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"OH WATERS, TEEM WITH MEDICINE TO KEEP MY BODY SAFE FROM HARM, SO THAT I MAY LONG SEE THE SUN." - Rig Veda
"The publication late last year of Buddhist Warfare, the book I coedited with sociologist and religious studies scholar Mark Juergensmeyer, was a bittersweet experience. It marked the culmination of a journey that began with an exploration of the peaceful aspects of Buddhism—only to end up chronicling portions of its dark side.
I realized that I was a consumer of a very successful form of propaganda. Since the early 1900s, Buddhist monastic intellectuals such as Walpola Rahula, D.T. Suzuki, and Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, have labored to raise Western awareness of their cultures and traditions. In doing so, they have presented aspects of Buddhist traditions while leaving out others. Western academics quickly followed suit. By the 1960s, pop culture in the United States no longer depicted Buddhist traditions as primitive, but as mystical.
Thupten Tsering, codirector of the 1998 film Windhorse, a political drama surreptitiously filmed in Tibet, encapsulated the effect of this unsophisticated portrayal in a 2000 interview with the New York Times. “People assume that if you are Tibetan, you are peaceful and polite and smiley,” he said. “I tell people, when you cut me, I bleed just like you.”