Buddhist Traditions and Violence

Michael Jerryson

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199759996
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Buddhist Traditions and Violence


This chapter discusses the history of Buddhist traditions and violence, concentrating on the scriptural justifications, symbols, and actual manifestations of violence. It covers Theravada (Path of the Elders), Mahayana (Great Vehicle), and Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle). Theravada scriptures present on occasion a categorical imperative to avoid violence. Mahayana scriptures condemn violence and hold murder as an unwholesome act (akushala). Vajrayana doctrine is perfused with texts and commentaries that reject the use of violence. The chapter then outlines the elements of violence with regard to war, punishment, and social control. Among the various examples in the scriptures lies one from its founder Siddhattha Gotama, who abandoned his own familial allegiance for the sake of reconciliation.

Keywords: Buddhist traditions; violence; scriptural justifications; Theravada; Mahayana; Vajrayana; war; punishment; social control; Siddhattha Gotama

Article.  12570 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Buddhism

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