The atrocities being committed against the Rohingya population in Burma are being attributed in the press to ‘Buddhist mobs.’
Buddhist Rakhine mobs, seeking retaliation for the abduction and killing of a police officer by Rohingya villagers, entered under the cloak of darkness with knives, sticks and guns and went on a killing spree, residents in the area told the AP on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals. Many of the victims were women and children, hacked to death by the mobs, they said.
I would like to make the point that it is a person’s behavior that determines his status as a Buddhist. There are no membership cards, and the only test is behavioral. Any professed Buddhist who takes part in the actions described in the passage above is by his behavior self-disqualified from that affiliation. To wit, of The Five Precepts given for practice to every Buddhist the prohibition against killing is first among them :
As all Buddhas refrained from killing until the end of their lives, so I too will refrain from killing until the end of my life.
-The Five Precepts (Mahayana)
This is not to suggest the first precept is more important than the remaining four, rather that it is the first behavioral stricture encountered in the nascent practice of any Buddhist. Ignorance of this stricture can therefore not be taken as an excuse.
Let’s be clear: whatever the complaints of the majority Burmese are, mob violence is in no sense a Buddhist answer. When one enters a mob one cedes a significant portion of his independence to that mob: when it moves, you move; when it strikes, you strike else run the risk of being taken for a sympathizer. Placing oneself in a situation where one’s own karmic involvement is out of control is not skillful; inherently un-Buddhist.
Join a peaceful march? Yes. Leave that march when it becomes a mob? Yes. Join an angry mob, skipping entirely the pretense of peaceful assembly? By what train of thought?