Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Responding to Thomas Fuller: "Is There Free Will in Theravāda Buddhism or is it Fatalist?"

Last month, the New York Times' Myanmar reporter Thomas Fuller used the derogatory word "fatalist" to describe contemporary Burmese Buddhist attitudes. As a previous post showed, this is a highly offensive word, and using it in the way that Mr. Fuller did portrays a borderline racist attitude towards the Burmese Buddhist faith. What is more, it is entirely erroneous to suggest that fatalism plays any role in the Buddha's teachings.

The Czech monk U Sarana has responded to this question of "Free Will versus Fatalism in Theravada Buddhism," and his exceptional study of this issue can be seen and downloaded here. Writing with clarity and referencing the Buddha's own words, U Sarana shows that there is no room for fatalism anywhere in the faith. 

While open-minded readers may find the paper insightful, one holds little hope for writers like Mr. Fuller who are entrenched in their own uninformed biases and unquestioned assumptions. After all, the "fatalist" and "nihilist" terms have been bandied about for centuries by Western colonialists, Christians, and writers, and despite long treatises (such as this present one by U Sarana), these derogatory terms continue to find their way into the mouths and papers of those who attempt to describe the religion without proper understanding.