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The Radicalisation of Buddhism in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries: The Buddhist Sangha in Sri Lanka


Politics, Religion & IdeologyJournal abstract

The ideas of non-violence, peace and non-discrimination have been systematically developed in Buddhism. Nonetheless, as research has shown, Buddhist ideas can also contribute to escalation of conflicts, racial belief systems and radical movements. Political theory suggests that political actors regularly try to exploit religion in order to remain in power or to establish exclusive group identities, and so on. From this perspective, religion does not have an independent role; rather, the state co-opts a certain form of religion. However, there is ample evidence that religious actors further their own objectives and strategies, and in extreme cases attempt to take over a political system. The development of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries is presented here as an example of the radicalisation and politicisation of Buddhism. This case study deals with the role of religious actors in promoting ethno-religious nationalism, the exclusion of the minority population and the justification of violence.

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