Cultural Arts Review: The Face of Buddhist Terror

Posted on October 18, 2013 by



The photograph above is the cover story for a June edition of Time magazine.  Wirathu is the Buddhist monk pictured on the cover, and he is a part of an extremist Buddhist Nationalist movement in which the Buddhists verbally attack the Muslim minority, and express their dislike for them.  This has challenged the typical pacifistic ways and morality of the traditional Buddhist faith.  And as evil and negative events and movements most often do, this has caught the attention of the media.  This could tarnish the reputation of Buddhism, because having this minority group on the news can make it hard for readers to remember that this is a minority group and is not representative of Buddhism as a whole. 

            The implications of the religious in the cover of Time magazine is taking a minority group of the Buddhist religion and making them representative of the entire faith.  This is done in many faiths and most times leads to changed perceptions of the religion.  Pacifism and welcoming and treating others well still remains an important aspect of Buddhism for the majority of Buddhists, however this minority group Is being portrayed as if they are representative of the entirety of Buddhism. 

            This exemplifies the tradition of monks as spiritual leaders in Buddhism, whether that is in a positive or a negative way.  Either way the monks in Buddhism act in a manner that they believe is correct, and on occasion their ideas conflict with the basic beliefs of Buddhism, and because they are the face of Buddhism their actions have a huge impact on the image that Buddhism has in the world.  This is not to say that the majority of monks are acting in ways that go against Buddhist principles, because that is not true, the majority of them follow the Buddha’s teachings, but the media tends to latch onto the negative aspects of anything, and this is not an exception. 

            The identity of an individual can have lasting implications on the world around them, especially when they have power and authority over a large group of people.  They can often sway people in a direction that might not be a positive one, and it can also tarnish a reputation of a religion.  This is because people often do not dig deep into what the media says and takes what they see at face value.  This can be dangerous and can lead to a misinformed opinion of the subject matter, in this case Buddhism.

            This picture and cover for the Time magazine comes from an outside source, and the photographer, journalists, and editors of Time magazine are most likely do not adhere to the Buddhist tradition, therefore this is an outside perspective of the changes that are occurring in a minority portion of the Buddhist faith. 

            This photograph and cover story on Time magazine has many more implications to the image of Buddhism as a whole than would originally meet the eye.  It can cause the viewer to believe that Buddhism is changing as a whole, while Wirathu is just one leader of a minority movement within Buddhism, which is not representative of the entire religious community. This can have larger implications concerning the image of Buddhism than are originally perceived, because Buddhism is a pacifistic religions, this goes against their core beliefs, causing the viewer to question whether Buddhism has changed.  Images and the media are powerful tools and can be used in a variety of ways to assess a variety of subject matter.  

Maria Vachlon


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