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Violent monks….do these two words even go together? Is this even possible? How can monks be violent individuals? Are they not supposed to spread peace and positivity. 

It’s interesting to see how when people think about monks, they immediately assume peace. Any correlation to violence would definitely be seen as abnormal.

I was also somewhat blinded by this way of understanding.

Due to the teachings of the four noble truths, it is acceptable to claim that the image of unshakeable peace and tolerance is a Western caricature. It defies history and simplifies human nature as to why monks cannot be deemed as violent.

Well, who are monks? A monk in the Buddhist world is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living. In the religion of Buddhism, monks follow the teachings of the Buddha.

The Buddha had lived a life of great asceticism. He had felt that he could not grasp the genuine nature of the world while attached to earthly things like family, housing, pleasures, and so on. He had become a role model for the monks and nuns.

The ultimate purpose of Buddhism is to put an end to rebirth and suffering. The only way to stop suffering is to fulfill the human capacity for righteousness and happiness; to achieve nirvana. Nirvana is Buddhism’s ultimate and highest good.

Leading a moral life is merely one aspect of the ideal of human perfection represented by nirvana.

Which is safe to say that violence was not a way of living a moral life.

The Buddha established the concept of the four noble truths. Which are:

  1. Life is suffering (dukkha)
  2. Suffering is caused by craving
  3. Suffering can have an end
  4. There is a path which leads to the end of suffering

Trying to understand the concept of the four noble truths is significant as it sheds light as to what is considered reality. The so-called reality of what is life. Since the goal of Buddhism is to put an end to all suffering for each and every individual, it is achieved through the state of nirvana. But what’s important to understand from the 4 noble truths is that suffering is part of life whether you agree or disagree. 

As the 4 noble truths state, life is suffering, suffering is caused by craving, suffering can have an end, and that there is a path which leads to the end of suffering. These 4 truths claim that it doesn’t matter whether you’re a very healthy and wealthy king of a beautiful country (dukkha) or if you have all necessities needed to live but are still homeless (existential suffering), suffering will always be present in any kind of way. 

As we are human beings, we will always have cravings of some sort, it can either be you don’t have enough food to eat or it could be you don’t have enough gold jewelry. Whatever the situation may be, that suffering will be caused because if we are human beings, we have been reborn. This means we have not reached the state of nirvana and having to accept the fact that our suffering has not been put to an end. 

I say this because we have not reached the full awakening of virtue and wisdom. This plays a role in understanding monks following this teaching, leading them into being harmonious, and non violent individuals.

Needless to say, because we have such a preconceived notion of how Buddhism works and how monks should act, it pervades our reality of knowing the genuine responsibilities of monks.

Nevertheless, history has proven that religious traditions are human affairs, and that regardless of how noble their intentions are, they exhibit a whole range of both human virtues and human flaws.

While history implies that being astonished that Buddhists are as capable of horrific brutality as anybody else is naive, such surprise is nonetheless widespread.

Buddhists monks at the end of the day are human beings, and it should come as no surprise that lay Buddhists have occasionally gone to war over the years. A few have committed murder, and several eat meat despite religious teachings that advocate vegetarianism. 

To an outsider with a traditional perception of Buddhism as introspective and peaceful, it may come as a surprise to find that over the years, Buddhist monks have displayed violence. But let us not forget they are human beings who are just like the rest of us. Can true enlightenment ever be achieved? Or are we all eventually subject to our worst human instincts?

Hi everyone! My name is Muskaan, I am one of the newly joined writers, here at Her Campus. I'm so proud to be part of this community!