I had sent a few questions to Jundo. He asked me to post them along with his answers here. This is one of them.

Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin
On a more disturbing note, there is an almost "jihad"-like theme in some, such as the Mahaparinirvana Sutra's stating that the laity should actually take up arms against detractors of the dharma.

(in a follow-up I added): The "jihad" section is chapter five "the adamantine body" (snipping here, from http://www.zhaxizhuoma.net/DHARMA/Tripi ... ayana2.htm). I started looking closer at this after reading section on it in Paul Williams book on Mahayana philosophy. After reading again I'm not sure "protect" equates to "kill detractors" though...

Quote Originally Posted by Mahaparinirvana Sutra Chapter 5
The Buddha addressed Kąsyapa÷, "It is because of being able to protect and uphold the true Dharma's causes and conditions that one consummates the adamantine body. Kąsyapa, I in the remote past have protected the Dharma's causes and conditions, and so now I have consummated the adamantine body that is eternally abiding and indestructible. Good son, one who protects and maintains the true Dharma, who has not received the five precepts or cultivated the majestic deportment, should carry knife, sword, bow and arrow, spear, or lance, defending and upholding the precepts of the pure monk.""

"The Buddha replied to Kąsyapa, "Good son, because of these causes and conditions, the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen must aid, promote, protect, and uphold the true Dharma. The reward for protecting the Dharma is vast and measureless. Good son, this is why the Dharma protecting laymen should take up blades and sticks to defend such a Dharma-keeping monk. If there are those who take and uphold the five precepts, they are not called people of the Mahąyąna.

Those who do not take the five precepts in order to defend the true Dharma, they are called Mahąyąnists. The protectors of the true Dharma shall take up swords and weapons of war and act as guards for Dharma preachers."
Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
Hi Kaishin,

I read those passages in two translations, and I believe that it is clearly speaking of ... not aggression or 'Jihad' ... but self-defense and protection of travelling monks from brigands, robbers and the like. The fact of the matter is that, at many times of Buddhism's history in India, it was quite dangerous for monks to travel on the roads. In fact, Buddhism no longer exists in India now because it was the victim of a true "Jihad" ... a holocaust at the hands of Muslim invaders that went on not for decades, but for several centuries, burning every temple and Buddhist school to the ground, killing any monk or nun or Buddhist layman who did not flee or convert to Islam. It truly makes what happened to the Jews in Europe small in scale.

Thus, I have no doubt that, at various times in its history, the rules of "not taking life" were bent to allow some degree of self-defense and protection (and such remains the majority opinion today among most Buddhist clergy I know). In fact, one factor explaining why Buddhism disappeared from India but Hinduism remained is that the Hindus were much less passive and non-violent in the face of Muslim invasion.

Gassho, J