It is said that the famous ninth century Chinese Buddhist monk Linji Yixuan told his disciples, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." The deliberately confounding statement is meant to shock people out of complacent ways of thinking. But beyond the purposeful jolt from complacency there is another intention. For liberation, this axiom suggests that one should seek the Buddha nature that resides within, rather than a mere Buddha exterior. In this way, the metaphor of killing the Buddha dislodges a person from the illusionary perspective that enlightenment lies outside the body. The proclamation also highlights the power of violence, even on a symbolic level. Violence abounds in Buddhist thoughts, doctrine, and actions, however unacknowledged or misunderstood. If You Meet the Buddha on the Road addresses one important absence in the study of religion and violence: the religious treatment of violence. In order to pursue an understanding of the relationship between Buddhism and violence, it is important to first wonder how Buddhist scriptures and followers understand violence. Drawing on Buddhist treatments of violence, Michael Jerryson explores the ways in which Buddhists invoke, support, or justify war, conflict, state violence, and gender discrimination. In addition, the book examines the ways in which Buddhists address violence as military chaplains, cope with violence in a conflict zone, and serve as witnesses of blasphemy to Buddhist doctrine and Buddha images.
Michael Jerryson is Professor of Religious Studies at Youngstown University. He is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence and the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism.
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