Buddhist Contemplations Critical Commentary

Posted on September 26, 2013 by


Critical Commentary

Samantha Swanson

            A mass shooting took place on Monday the 16th of September. Aaron Alexis killed 12 people and wounded 14 others.  This took place at the Washington Navy Yard.  The title of this article is Yes, The Navy Yard Shooter Was a Buddhist, written by Joshua Eaton.  Aaron Alexis was a Buddhist.  This created a huge controversy.  The news portrayed this story in many different ways. Some blaming the religion, others never mentioning he was a Buddhist and some talking about his psychological problem.

Joshua the author of this article, wasn’t worried that someone would blame his religion for this horrific crime.  This was because Buddhism has such a popular image of being peaceful, non-dogmatic science of the mind.  Also there are internationally known figures like the Dalai Lama who are known for their peaceful way.  The Dalai Lama has spent over fifty years fighting the Chinese government with nothing but the moral force of his beliefs, and Buddhist monastics in both Tibet and Vietnam chose to burn themselves alive in protest rather than take up arms against their oppressors. These are crazy extremes Buddhist do to promote peace.  The promise not to kill another living being is the first of five precepts enjoined on all Buddhists. The other four are to refrain from stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and intoxication. Some people argued if someone couldn’t even keep the principle not to kill then what business do they have calling themselves a Buddhist? Joshua was more worried people would say Alexis was not really a Buddhist.  This sounds strange because naturally as human beings we want to distance our self and our communities from people who do such awful things.

There is nothing proving that Alexis’ rampage had anything to do with his Buddhist practices. People who have committed a cruel act in Buddhism’s name like the anti-Muslim monk: Ashin Wirathu in Burma, get the same treatment. Some people don’t consider them real Buddhist and they are hated by others.  Time magazine called him “the face of Buddhist terror”.  Buddhists do not commit violence, it seems, and therefore no one who commits violence can be a Buddhist.

When a Buddhist or Muslim commit a crime or are involved in a violent act people normally see them as religious stereotypes rather than human beings.  This is evident in the United States today.  Muslims face discrimination, hate crimes, intrusive government surveillance and threats of violence daily.  Mosques are burned to the ground. Hard-working immigrants are denied jobs. Women are assaulted on the street.  These are all the affects of the religious stereotypes.  Religious stereotypes are built up in the news.

My favorite part of this article is when he talks about how Aaron Alexis failed to live up to Buddhism’s principles and ideals, along with Tsarnaev brothers (involved in Boston shooting), and Malik Hasan who was also involved in a mass shooting.  This does not make Alexis a fake Buddhist any more than it makes every Muslim a real terrorist.  It makes us all (Buddhist and Muslim, Christian and atheist) human beings, with all the beauty and ugliness that entails.

This article is a good medium in my eyes because he talks about how there are all these religious stereotypes going around and in the end of the day we are all human beings.  That is a good way to look at it and if we all looked at it this way there would be less religious articles in the news fueling all these stereotypes.  We have to remember stories are always presented in different ways, depending on who’s presenting it.  There are consequences to the way stories are told.  We always need to remember that the news is a business and needs to make money.  Even though this article is a decent medium the title draws in a lot of attention and attention draws in money.


Posted in: Buddhism