Ideologies and policies of Buddhist Communism?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Bad@logic, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    République populaire de Californie
    While Communism and religion have traditionally been opposed, this hasn't stopped there from being occasional Christian/Islamic socialist movements. Buddhism has similarly occasionally had its own socialist ideas, and furthermore enjoys the advantage that it does not inherently believe in a god and can easily be portrayed as atheistic, diminishing its apparent contradictions with Marx's denunciation of religion as the "opiate of the masses." Early in the Soviet Union and Mongolia, Buddhism was tolerated and viewed as different than other religions, until ultimately receiving the same treatment that other religions got under Stalin. So what if in a Buddhist nation, the flavor of communism that ultimately developed was a hybrid alliance between Buddhism and Communism, which upon the victory of the Revolution in this particular nation, develops a continued alliance between the two. Although various nations might be a possibility, I particularly think that South-East Asia would be the most promising spot for such a revolution: Mongolia and Tannu Tuva would be bound to be Soviet (or Chinese) puppets given their population size, while Chinese, Korean, and Japanese versions might be excessively syncretic and diverse which would prevent Buddhism from being the main religious element allied with the revolution. Tibet's Buddhism was conservative and theocratic, and so its unlikely that any communist revolution there would be allied with the Buddhist monasteries which controlled the country! Therefor, South-East Asia seems the most likely target, particularly colonized nations, where Communist progressive agitation and Buddhist opposition to state secularism and state-backed Christianity, plus its influence among the masses, could find allies in each other. Burma historically tried the "Burmese Way to Socialism", and of this set Burma, possibly Sri Lanka, and French Indochina seem the most likely: Vietnam was also quite known for the conflict between Buddhist and Catholic faiths. Being displaced from the peak of society, Buddhism has less reason to support the status quo, and hence can possibly be more amenable to an alliance with communists. This revolution would presumably also presumably be along either Soviet or Maoist lines, with its attitude towards religion being its principal deviancy.

    I know very little about Buddhist theology and practices, and of course they would vary greatly from country to country. My knowledge of communism is also mediocre. However, I'd like to hypothesize that the following (unique) ideas and policies might be ones which the new Revolution implements:

    Ideological elements:
    1)Buddhism's focus on the acceptance of suffering would be a useful ideological tool on the regime, and would be exploited to the max: by living a simple spartan life one would both be in line with the principles of Buddhism, but also help free up resources for investment into economic investment and military spending, as well as of course justifying the poor living standards compared to Capitalist economies.
    2)Religions like Catholicism or other Christian branches would be labeled as backwards, superstitious, irrational, and the opiates of the masses, as compared to the rational, progressive, and "atheist" (Buddhism does not after all, necessarily believe in a god) Buddhism. Furthermore they would be castigated as agents of imperialism and colonialism, another justification for their destruction.
    3)The five moral precepts (no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, no intoxicants), and Bodhisattva-path would be stressed and used as a justification for a new Socialist morality and New Man.
    4)I am unsure how Communist Buddhism might seek to reconcile a cyclic approach to time in Buddhism and the inherently linear course of Marxism. Some usage however can be made of comparing nirvana to communism (in the stage approach of historical materialism), and the Buddhist six realms compared to the stages of development of society.
    5)Karma and other religious morality would be used as the basis of a moral economy, emphasizing communalism and equating participation in the socialist system to good acts.
    6)It would be declared that Buddhism has been a liberating and humanitarian force throughout history in East Asia and the world. Wherever there is a contradiction here, such as Buddhist "feudalism' in Tibet, it would be brushed asides by declaring it to be a corruption of the original teachings of the Buddha, and that in fact, Buddhist Communism is returning to his original pure and true thought and principles.
    7)A principle sticking point would be the relationship to "feudal" figures such as the Dalai Lama. Unless if the Dalai Lama himself could be converted to Buddhist Communism, it would be a difficult relationship!

    1)Naturally there would be no persecution of Buddhism in Buddhist-Communism with the liquidation of the religious leadership, destruction of its temples, and cultural oppression. Other religions would presumably not enjoy the same treatment.
    2)The degree to which Buddhism is actively promoted by the state might vary, ranging from it simply being accepted with sympathy to actively promoted.
    3)The Buddhist lamas and monks might be seen as being part of the intelligentsia, and like in North Korea proclaimed as being part of the three-fold alliance of workers, peasants, and intellectuals.
    4)Like in the early Mongolian case presumably the Party might recruit from the Buddhist monk and lama classes, so there might develop a substantial overlap between Buddhism and the Party. Indeed, seeing the Party as the lackey of Buddhism or Buddhism as the lackey of the party might become obsolete: the two might be inseparable.
    5)Religious education and government education might overlap, or even become fused.
    6)As one possibility, when collectivization of land comes, justifcation of it and its model might derive from and base itself on the Buddhist monastery principle: perhaps the new communes might center on a monastery.
    7)There might be development of a Buddhist International, in addition to a Communist International, serving as a union for communist Buddhism. This would be particularly used to attempt to legitimate continuing influence and control in other Buddhist nations of whatever country Buddhist communism develops in.

    Are there any other suggestions of how Buddhist communism might differ from regular communism? Hopefully people with more knowledge of Buddhism and/or Communism might suggest some!
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  2. Proto-Indo-European Banned

    Feb 3, 2018
    I could see communists in a historically Buddhist nation using memes and concepts from the religion to spread propaganda the way the early Bolsheviks did with Christianity. But a genuinely Buddhist communism (as opposed to a Buddhist state that adopts socialist policies) is impossible. Organized state religion, including Buddhism, is reactionary and anti-materialist. Every single Marxist-Leninist state has crushed or at most grudgingly tolerated religion as a necessary retreat.
  3. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    République populaire de Californie
    I would disagree on its impossibility: religious communism/socialism has been theorized by Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists, and they didn't see it as being contradictory. The examples that I outlined as seeing the highest possibility of success, the colonized South-East Asian states during the colonial period, have that highest possibility precisely because they are not dominant and in control of the apparatus of society, but rather have been displaced and rendered into a marginalized position in the colonial system, where they have little reason to support the continuation of the state and its power which is oppressive to them. I would compare this to the Liberation theology expressed in Latin America, but without the power of the centralized church structure to reign them in. And there have been plenty of religions which have become very materialistic indeed.

    Even more importantly, most important humans are very good at being able to ignore contradictions. If thrown together to collaboration, then a Communist-agrarian-Buddhist-populist mixture very well could try to paper over their differences, as politics make strange bedfellow. Provided that the communist aspect of the state itself never grows strong itself to completely dominate the other elements of its coalition, then there's no reason why it can't continue in an odd mixture. Communism itself has been compared to being religion-like, and an eclectic mix between it and an actual religion like Buddhism does not seem behind the pale to me. Historically, this never happened as the scenario for it never occurred, but the scenario itself is a possible one provided that the revolution has sufficient independence from the Soviet Union (or the USSR has a very different attitude on religion indeed), and sufficient collaboration between Buddhism and Communist elements.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
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  4. Kishan Well-Known Member

    Feb 28, 2012
    The role and trasformation of JVP in SriLanka is interesting when we analyse the connection between the Buddhism and the Communism. The JVP or Janata Vimukti Peramuna (Peoples Liberation Front) under Rohana Wijeweera started as a faction split off from the Communist Party of Ceylon. There were three or four leftist political parties in Ceylon and JVP accused others that they have betrayed the Communist ideals of liberation. They adopted the Maoist path and forming small squads of youth gave them training in the use of arms. They spread the operation in the Southern parts of the country and made plans to attack the police stations in rural areas simultaneously. In 1971 the JVP cadres launched their revolt against the Government led by Prime Minister Sirimao Bandaranayake. The Ceylon had only a small military and police forces at that time, still they succeeded in putting down the revolt in a comparatively short period. The Government received the aid of neighbors including India and Pakistan. About four to five thousand people lost their lives in the revolt. The JVP leaders including Wijeweera were captured and imprisoned. Though Wijeweera was sentenced for 20 years in prison, when Jayawardene came to power he was released and the ban on JVP was lifted.
    When the Tamil insurgency started in 1983, the JVP took up the cause of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism and opposed any concessions to the Tamils. When the Indo-SriLanka accord was signed and the Indian Peace Keeping Force was allowed to control the Northern portion of SriLanka, JVP started to blow up the fires of Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism. In 1987 JVP launched their second revolt against the SriLankan Government. This was a long drawn out revolt and lasted till 1989. The Government once again put down the revolt without any mercy. Wijeweera and other leaders who were captured were executed. Around 35000 people lost their lives in this revolt. The JVP had adopted Maoist methods but was driven by Buddhist nationalist ideology.
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  5. Jape Seacombe Mod

    Feb 26, 2008
    Paradise 5
    Small 's' socialism can certainly mix with Buddhism, arguably it does in various forms. Mixing with an established Marxist-Leninist regime is a different matter. Without trying to be clever about it, 20th century communism does share a lot of similarities with prolestysing religions, primarily where it gets into power. There the rewards of paradise are replaced by 'the coming of full communism', the unknown future were the trials and tribulations of the working-class will inevitably (by the notions of Marxist historians) lead to rewards, if not for them, then certainly their children. I'd argue religions like Christianity and Islam can quite easily mix with Communist thought and have done so across the globe, its simply that Communist regimes didn't like the idea of sharing power. Also often 'the Church' is a central part of the regime they have just torn down.

    Buddhism, and other more esoteric religions like Taoism, have crucial hang-ups that just don't gel with Marxist-Leninism IMO. Firstly they are not proletysing, secondly they are anti-materialist and on a social scale 'aimless', and thirdly they do not hold humanity (over other animals) to be particularly special.

    TLDR: You can't build the new hydroelectric dam if you're too busy contemplating the stream.
  6. jerseyguy Well-Known Member

    Feb 25, 2017
    Buddhism's focus on controlling desires could be useful in the material deprivation that command economies produce. This kind of mix sounds like the quasi-religious "Obliteration of the Self" ideology that governs Eastasia in 1984. Has a Buddhist equivalent of the Taliban existed before?
  7. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    République populaire de Californie
    Maybe in theory yes, but can one call a majority Buddhist nation like say, Thailand, "anti-materialist"? I suppose it might be harder at the ideological level, but at the societal level the Buddhist countries of the world seem hardly particularly anti-materialist. And maybe not active proselytizing regimes, but it hasn't been immune to temporal power, Tibet being rightly or wrongly famous for a dispute over whether it constituted a theocracy before the Chinese invasion.

    I would freely admit however, that the problem of simultaneously achieving a Marxist-Leninist state and also having it be unable to fully crush all obstacles to its power, to rather to some extent become melded with its counterparts to the extent that neither one is fully crushed, is a very difficult given the historical track record of Marxist-Leninist regimes. Certainly they have mutated over time to new and almost unrecognizable ideologies, such as with North Korea, but the dual power structure approach that I envision here seems without historical example.
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  8. David T Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2007
    An old post of mine (apologies for any links that may no longer work):



    "On earth there were two great geniuses--Buddha and Lenin."
    --Peljidiin Genden (future Premier of Mongolia), 1924

    During the 1920's some Buddhist intellectuals in the Soviet Union (and its "satellites" of Mongolia and Tannu Tuva) argued that Soviet anti-religious policies should not apply to Buddhism, not only because it was supposedly egalitarian in its "pure," "original" form--other religions could make the same claim--but also because it was atheistic (a claim that even the most radical or "reform-minded" Christians and Muslims could not make about their own religion). An important figure here was the Buryat lama Agvan Dorzhiev (1853-1938).

    Hans Bräker in his chapter on "Buddhism" in Eugene B. Shirley, Jr. and Michael Rowe, *Candle in the Wind: Religion in the Soviet Union* (Washington DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1989), pp. 176-7 provides some background:

    "The encounter with Christianity and other Western thought systems made possible by Russia's 1905 Edict of Toleration resulted in the development of a movement in Buddhism generally called Lamaistic modernism. Comparable change did not occur in Lamaistic Buddhism in Tibet until the confrontation with Chinese Communism in 1949.

    "Lamaistic modernism in Russia was closely linked to Lama Agvan Dorzhiev, leader of the Buryat clergy, born in 1853. Educated in Tibet, Dorzhiev became a friend and advisor of the thirteenth Dalai Lama in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. In 1901 he was granted an audience with the tsar, whose inclination for the mysticism of the Orient was known. Dorzhiev suggested to the tsar that Russia should declare itself the liberator of Asia and defender of Buddhism, then mount a campaign southward over the Himalayas to 'liberate the oppressed peoples.'

    "After the October Revolution, Dorzhiev tried to develop Lamaistic modernism further by teaching the compatibility of Buddhism with Communism. The point of departure for this could only have been. of course, the atheism of Buddhist doctrine. [1] Leading Russian Orientalists joined in the effort to develop a modern version of Buddhism acceptable for the Soviet Union. For them, as for Lamaism itself, it was a matter of survival.

    "The new Soviet leadership took advantage of Buddhist modernism and vigorously attempted to associate Soviet authority with the messianic expectations of the Lamaistic world. The first edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, in a volume published in 1927. characterized Buddhism as a kind of declaration of the rights of mankind, and of the rights of the citizens in the East. This interpretation derived not from any sympathy with Buddhism but from hard-headed political pragmatism. In the interest of internal consolidation of power, the new Bolshevik leadership had to avoid all conflict with non-Marxist spiritual or religious forces..."

    As Bräker notes, this pragmatic policy was in tension with the 1918 Decree on the Separation of Church From State and of School from Church:

    "For Buddhism, the monastery is of central importance. The religious practice of the Buddhist laity as well as the lamas is centered in the monastery. When this institution was suppressed, Buddhism was deprived of its main foundation.

    "The 1918 decree was very cautiously applied until the end of the 1920s, and for a time the Soviet leaders had to accept a marked revival of Buddhist religious life. The number of lamas increased substantially. The monastic educational system blossomed. Even the Young Communist movement of Central Asia recruited its cadres from monastery schools. According to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (first edition), in 1916 there were 34 monasteries with 15,000 lamas in Buryat Mongolia; by 1923 some new monasteries had been founded (the number is not known), and the number of lamas had risen to about 16,000. In 1928 there were still 73 monastic schools alongside 119 government schools. In the region of the Kalmyks there were 70 monasteries and 1,600 lamas in 1916; by 1923 the number of lamas had increased to 2,840. In Tannu-Tuva, Lamaism was able to develop relatively undisturbed until 1929. At that time there were 22 monasteries and approximately 2,OOO lamas in a population of 60,000.

    "At the height of this development, in the winter of 1926-27, a congress of Soviet Buddhists took place in Buryat Mongolia under the direction of Dorzhiev. It gained a quasi-international status through the participation of numerous Buddhists from other central and east Asian countries and was therefore instrumental in disseminating the thesis of the compatibility of Buddhism and Communism. The message of allegiance that the congress sent to the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, however, must have provocatively demonstrated to the party and state leadership the dangerous internationalist orientation of Buddhism in the Soviet Union.

    "The consolidation of Soviet power amid Stalin's seizure of leadership led to a radical change in Soviet religious policy. The Law on Religious Associations of April 1929 led to the nearly complete annihilation of Buddhist practices in the Soviet Union by the second half of the 1930s.

    "To begin with, anti-Buddhist articles appeared in the party press. The ideas that Marxism-Leninism and Buddhism were compatible and that, because of its atheism, Buddhism had a special position among the religions of the Soviet Union were labeled dangerous heresies. In the second edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Buddhism is seen as nothing more than an instrument created by the feudal masters to exploit the working masses.

    "In 1929 a branch of the League of Militant Godless was organized in Buryat Mongolia. Its mission was to eradicate religious consciousness through ideological influence, i.e., atheistic propaganda. This policy was totally ineffectual, however, because many Buddhists, considering themselves atheists, joined the League. Party and state confronted them with the argument that Buddhist atheism was not related to the militant atheism that is based on the Marxist-materialist understanding of the laws of nature and society.

    "As ideological tactics against Buddhism proved ineffective administrative steps were taken. High taxes were imposed upon the monasteries supported by the populace. In 1929 numerous monasteries were forcibly closed, and many lamas were arrested and sent into exile...The Japanese expansion (1937-39) into China, as far as the border of Outer Mongolia, served as a pretext for increased persecution. Using the unfounded allegation that the lamas were agents of Japanese imperialism, the Soviet government closed the few remaining monasteries. In 1936 Foreign Minister Molotov could report at a reception in Moscow for a 'delegation of workers' from the Buryat ASSR that 'the Buryat Mongolians had forever put an end to the many-thousand-headed class of lamas, which had like leeches sucked the blood from the body of the people of Buryat Mongolia.'" (pp. 178-9)

    Christopher P. Atwood in his article on Dorzhiev in *Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire* (pp. 151-2) notes that

    "Dorzhiev advocated the elimination of lamas' private property on both Buddhist and Communist grounds and participated actively in the first All-Union Buddhist Congress in January 1927 in Leningrad, which supported this policy. At the same time, he argued publicly that unlike Christianity, Buddhism supported the Soviet regime. He also defended the reputation of Buddhist medicine.

    "In 1931 with increasing antireligious persecution, Dorzhiev was confined to Leningrad. On May 30, 1935, the lamas of the Leningrad *datsang* were arrested. Dorzhiev was deported in January 1937 to the Atsagat medical *datsang*, where he was arrested on November 13 on the fabricated charge of being a leader of a Japanese spy ring doing 'wrecking work' in the collectives and preparing an armed insurrection. He died of heart failure in prison on January 29, 1938."

    My what-if here: Suppose Stalin *without otherwise modifying his anti-religious and "leftist" drive of 1929 and subsequent years* decides to make an exception for Buddhism on the grounds of its alleged egalitarianism and atheism? (We can make the POD that during his Siberian exile before the 1917 revolutions, Stalin had become acquainted with some Buryat intellectuals and was impressed by their accounts of how Buddhism was different from religions like Christianity and Islam. By the 1930's Stalin had become so powerful that a personal quirk on his part could decisively change Soviet policy.)

    The consequences of such a privileged role for Buddhism would not be confined to the USSR but would also affect Mongolia and Tannu Tuva. (Here I will deal mostly with Mongolia.) The Mongolian People's Republic had of course been formed under heavy Soviet influence. The ruling party, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party, in the 1920's generally pursued a tolerant attitude toward Buddhism, despite some conflict; indeed, many lamas were Party members. Tseren-Ochiryn Dambadorj, then Chairman of the MPRP's Central Committee, told the American left-wing journalist Anna Louise Strong in 1926:

    "Our present slogan is 'For a purer Buddhism.' We could not possibly attack the Buddhist religion. We aim rather to weaken the influence of the lamas by going to the original teachings of Buddha which do not recognize property or monasteries, or all these embroideries of ceremony and power that the lamas have built. We deprive the lamas of political rights, denying them the vote since they do not work. We also tax them like other citizens. But it is a hard problem. For three hundred years the people have learned to reverence lamas. They will not unlearn in six years."

    Tsyben Zhamtsarano (or Jamtsarano or Jamsrangiin; see for a biography), a Buryat intellectual who was influential in Mongolia during the 1920's (because the Buryats had been ruled by Russia for three centuries, they were convenient intermediaries between Soviet Russia and Mongolia during the 1920's; indeed, for much of the decade they virtually ran Mongolia) strongly defended Buddhism in 1926:

    "Seeing that the basic aims of our Party and of Buddhism are both the welfare of the people, there is no conflict between the two of them...*It is a special case that in Russia religion is the opium of the people.* What our lord Buddha taught cannot be equated with aggressive religions like Mohammedanism and Christianity, and though the communist party rejects religion and the priesthood, this has nothing to do with our Buddhist Faith. Our Party wants to see the Buddhist Faith flourishing in a pure form, and approves of lamas who stay in their lamaseries, reciting the scriptures and faithfully observing their vows." (Quoted in C. R. Bawden, *The Modern History of Mongolia,* p. 286)

    An example of the sophistication of the MPRP in dealing was Buddhism was the question of the incarnation of a ninth Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, when the eighth one (Bogd Khan, the only monarch of modern Mongolia, though merely a figurehead after the Soviet-sponsored "People's Revolution" of 1921) died in 1924. The Party leaders were of course aware of the advantage of having no spiritual head of the Church as a rival. Nevertheless they did not dare forbid outright the search for a ninth incarnation. Instead, they temporized, and when (almost immediately after Bogd Khan's death) a ninth incarnation was found in northern Mongolia, the Party merely declared that there was not sufficient evidence to accept this particular child as an incarnation. The Party's Central Committee decided that the government should take up the general question of an incarnation with the Dalai Lama--a procedure which could be dragged out indefinitely. When in 1926 the high lamas requested to be allowed to find a ninth incarnation, the Party and government (after praising the late eighth incarnation for his role in freeing Mongolia from Chinese rule in 1911) replied that there was a tradition that there would be no further incarnations after the eighth, and that the whole matter should be taken up with the Dalai Lama. There was actually no Church teaching that the line of Khutuktus would come to an end with the eighth. But it had become almost a tradition after the death of each Khutuktu that there would be anxious rumors among the people that he would not be born again, and that the line of Khutuktus would die out with him. So instead of directly challenging Church dogma, the Party and government were cleverly playing on doubts and anxieties which were already vaguely familiar to the public in order to push through their intended policies without arousing too much popular resentment. (One should remember that even under the Qing Dynasty, the installation of a new incarnation was never a matter for the Church alone to decide.)

    In late 1928, however, the Comintern decided that the leftward turn in the USSR must be applied to Mongolia as well; Dambadorj was ousted as a "right opportunist"; Zhamtsarano was denounced as a "pan-Mongol nationalist" and restricted to academic work. (In 1932 he returned to the Soviet Union, where he was arrested in the 1937 purges, and accused of being a "pan-Mongol Japanese agent." He died in a labor camp near Orenburg in 1942.) From 1929-1932 came Mongolia's "Leftist Period" marked by attempts at forced collectivization and by open attacks on religion, spearheaded by an Anti-Buddhist League modeled on the Soviet League of the Militant Godless. (In February 1929, with all "right wing" leaders ousted, the authorities finally felt secure enough to issue a decree categorically prohibiting the installation of the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu or any lesser incarnation.) These policies led to a virtual civil war which could only be quelled by Soviet troops. (Rebels assured the people that the Panchen Lama would come to their rescue, summoning the Japanese Army, which was identified with the hosts of the mythical Shambala.) The "New Turn Policy" of 1934 promised to reverse the "leftist" mistakes of the recent past. (The "New Turn" Premier, Genden [also transliterated as Gendun] had been "a disciple of the lama Puntsugtering in his home banner, and in 1924 he exclaimed that the Buddha and Lenin were the world's greatest geniuses." Atwood, *Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire,* p. 196.) However, the offensive against Buddhism resumed, the regime resorting first to heavy taxation and attempts to divide the poorer lamas from the richer ones, and eventually (under the leadership of Choybalsan [Choiblsan, Choibalsang], who purged Genden and all other opponents in Stalinist style) to forced secularization of the poorer lamas and the killing or imprisonment of the wealthier ones. By 1940 the Church had been virtually destroyed.

    Although a token revival of Buddhism was allowed under Choybalsan's successor Tsedenbal, in part to win Mongolia support in Buddhist nations, the regime never really abandoned its anti-Buddhist ideology until the fall of Communism. One historian, Sh. Natsagdorj, (quoted in Bawden, pp. 269-70) gave a relatively moderate but still hostile view (at least with respect to Buddhism's *modern* role):

    "How are we to view the dissemination of Buddhism in Mongolia? In my opinion, Buddhism played a civilizing role in some respects in Mongol life in the sixteenth century. As well as replacing the coarse and primitive shamanist cult, it cherished and spread in the steppes of Mongolia some of the achievements of Indian and Tibetan culture. But it became a weapon for reinforcing the power of the exploiting classes and the exploitation of the working masses of the Mongol people, and in this respect caused enormous harm to the progress of Mongolia."

    It is certainly arguable that *any* modernizing regime in Mongolia, Communist or not, Soviet-dominated or not, would have to fight the Church's influence. The wealth of the lamaseries in a very poor society, the financial corruption and sexual debauchery of many of the lamas, and the withdrawal of a huge percentage of the male population--estimates are as much as forty percent--from productive labor to idleness in the lamaseries were all denounced by Western observers like Douglas Carruthers in the early twentieth century. (Carruthers pointed to the poverty of the Mongols in comparison with the nomads of the Moslem Kirei-Kirghiz, who followed a similar way of life but a different religion.) OTOH, as C. R. Bawden notes in *The Modern History of Mongolia,* p. 169 "a large number of lamas lived at home just like ordinary herdsmen" and worked to help their families. (The 1924 Constitution of the Mongolian People's Republic recognized this distinction, and only disfranchised full-time monks.) Moreover, Bawden continues, "Carruthers's argument also stands in direct contradiction to the argument of Professor Natsadorj, that the Church offered, in the nineteenth century, the only alternative way of life for surplus manpower no longer needed in the cattle-rearing economy, where in any case much work was done by women. The church absorbed this surplus manpower; it did not create it. But in the conditions of the time it was an unproductive, economically stagnant, and inward-looking alternative, able to absorb the manpower but not to employ it usefully." However, even if one accepts the most negative view of the effects of Buddhism on early twentieth century Mongolia, combating the evils of the Church did not necessarily require the all-out war on Buddhism adopted in the 1930's; instead the regime could have continued its 1920's line of working with reformists in the Church (and there were many) for a "purer" Buddhism. There is no reason to think the Mongolian government would not have continued this policy *if Stalin had allowed it to do so.* Indeed, at a conference in Moscow in 1934, Stalin specifically instructed a reluctant Genden to step up repression of the lamas. (By this time, Stalin had long since ceased dealing with Mongolia through the Comintern; instead, the Mongolian leaders had to travel to Moscow to get their orders from Stalin directly. Supposedly, at one of those meetings Genden was so angry and/or drunk that he broke Stalin's pipe!)

    One other interesting possible effect of Stalin adopting a more pro-Buddhist policy would be on Soviet relations with Tibet. In another post, I will examine the Soviets' attempts in the 1920's to win over the Thirteenth Dalai Lama as an ally against Great Britain, and how his anxiety over Soviet and Mongolian anti-Buddhist policies helped to defeat these attempts, to the extent that his final testament in 1933 consisted largely of a bitter denunciation of "red ideology" as one of the "five forms of degeneration" of the era...

    [1] Typical dilaectics from Dorzhiev in 1926: "Shakyamuni's second great notion is his atheistical teaching, [in which he] demonstrates that there is no creator god. Instead he advances the concept of an infinite chain of cause-and-effect [Sanskrit 'pratitya-samutpada'], from which it follows that the world is infinite in time and space, [that it] has neither beginning nor end, that nothing can arise from nothing, and that something existent cannot be utterly destroyed. Everything is in a constant state of flux--something that exists in a given moment ceases to be the same the next moment. In Europe it became possible to speak of such things only after the development of the exact sciences, which emerged as the result of a continuous struggle waged against the theistic ideologies by the European peoples, who are still, on the whole, under the influence of Biblical-Christian theism." (Quoted in John Snelling, *Buddhism in Russia: The Story of Agvan Dorzhiev, Lhasa's Emissary to the Tsar,* p. 226.) Dorzhiev also had a more pragmatic argument for the Soviets taking a liberal attitude toward Buddhism, which he expressed in a letter to Chicherin in 1925, and which Snelling parpahrases (p. 219) as being that whatever "paltry advantages to be derived from anti-religious propaganda among the Buryats and Kalmyks more than offset by damage inflicted to the Soviet image in Tibet and Mongolia."
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  9. CountPeter Apparently the anti-christ.

    Oct 20, 2014
    Considering early Buddhism was a materialist school of thought (not hard materialism), figures like the Dalai Lama are outright Marxist and the modern "engaged Buddhism" draws heavily from Marxism (and protestant evangelism), a Buddhist communism is perfectly possible just as there were Islamic communists and Chris to communists.

    Buddhism as a politically conservative or reactionary element is also not a given. In the east Asian tradition, the ideological basis for a lot of progressive movements were Buddhist in nature (the empress Wu for instance sponsored Buddhist temples to give women more options, and the Ikko Ikki was a Buddhist led peasant militant group).

    Whilst there are of course countries with Buddhism as a state religion which are heavily conservative, criticism of these conservative elements not only largely come from Buddhist sources (I.e. Therevadans pointing out that banning women from being monks in Thailand is directly contradictory to the pali canon & the Dalai Lama protesting his own exile community for forbidding women under the same grounds).

    I dont want to paint a picture that you cannot be Buddhist and conservative, but that Buddhism is like any religion in its applicability to various political directions - the only unusual part is the active criticism by the international sangha against reactionary elements.
  10. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    République populaire de Californie
    I had actually already linked that in the OP ;)
  11. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    République populaire de Californie
    What might be the changes of the Western perception towards Buddhism? Could the New Left's (assuming that social trends in the West are anything like they were historical) flirtations with the subject be perceived as an indicator of their interest in communism and another point against them from mainstream society?
  12. jerseyguy Well-Known Member

    Feb 25, 2017
    I don't know if a Buddhist theocracy is compatible with communism, but Socialism with Buddhist Characteristics would likely create a lot of negative western stereotypes toward Buddhism that are mainly directed at Islam OTL. Many westerners associate Islam with violent fanatics like ISIS, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda, but Buddhism probably suggests an image of eccentric celebrities consulting gurus, or "peace and love" rhetoric from the Dalai Lama.

    Any mainstream associate between Buddhism and communism is dependent on whether the regime emerges before, during, or after the '60s. A religion's public image can rapidly change in just a few decades. In interwar Europe, it would be reasonable to associate neo-paganism with fascist weirdos like Himmler, but contemporary pagan and Wicca people have a stereotype as harmless liberal eccentrics who care more about vegan Solstice Feasts than proving Thule's existence. If the theocratic dystopia pops after the 60's, then it probably won't create a stereotype of Buddhists as genocidal communist fanatics.

    A lot of hippies tried on Buddhism for size, but the counterculture's flirtation with Buddhism doesn't seem political. It would be very difficult for mainstream stereotypes to tar all Buddhism with the brush of a Khmer Rouge/Buddhist theocracy combo if there are already lots of western hippies around and westerners have associated Buddhism with Herbie Hancock or the Beatles' trip to India. The New Left was many things, but it wasn't communist. There was certainly fringe that was into radical ideologies like Maoism, but the New Left focused most of its energy on social issues like civil rights, feminism, and gay acceptance.

    A large part of the counterculture became a kind of "apolitical left" that was only concerned with Buddhism or politics in general as it related to lifestyle issues and individual spirituality. The people who took the "Hippie Trail" to India or Afghanistan looking for drugs and eastern spirituality generally weren't interested in fierce debates about commodity fetishism under the Asiatic mode of production. The connection between weed, polyamory, and meditation retreats and a violent revolution would be tenuous at best, even if mainstream American in 1968 didn't like either of them.
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  13. markus meecham Marxism-Leninism-Bricksquad thought Banned

    Mar 6, 2018
    always coming with the knowledge in commie stuff
  14. Francisco Cojuanco Anti-Wilsonite

    Jan 13, 2008
    Didn't they try something of Socialism with Buddhist characteristics OTL in Myanmar, under Ne Win's horrific regime?
  15. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    République populaire de Californie
    To my understanding Buddhism doesn't believe in a soul, or a "human nature". This might be useful for the promotion of "New Man" ideas like in the Soviet Union: since the belief is that there is no inherent human nature, then presumably man can be engineered and sculpted at will. By contrast Occidental societies have long used human nature as a reason for why Socialism and Communism is impossible (in my opinion its a subject argument and there are so many other ones which can be empirically brought forth to show why at least centrally planned economies are disastrous) and have a fundamental tension between tabula rasa and the idea of an intransmutable and unchangeable soul.

    It makes me wonder how much Confucian motifs were used in Chinese communist in such regards: to my understanding Confucianism is functionally similar in believing in the ability for human nature to be shaped and changed, and this must have been of tremendous utility to the State if they ever attempted something like the New Soviet Man.
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  16. Bad@logic Well-Known Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    République populaire de Californie
    On this theme, I had written a propagandish-tract outlining out a discourse from the regime upon how this might effect their policies for a New, in this case Vietnamese, Man. I'm not entirely satisfied with some parts of it and I continue to have a very spotty and embarrassingly lacking knowledge of Buddhism, but I was reasonably pleased in its amateurish form tying together the utility of both and their mutual interest, and justifying the government's policy.

    There is no soul to Man. As the great Buddha has taught us, there is no such thing as human nature. Would one be so foolish as to search for a soul, for a being, in a chariot, in a compilation of many parts? Just like a chariot, humankind is composed of parts which create the being.

    The physical form (rupa)
    Feelings or sensations (vedana)
    Ideations (sanna)
    Mental formations or dispositions (sankhara)
    Consciousness (vinnana)

    The Occident teaches that Man is endowed with a certain nature, unchangeable and permanent, which condition man from one generation to another, over the age of time. The religions of the occident, these oppiates of the masses that Marx warned about, that accept god and silly superstitions, who ally themselves with the classes of money to oppress the workers and peasants, stand fervently in the defense of human nature. Man was according to them made in the "image of god" but fell from grace to corruption when Adam and Eve fell to sin. Be it original sin or ancestral fault, according to them Man is born corrupt, imperfect, and this cannot be changed. What is it that this justifies? This serves to justify the imperfections and the cruelty of the capitalist and imperialist system itself! Man is inherently imperfect and cannot be changed, and therefor it will always be the case that man will live in a state of imperfection, greed, avarice, corruption, and exploitation. Man exploits Man - and is that not his very nature? Man cannot be changed, and neither can the system of exploitation.

    We know better. The great Buddha, Marx, and Lenin have all shown that there is no such thing as human nature, that Man can be molded and sculpted. Did not the Buddha grow up in a palace, surrounded by luxuries and hidden from the temporal world, until he discovered the true existence of the world and embarked upon meditation and ultimately found the middle way, sitting under the sacred Bodhi tree, and there discovered enlightenment? There is no such thing as human nature, and Man can sculpt himself. Buddhism teaches that there is a path to enlightenment with the four noble truths: that life is suffering and dissatisfaction, that suffering is caused by craving, grasping, desiring, that to bring about the end of craving and desiring is to relieve suffering, and that this can be achieved by following the eightfold path, the Middle Way, between a life of asceticism and the desire of pleasure. Through mental discipline, compassion, ethical conduct, and wisdom, Man can walk the eight fold path.

    And it is clear, that there is only one existence which enables man to walk the eight fold path to its completion. The Buddha's genius was to realize the existence of the Middle Way, but the Buddha's great tragedy was that he was unable to discover or to create the conditions enabling all of Man to complete the eight fold path and for Mankind to be liberated.

    For on this earth there have been two great geniuses: Buddha and Lenin.

    It is the great Lenin who has shown that Man can advance from the stage of capitalism, to the socialist society. In primitive communism, humanity was the closest to enlightenment, as it shared everything and functioned in a functional equivalent to democracy. This transitions to the slave society, wherein craving, grasping, and desiring, becomes entrenched, leads to suffering. Feudalism emerges from this, and as feudalism develops its proto-capitalist ideas and classes, the profit motive is held up as the center of society. And from this emerges capitalism, and its highest stage, imperialism, which brings craving, grasping, and desire to its logical and maximal extent. Throughout all of these, humanity is unable to achieve enlightenment, even if it comes close in primitive communism, because it is fundamentally weighed down by lack of knowledge and the inability to end craving and desire which therein results in the end of suffering. In capitalism, feudalism, and slave empires, profit and greed prevent this. In primitive communism, the reason is even more cruel: the knowledge of the great Buddha, of the need to end desire and greed in order to end all suffering, did not exist. It is only once both of these are combined, the end of the enshrinement of property, greed, desire, and craving in existence, which is the inevitable result of the three previous stages of society, married to the teachings of the noble Buddha, that Man can achieve enlightenment. The Buddha's teachings are the key, and the Socialist society is they keyhole which it unlocks. At last, the two have found each other, after these thousands of years when Humanity has been cursed to its dismal and sad existence.

    Only the socialist stage of history, which ends greed when the means of production are taken from the capitalists and put in the hands of the workers, when the workers govern themselves through communes in a dictatorship of the proletariat, and when greed occasioned by money and finance is replaced by the labor vouchers of Marx, provides for the necessary preconditions for human enlightenment to be achieved. In such a society, following the eight fold path and allowed to do so by the means of production there existing, Man's present so-called "nature", will be cast asides, replaced by a selfless, educated, healthy, and socialist Man, committed to the spreading of the Revolution. Over his base instincts, his craving for pleasure and luxury, the hard working, disciplined, and devoted New Buddhist/Vietnamese Man (all true Vietnamese being Buddhist after all) breaks free of the greed and avarice conditioned by capitalist society, to achieve enlightenment in the new socialist reality. The New Buddhist/Vietnamese Woman emerges as a wife and mother who selflessly produces children for the next generation, and who works selflessly to achieve the advancement of socialist society, much like her husband. The family in Socialist society is strengthened and removed of the feudal and capitalist oppression which introduces discord between the sexes, instead forming a union of Socialist citizens. As wives and mothers, the New Buddhist Woman secures the advancement of the socialist society. Along with the school, the teacher, the party, radio; newspapers, it is to her to be the Socialist Mother who contributes to the fifth part of the Human being, mental formations or dispositions (sankhara).

    It is the duty of the Party to condition society so that the "Engineers of Man" can help society on the path towards socialism and enlightenment. The two are inextricably linked, for the socialist society requires that the sankhara is sculpted so as to enable the transition of socialism, which is required for the completion of enlightenment and the eight-fold path. As the Great Leader Nguyễn Thiện Ngôn himself notes:

    "It is the duty of monks, writers, artists, and teachers to study conscientiously Marxism-Leninism and the teachings of the Buddha, so as to be able to enhance their own ability to understand the material nature of existence and the eight-fold path. By doing so, they can become the engineers of man who will enable man to be educated and progress along the material stages of existence."

    Henceforth it must be that writers and artists are to produce material which conforms to the need for the socialist revolution, espousing, demonstrating, and spreading the ideals of Marxism-Leninism-Buddhism. Teachers are to teach, kindly but firmly, to elevate and to change the sankhara of Man. And monks and monasteries will become red priests and temples, as the false and unnatural dichotomy between the Eight Fold Path and the road of the great Lenin is torn down, instead as we embrace the construction of a New Man on this earth, who will lead society from its fallen and corrupt ways to enlightenment through the path of the great Buddha which can at least succeed because of the genius of Lenin. Already, the Vietnamese people shed their greed, avarice, and desire, and embark on the path towards liberation and the abolition of suffering.

    Long live the New Man! Long live Vietnam! Long live the great Buddha! Long live Lenin!
    Tolkiene likes this.