wuzong of Tang

Emperor Wuzong of Tang (814-846) indulged in indiscriminate religious persecution, solving a financial crisis by seizing the property of Buddhist monasteries. Buddhism had flourished into a major religious force in China during the Tang period, and its monasteries enjoyed tax-exempt status. Wuzong closed many Buddhist shrines, confiscated their property, and sent the monks and nuns home to lay life. Apart from economic reasons, Wuzong's motivation was also ideologica. As a zealous Taoist, he considered Buddhism a foreign religion that was harmful to Chinese society. He went after other foreign religions as well, all but eradicating Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism in China, and his persecution of the growing Nestorian Christian churches sent Chinese Christianity into a decline from which it never recovered.

Persecution by Militaristic Regimes

Imperial Japan

Buddhist monks were forced to return to the laity, Buddhist property confiscated, Buddhist institutions closed, and Buddhist schools reorganized under state control in the name of modernizing Japan during the early Meiji Period. [ James Edward Ketelaar, "Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan"; ISBN: 0691024812] The state-control of Buddhism was part of Imperial Japanese policy both at home and abroad in Korea and other conquered territories. [ Brian Victoria, "Zen War Stories", ISBN: 0700715819]

Persecution in Myanmar

The Government of Myanmar has attempted to control Buddhist institutions through coercive means, including the intimidation, torture, and murder of monks [ [ Burma: A Land Where Buddhist Monks Are Disrobed and Detained in Dungeons] ] , After monks played an active role in the protest movements against the military dictatorship in 2007, the state cracked down on Buddhist monks and monasteries [ [ Burma's Buddhist monks take to the streets] ] .

Persecution by Christians

outh Korea

Some South Korean Buddhists have denounced what they view as discriminatory measures against them and their religion by the administration of President Lee Myung-bak, which they attribute to Lee being a Christian.Rahn, Kim (July 30, 2008). [ "President Embarrassed Over Angry Buddhists"] . "The Korea Times". Retrieved October 7, 2008.] The Buddhist Jogye Order has accused the Lee government of discriminating against Buddhism and favoring Christianity by ignoring certain Buddhist temples but including Christian churches in certain public documents. In 2006, according to the "Asia Times", "Lee also sent a video prayer message to a Christian rally held in the southern city of Busan in which the worship leader prayed feverishly: 'Lord, let the Buddhist temples in this country crumble down!'" [ A 'God-given' president-elect] Further, according to an article in "Buddhist-Christian Studies": "Over the course of the last decade a fairly large number of Buddhist temples in South Korea have been destroyed or damaged by fire by misguided Christian fundamentalists. More recently, Buddhist statues have been identified as idols, and attacked and decapitated in the name of Jesus. Arrests are hard to effect, as the arsonists and vandals work by stealth of night." [Harry L. Wells, "Korean Temple Burnings and Vandalism: The Response of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies". "Buddhist-Christian Studies", Vol. 20, 2000, pp. 239-240;] A 2008 incident in which police investigated protesters who had been given sanctuary in the Jogye temple in Seoul and searched a car driven by Jigwan, executive chief of the Jogye order, led to protests by Buddhists who claimed police had treated Jigwan as a criminal.

ri Lanka

Under British rule, Christians were openly favoured for jobs and promotions. [ [ BuddhaNet.Net: Sacred Island - A Buddhist Pilgrim's Guide to Sri Lanka: Kelaniya ] ]
Robert Inglis, a prominent 19th Century British Conservative, likened Buddhism to "idolatry" during a parliamentary debate over the relationship of "Buddhist priests" to the British colonial government, in 1852. ["Hansard", 3rd Series, cxxiii, 713–714.] (Inglis was also an outspoken opponent of Jewish Emancipation).


Buddhists were discriminated against under the reign of President Ngô Đình Diệm.

Already in 1953, first rumors of discrimination against Buddhists surfaced in Vietnam. The allegations stated that Catholic Vietnamese armed by the French had been raiding villages. By 1961, the shelling of pagodas in Vietnam was being reported in Australian and American media [ [ Errors Escalated Too] NY Times Books - May 16, 1965.]

After the Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem came to power in South Vietnam, backed by the United States, he favoured his relatives and correligionists over the Buddhists. Though Buddhists made up 80% of Vietnam's population, Catholics were favoured for high positions in the army and civil service. Half of the 123 members National Assembly were Catholic. Buddhists were also forced to procure special government permits to hold large meetings, a tactic used generally for trade unions. [,9171,874816,00.html The Religious Crisis (Page 1)] TIME - Jun. 14, 1963] In May 1963, the government forbade the flying of Buddhist flags on Vesak. After Buddhist protesters clashed with government troops, nine people were killed. In protest, the Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death in Saigon. [ [ Vietnam at 25] - CNN] .

Persecution by Communists

Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge actively persecuted Buddhists during their reign from 1975 to 1979 [ [ Chronology of Cambodian Events Since 1950] Cambodian Genocide Program - Yale University] . Buddhist institutions and temples were wantonly destroyed and Buddhist monks and teachers were killed in large numbers [ [ Remembering the deaths of 1.7-million Cambodians] St. Petersburg Times - May 3, 2000] . A third of the nations monasteries were destroyed along with numerous holy texts and items of high artistic quality. 25,000 Buddhist monks were massacred by the regime. [ Phnom Penh Journal; Lord Buddha Returns, With Artists His Soldiers] New York Times - January 2, 1992] . The persecution was undertaken because Pol Pot believed Buddhism to be "a decadent affectation". He sought to eliminate Buddhism's 1,500 year mark on Cambodia..


Since the Communist takeover, Buddhism has been severely restricted and brought under state-control. During the cultural revolution, Buddhists were actively persecuted and sent for reeducation, and temples, statues, and sutras were vandalized and destroyed. Buddhism is currently only permitted within the confines of state-controlled Buddhist institutions.

Chinese occupied Tibet

Tibetan Buddhists have been threatened by the Government of the People's Republic of China and by Han settlers, who occupy governing positions in Tibet [ [ Human rights abuses up as Olympics approach] Asia News - August 7, 2007] . Buddhist monks and nuns have been tortured and killed by the Chinese military, according to human rights groups [ [ Area Tibetans mourn their nation's lost independence] Star Tribune - March 10, 2001] .


Buddhist monks were persecuted in Mongolia during communist rule up until democratization in 1990 [ [ Mongolia's monks make a comeback] TVNZ - July 18, 2006] .

North Korea

There is no religious freedom in North Korea, as every religious denomination is persecuted by the communist regime. The regime has removed traces of Korea's Buddhist past and persecuted practitioners of Buddhism. The only cult that is encouraged is that of 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-II and his late father Kim Il-Sung.

oviet Union

Buddhism was persecuted and looked down upon by the Soviet authorities. Adherents were brutally attacked by the authorities [ [ Buddhist revival tangles with politics] Asia Times Online - August 26, 1999] to "free" the masses to work in gulags [ [,9171,938110,00.html The Red Mugwump] TIME - June 9, 1961] . During Stalin's rule, all the Kalmyk Buddhists were forcibly moved to Siberia and only allowed to return after his death [ [ Kalmykia dismayed that Dalai Lama is not coming] Phayul - June 25, 2004] .


Despite the communist regime's hostility, Buddhism is still widely practiced in Vietnam. According to Human Rights News, "Vietnam continues to systematically imprison and persecute independent Buddhists as well as followers of other religions." [ [ Vietnam: Religious Freedom Denied] ] .

Persecution by Muslims


Two ancient Buddha statues, known as the Buddhas of Bamyan, were destroyed on March 21, 2001 by the Islamic Taliban government. [ [ A former Taliban official who oversaw destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas killed in Kabul] International Herald Tribune - January 27, 2007] cite news | title=Attack on giant Pakistan Buddha | date=2007-09-12 | url = | work =BBC News | accessdate = 2007-09-15 ] . Mr. B Raman, Director of the Institute for Topical Studies in Chennai, argued that the Taliban actively campaigned against Buddhist influences in Afghanistan. [ [ Cambodia meets Islam head on] Asia Times - June 3, 2003]


The Buddhist communities of Bangladesh are under pressure from the military and police not to practice Buddhism, and Buddhists have suffered abuse, arrest, and even rapes. The government encourages Muslim settlement in Buddhist areas, as part of its campaign to promote Islam. [ [,5734,0,0,1,0 Religious persecution in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh] ] According to Jumma exiles, torture and murder of Buddhists is a frequent occurrence. []


Various personages involved in the revival of Buddhism in India such as Anagarika Dharmapala and the The Mahabodhi Movement of 1890s as well as Dr. B. R. Ambedkar hold the Muslim Rule in India responsible for the decay of Buddhism in India [ [ A Close View of Encounter between British Burma and British Bengal] ] [The Maha-Bodhi By Maha Bodhi Society, Calcutta (page 205) ] [The Maha-Bodhi By Maha Bodhi Society, Calcutta (page 58)] [The Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi: And Other Essays, Philosophical and Sociological By Ardeshir Ruttonji Wadia (page 483)] [(B.R. Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, vol.3, p.229-230.) ]

In 1193, Qutb-ud-Din, a Turkish commander, seized control of Delhi, leaving defenseless the northeastern territories that were the heart of Buddhist India. The Mahabodhi Temple was almost completely destroyed by the invading muslim forces. [The Maha-Bodhi By Maha Bodhi Society, Calcutta (page 205) ] One of Qutb-ud-Din's generals, Ikhtiar Uddin Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, invaded Magadha and destroyed the great Buddhist shrines at Nalanda. [The Maha-Bodhi By Maha Bodhi Society, Calcutta (page 8) ] The Buddhism of Magadha suffered a tremendous decline under Khilji. [The Maha-Bodhi By Maha Bodhi Society, Calcutta (page 205) ]

In 1200 Muhammad Khilji, one of Qutb-ud-Din's generals destroyed monasteries fortified by the Sena armies, such as the one at Vikramshila. Many monuments of ancient Indian civilization were destroyed by the invading armies, including Buddhist sanctuaries [ [ History > The early Muslim period > North India under Muslim hegemony, c. 1200–1526 > The Delhi sultanate > The Turkish conquest] - Brittanica] near Benares. Buddhist monks who escaped the massacre fled to Nepal, Tibet and South India. [Islam at War: A History By Mark W. Walton, George F. Nafziger, Laurent W. Mbanda (page 226)]

Timur destroyed Buddhist establishments and raided areas in which Buddhism had flourished. [Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological Explorer By Jeannette Mirsky] [Ethnicity & Family Therapy edited by Nydia Garcia-Preto, Joe Giordano, Monica McGoldrick]

Mughal rule also contributed to the decline of Buddhism. They are reported to have destroyed many Hindu temples and Buddhist shrines alike or converted many sacred Hindu places into Muslim shrines and mosques. [War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet By Eric S. Margolis page 165] Mughal rulers like Aurangzeb destroyed Buddhist temples and monasteries and replaced them with Islamic mosques. [India By Sarina Singh] Verify source|date=September 2007

The Ladakh Buddhist Association has said: "There is a deliberate and organised design to convert Kargil's Buddhists to Islam. In the last four years, about 50 girls and married women with children were taken and converted from village Wakha alone. If this continues unchecked, we fear that Buddhists will be wiped out from Kargil in the next two decades or so. Anyone objecting to such allurement and conversions is harassed." [Tundup Tsering and Tsewang Nurboo, in: "Ladakh visited", Pioneer, 4/12/1995.] [ [ The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Jammu & Kashmir ] ]


In September 2007 suspected pro-Taleban militants in north-west Pakistan have tried to blow up an ancient carving of Buddha using dynamite which sustained only minimal damage. In November 2007, suspected Taliban rebels blew up a Buddha statue in the Swat Valley, destroying the head, shoulders, and feet of the statue [ [ Another Bamiyan-style vandalism in Pakistan] Times of India - November 11, 2007] .


Primarily Buddhist Thailand has been involved in a fight with Muslim insurgents in the South. Buddhists have been beheaded [ [,4670,ThailandSouthernViolence,00.html Insurgents Behead Buddhist in Thailand] Fox News - January 14, 2007] and clergy and teachers are frequently threatened with their lives. [ [ In Muslim Thailand, teachers face rising threat] International Herald Tribune - July 4, 2005] Shootings of Buddhists are quite frequent in the South, [ [ South Thailand: 'They're getting fiercer'] Asia Times - December 7, 2006] [cite news | first=Surapan | last=Boonthanom | title=Three Buddhist women dead in south Thailand attack | date=2007-03-19 | url = | work =Reuters | accessdate = 2007-09-22 ] as are bombings, [ [ Two killed in south Thailand] Al-Jazeera - November 20, 2006] and attacking religious establishments. [cite news | title=Three Buddhist Temples Attacked With Explosives (Thailand) | date=2004-05-16 | publisher=Pluralism Project | url = | work =Reuters | accessdate = 2007-09-22 ]


Further reading

*Al-Biladhuri: Kitãb Futûh Al-Buldãn, translated into English by F.C. Murgotte, New York, 1924."
*Elliot and Dowson: The History of India as told by its own Historians, New Delhi reprint, 1990.
*Majumdar, R. C. (ed.), The History and Culture of the Indian People, Volume VI, The Delhi Sultanate, Bombay, 1960; Volume VII, The Mughal Empire, Bombay, 1973.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Persecution of Muslims in Burma — Muslims in Burmese history The first Muslim recorded in Burmese history The first Muslim documented in Burmese history (recorded in Hmannan Yazawin or Glass Palace Chronicle ) was Byat Wi during the reign of Mon, a Thaton King, circa 1050 AD. [Pe …   Wikipedia

  • Persecution of Muslims — refers to the religious persecution inflicted upon Muslims. Persecution may refer to beating, torture, confiscation or destruction of property. Persecution can extend beyond those who perceive themselves as Muslims to include those who are… …   Wikipedia

  • Persecution of Hindus — refers to the religious persecution inflicted upon Hindus. Hindus have been historically persecuted during Islamic rule of the Indian subcontinent and during the Goa Inquisition. In modern times, Hindus in Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh have… …   Wikipedia

  • Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution — The Great Anti Buddhist Persecution initiated by Tang Emperor Wuzong reached its height in the year 845 CE. Among its purposes were to appropriate war funds and to cleanse China of foreign influences. As such, the persecution was directed not… …   Wikipedia

  • Decline of Buddhism in India — Part of a series on Buddhism Outline · Portal History Timeline · Councils …   Wikipedia

  • History of Buddhism — The History of Buddhism spans the 6th century BCE to the present, starting with the birth of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. This makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. Starting in India, the religion evolved as it spread through… …   Wikipedia

  • Timeline of Buddhism — Foundation to the Common EraSome sources give the date of the Buddha s birth as 563 BCE and others as 624 BCE; Theravada Buddhist countries tend to use the latter figure. This displaces all the dates in the following table about 61 years further… …   Wikipedia

  • Mazu Daoyi — This article is about the Ch an master. For the Taoist goddess, see Matsu (goddess). Also, Baso redirects here. For the island, see Baso (island). Mazu Daoyi was a Ch an Buddhist master in China during the Tang dynasty. In dharma succession… …   Wikipedia

  • Outline of Buddhism — See also: Index of Buddhism related articles Flag of Buddhism …   Wikipedia

  • Buddhism — Buddh redirects here, for the Race Circuit, see Buddh International Circuit Standing Buddha. One of the earliest known representations of the Buddha, 1st 2nd century CE, Gandhara …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”