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Talks & debates

Buddhism: A Religion of Peace?

Part of Belief and Beyond Belief

Non-harming, mutual respect and compassion are often seen as central tenets of Buddhism, which teaches that violent actions and even thoughts stand in the way to spiritual growth. And yet the recent history of Buddhism in South and South-East Asia has often been blighted by violence in the name of faith, led by militant monks in countries from Myanmar to Sri Lanka.

Politicised Buddhism has in many cases contributed to ethnic divisions, and called for nationalist crackdowns on other religious groups and minorities. How did a religion of peace become involved in bloodshed and conflict? Is there any basis for it in Buddhist teaching, or are these examples of wayward groups who have become detached from the principles of the religion?

Speakers include:

- Ulrich Pagel, SOAS, Reader, Languages and Religions of Tibet and Central Asia, History of Buddhism in Tibet, Mahayana Buddhism, Kanjur Studies, Vinaya, Religions of Central Asia, Tibetan, Sanskrit.

- Kate Crosby, Professor of Buddhist Studies in the department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College, London. She works on Sanskrit, Pali and Pali-vernacular literature, and on Theravada practice in the pre-modern and modern periods. Her most recent books are Traditional Theravada Meditation and its Modern Era Suppression (Buddha-Dharma Centre of Hong Kong, 2013), and Theravada Buddhism: Continuity, Diversity, Identity (Blackwell-Wiley, 2014).

- Mahinda Deegalle, Professor in the Study of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University, United Kingdom. He is the author of several books, most recently Justice and Statecraft: Buddhist Ideals Inspiring Contemporary World (Nagananda International Buddhist University, 2017). He has received a British Academy and Leverhulme Trust grant for research on Buddhist Engagements with Minorities in Sri Lanka. His recent published research has concentrated on the ethics of war and religious conversion in pluralist societies with a focus on Sri Lanka.

- Dr Pyi Phyo Kyaw, currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Buddhist Studies at King’s College London specialising in Burmese Buddhism, Abhidhamma (Theravada analytical philosophy), Buddhist business practices, Buddhist ethics and meditation. She has undertaken monastic training as a precept-nun as well as intensive meditation practice within different meditation traditions in Myanmar, and has worked on changing paradigms in monastic education in Myanmar. She obtained her PhD in Theravada analytical philosophy from King's College London and also has an MA in Buddhist Studies from SOAS, University of London, and a BA in Economics and Management from Oxford University.

Chaired by Wendy Jones, author of seven books, both fiction and non-fiction, which have been translated into 11 languages, including Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl, the biography of Grayson Perry.

Dates & times

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Royal Festival Hall
Blue Room, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall


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This event is included in both the Sunday and Weekend Passes, and is part of With God On Our Side... Religion and War Weekend.