Friday, Dec. 11, 1964

Buddha on the Barricades

As in the ocean's midmost depth no wave is born,

But all is still, so let the monk be still, be

Motionless, and nowhere should he swell.

—The Sayings of Buddha

At an hour when a man can first discern the shadows of the veins on the back of his hand, the monks arise. The great temple drum, hanging from its roughhewn log rack, summons the faithful to alms. Twisting a single saffron shift round their bodies, the monks move out into the quiet streets in single file, eyes to the ground, fingers clasped beneath their silver begging bowls. In Laos, the bonzes form a silent silhouette against the ornate temple roofs of the royal capital of Luangprabang. In Burma, they enter Rangoon framed against the great Shwe Dagon pagoda, its massive gilded spire shimmering in the early dawn. Though the robes may be grey in Formosa or black in Japan, in much of Asia the day begins with this same silent march of the mendicants. Passing laymen place gifts of food in the bowls, humbly thanking the monks for thus permitting the givers to acquire merit.

So has it been for most of the 2,508 years since Buddha, the Enlightened, took leave of his disciples. Yet through out Asia today, in one of the little-remarked but momentous sea changes of modern times, the sandaled monks with shaved heads have abandoned Buddha's command to be still and motionless and have plunged deep into politics. While most continue their usual duties of meditating, reading the scriptures, teaching and begging, more and more of them are busy issuing political manifestoes, organizing riots, and working for the downfall of governments. From the Indian Ocean to the Sea of Japan, from the Irrawaddy to Tonkin Bay, bonzes are causing political waves whose final effect even they themselves cannot foresee but which are vitally affecting the Western—and the Communist—role in the fate of Asia.

New Threat. In Ceylon, the tenuous, left-wing coalition government has for weeks been at the capricious mercy of the Buddhist clergy; last week the Prime Minister, Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, lost a vote of confidence and dissolved Parliament, requiring new elections that are sure to be tumultuous. In Japan, Soka Gakkai, a new Buddhist sect claiming converts at the rate of 100,000 families a month, has launched its own political party, which, says its chairman, "naturally aims at ruling the nation." In Burma, an attempt to set up a Buddhist thearchy has led to chaos and left-wing military dictatorship.

Above all, it is in South VietNam that political Buddhism is making its most vigorous, most open attempt to seize temporal power. Buddhism now may be as great a threat to the embattled country as the Viet Cong—if not greater. Saigon has just passed through a week of riots in which the believers in the reverence for life tossed hand grenades from the sanctuary of Buddhist headquarters, teenagers supposedly raised in "the Middle Way" ganged up on policemen, and disciples of the gentle Buddha pushed old people and children as human shields ahead of demonstrators.

Though it asserts the insignificance and futility of the world, Buddhism has been powerfully active in the world before. It has known warriors and politicians, god-kings and bonzes who whispered the advice of the pagoda into the obedient ears of the palace. Its variety is attested by the countless images of Buddha—smiling or somber, frail or vigorous, regally enthroned or easefully reclining. Yet nowhere, so far, has there been enshrined an image of Buddha on the barricades, of the Enlightened One with a hand grenade.

Visual Aids. Buddhism's strident inner contradictions were on display last week in a great red, orange and blue tent pitched in the Deer Park of Sarnath, India, where Buddha preached his first sermon 500 years before Christ. There some 150 Buddhist leaders from 25 nations gathered for the Seventh World Fellowship of Buddhists. Begun in 1950 as a kind of informal, monk-to-monk faith forum, this year's meeting often sounded more like a U.N. debate. Russia's Venerable Lama Jambal Dirji Gomboeve—representing 500,000 Soviet Buddhists living mostly in Asiatic Russia—urged the conference to "condemn provocations against the borders of Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos." Red China and its satellites, which brutally suppressed Buddhism but found plenty of tame monks to collaborate with the regimes, decided to boycott the meeting, charging that it was dominated by the West. Living evidence of Red suppression was the conference's guest of honor, the Dalai Lama, who has been in exile in India since Peking drove him from his Tibetan throne in 1959. With pointed indirection he only noted that, "although material progress is better than a thousand years ago, mental suffering still exists or has gotten worse." Indonesian Delegate Willyse Prachna Suriya was on hand to equate Sukarno's socialism with the teachings of Buddha and to denounce the Malaysians as imperialist stooges. The Malaysian delegates listened with admirable dhyanaic self-restraint.

As for the South Vietnamese delegation, it came armed with a statement describing the three years since the last fellowship meeting as "a terrible ordeal unprecedented in the annals of our history." It supported this with a barrage of oil paintings and photographs, plus a movie, A Message from Viet Nam, which was shown after a Sarnath Rotary Club tea. The visual aids all documented outrages suffered by the Buddhists in South Viet Nam, but somehow managed to avoid mentioning Communism, the Viet Cong, the U.S. or the war. Said the delegation: "The Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation solemnly declares before the world that it avoids all activities which are opportunist, discriminating and political."

Less than a week before that statement, Buddhist Spokesman Thich Tam Chau had flatly announced that the South Vietnamese government of Premier Tran Van Huong "will have to go." Three days after the statement, a Buddhist communique called the Premier "stupid, a traitor, a fat, stubborn man without any policy." In Saigon, Huong replied pluckily: "If the situation gets out of hand, we must again use force. They simply want to control the government. The Viet Cong are also trying to overthrow this government. We can't allow the Buddhist leaders to do this for them."

If the Buddhists succeed, it will be the third South Viet Nam regime the Buddhists have been instrumental in ousting in just over a year with their peculiar "avoidance" of politics.

Off to Bed. It was only 18 months ago that a 73-year-old Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc sat down in the middle of a Saigon street and, drenched in five gallons of gasoline, calmly set himself afire with a cigarette lighter to dramatize Buddhist opposition to the regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem. It was this calculated grisly act of propaganda—and Diem's harsh countermeasures—that eventually led the U.S. to withdraw support from Diem, permitting his overthrow and murder. At the time, the West had great sympathy for South Viet Nam's Buddhists. Now the atmosphere is different. There is no longer even the shadow of a religious issue. Around the charred object that is still exhibited and venerated as Quang Duc's heart has grown up a militant, devious, determined movement whose aim is power.

Any suggestions that they are trying to help the Communists are indignantly rejected by the Buddhist leaders. On the contrary, they insist that they represent "the people," while the government does not, hence that they are the only power in South Viet Nam that can truly oppose the Communists. Thich Tri Quang, who is emerging as South Viet Nam's top Buddhist leader—Americans remember him as the monk who took refuge in the U.S. embassy during the weeks preceding Diem's overthrow—sounds as anti-Communist as any American could wish. Says he: "Like all educated Buddhists, I don't like Communism because it is atheistic. I strongly believe that Communism can never win." In the next breath he adds: "But I fear it is coming to South Viet Nam because this government is unpopular and always seems to do the wrong thing." He even asserts that the government and the U.S. are favoring negotiations with the Communists—the very thing he himself has been accused of.

What Tri Quang wants, he says frankly, is any "government that agrees with our policy." But he offers no specifics. Spreading his thin fingers, he blandly asserts that "we never want anything, and to say that Buddhism wants this or that is wrong. We never sponsor anybody."

And with that, he goes off to bed till midnight, when he rises again for meditations on his mistakes of the day. Some exasperated Americans refer to Tri Quang as "the Makarios of VietNam."

Princely Ascetic. Are Tri Quang and the other Buddhist leaders naive or villainous, or both? Are they merely inconsistent in the grand Vietnamese fashion? Are they nationalists or Communist dupes? Whatever the answer, much of it lies embedded in the myriad traditions of a great faith—noble, puzzling to the West, durable yet widely decayed, and sharply challenged by the modern world.

The diffuse spiritual legacy of Buddha, having survived the march and countermarch of conquerors in Asia, today commands perhaps 300 million faithful—it is typically Buddhist that estimates range from 100 million to 500 million. Precisely what they are faithful to is as diverse as the cultures of Asia, for everywhere Buddhism has benignly bent and become a part of all that it has met. The ties that bind Buddhist monks and laymen are vague, for Buddhism has neither dogma nor pope, offers no hope of individual immortality, neither premises divine authority nor promises forgiveness of sin. Its diversity of practice embraces everything from the cool conundrums of Zen in Japan to Cambodian water rites and the exorcism of devils in Ceylon through a dance-to-exhaustion. Yet at the heart of it all is the escape from the burdens of existence as exemplified in the life of that princely ascetic and saintly agnostic Siddhartha Gautama.

The Heaven of Delight. The son of a Himalayan chieftain, the future Buddha, "The Enlightened," was raised as a Hindu and enjoyed such palace amusements, so legend has it, as the performance of 40,000 dancing girls. When Gautama came of age, 500 virgins were presented to him: he chose the most beautiful as his bride, and soon she presented him with a son. With every luxury and favor, the young Crown Prince Gautama had only to inherit his kingdom to live happily ever after. But Gautama, like the carpenter of Nazareth who was to appear 500 years later and whose life offers many parallels to the Buddha legend, was not what he seemed.

According to the rich Buddhist mythology, Buddha rested in the Heaven of Delight from his innumerable previous reincarnations, both as men and as animals such as rabbits and pigeons, in which he had perfected his character; presently he was approached by the deities of the 10,000 world-systems of the universe. "Now has the moment come, O Blessed One, for Thy Buddhahood," they advised him. Buddha assented, picked out his mother, and approaching her bed in the guise of a white elephant, smote her with his trunk and entered her womb.

She carried the fetus clearly outlined in her womb "like oil in a bowl." The infant emerged into life from her side as Queen Maya stood holding to a sala tree, and at his birth a great light appeared in the sky, the deaf heard and the dumb spoke, and kings came from afar to welcome him. At the age of 29, "having seen the wretchedness" of the human condition, Gautama cut his ties and set out to seek "the unborn and supreme peace of nirvana."

The Tempter. For six years of severe asceticism, Gautama fed on seeds, grass, even dung. He wore a hair shirt, lay on thorns, slept among rotting corpses. Finally it dawned on him that, far from escaping from his body by torturing it in yogi fashion, he was in fact giving it more than its due. Taking a seat beneath the Bodhi Tree (which still grows, protected as a shrine, in Buddh Gaya), he resolved not to move until he had attained Supreme Enlightenment and had found the key to liberate man from himself.

The demon of evil, Mara, came to tempt him with visions of all the riches and prestige of the world. But Gautama only sank deeper and deeper into meditation. Finally, in a great mystic rapture that lasted 49 days, Enlightenment was captured, Gautama became the Buddha, and Buddhism was born.

He spent the rest of his life, some 45 years, walking from town to town in India imparting his vision. One of Buddha's sermons dealt with a starving man who had long had a pet rabbit. The rabbit jumped into a fire in order to provide food for his master, and, as the flames flared up, was transformed into a vision of the Buddha—a vision the Vietnamese monks were to borrow for their own purposes. Accompanied by his favorite monks and nuns, Buddha was content to be fed by local admirers and once scandalized his band by eating in the home of a courtesan. His last incarnation completed, at 80 Buddha lay down in a sola grove to die, passing out of the endless cycle of life into the great nirvana.

The Five Rules. Buddha was the rare mystic able to chalk out clearly to others the signposts leading out of reality, in the form of easily remembered shorthand formulas. The essence of his ethic came down in "Four Noble Truths": 1) Existence is suffering; 2) suffering springs from desire or craving; 3) the cure for suffering is extinction of desire; 4) to achieve the desired absence of desire there is an Eightfold Path of conduct to follow: right views, right effort, right mindfulness, right intentions, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood and right concentration. As a definition of rightness, Buddha merely offered "Five Moral Rules" of conduct: 1) Let not one kill any living being; 2) let not one take what is not given to him; 3) let not one speak falsely; 4) let not one drink intoxicating drinks; 5) let not one be unchaste.

Basic Buddhism is thus less a religion than a body of ethics. Buddhism recognizes nothing even remotely resembling a personal god or even a supreme being; there are no supernatural powers that concern themselves with the individual, and in strict Buddhism one prays not to anyone in particular but merely as an exercise to purify the mind. In this sense, Buddhism is atheistic.

Buddha dismissed the ultimate philosophical questions, such as the finiteness or infinity of the world, as profitless speculation. But he took over from Hinduism the concept of the endless cycle of life, in which a man might be reincarnated as anything from a noble elephant to a lowly spider—depending upon the merit of his previous life's deeds. As a kind of cultivated escapism for the individual who masters the drill, Buddhism has been dismissed by some Westerners as Freudianism in reverse: a systematic elimination of the ego so that anxiety has no place to roost. Originally, Buddhism was an otherworldly path leading each man deeper into himself—and certainly not into the political arena.

But in the intellectually promiscuous Asian world, the crystalline unity of Buddha's thought had scant chance of escaping the taint of temporal power.

Buddhist Constantine. Within 200 years after Buddha's death, historians noted 18 different varieties of Buddhism. When the Emperor Asoka, who about 250 B.C. created an Indian Empire not surpassed in extent until the British conquests, felt a surfeit of slaughter after killing 100,000 people, he turned to the new religion and became Buddhism's Constantine. He not only made Buddhism India's state religion, but his missionaries implanted the faith in Ceylon, fanned out through the rest of Asia, even Africa and Europe.

By the time it reached Confucian and Taoist China in the 1st century A.D., Buddhism had lost its austerity, and danced happily into the already crowded Chinese religious pantheon as a cheerful faith promising a flowering hereafter. The Chinese took it to Korea, and in the 6th century the Koreans took it to Japan, where in less than 50 years it became the state religion.

Flourishing abroad, Buddhism languished in its birthplace as the Indian monks grew rich and corrupt under state patronage. Today, Buddhists constitute less than 1% of India's population, and the faith is kept alive largely by untouchable converts fleeing the caste system. But in Tibet, Buddhism evolved into a theocracy which lasted 400 years, until the Chinese drove the current Dalai Lama into exile in 1959.

Two Chariots. For all the local varieties of the Buddhist lotus, two divergent traditions are responsible for the stance of Buddhism in Asia today. The split goes back 2,000 years, and much of the original quarrel is lost in the misty past, though apparently it included some indelicate polemics over whether a monk's nocturnal emission constituted proof of an unredeemed lust. The main argument was really a conflict that sooner or later afflicts most religions: between the fundamentalists and the liberals.

The fundamentalist Buddhists stuck to Buddha's narrow, escapist but arduous path and came to be known, to their distaste, as the Hinayana, or "lesser chariot." They prefer the name Theravada, or "doctrine of the elders." The "greater chariot," or Mahayana, branch attempted to enlarge and socialize the Middle Way. Their Buddha became less the example who must be emulated, more the savior who had mystically improved the lot of all mankind. By giving nearly equal weight to concern for others and to withdrawal for the self, Mahayana provided a platform for political engagement as Theravada could not.

The Twofold Path. When the modern world broke into Asia during the 19th century, Buddhism resisted. In the Boxer Rebellion, Buddhist deities were relied on for help against the Christian bullets. In Indo-China, Burma and elsewhere, Buddhism became identified with the nationalist struggle against colonial rule.

When the great recessional of the Western colonial powers finally began, the Buddhists awoke to find themselves in new positions of leverage. Their power stemmed from one source more than any other: the village pagoda, which today remains what it has been for centuries—the center of rural life, a place where laymen can go to sleep off a hangover, hide out from the police, or spend an undisturbed hour with their girl friends. The bonzes are schoolmasters and doctors, as well as priests.

This grass-roots power has taken a twofold—if not an eightfold—path. In the more agitated countries, the monks have used it as a way into politics; in the quieter lands, all of the lesser-chariot persuasion, they have used it to stay out of politics, merely adding a conservative prop to support existing institutions.

> LAOS. A Laotian bonze is likely to remind questioners that for a priest to talk politics violates one of the 227 Theravadan rules of conduct. The constitution stipulates that the King must be a "fervent Buddhist," but fervor in happy-go-lucky Laos covers a multitude of careless religious enthusiasms. Perennial civil war has left Buddhist practice virtually uninvolved, though near the Luang temple, skilled, cigarette-puffing monks cheerfully cast their Buddhas in brass melted down from 37-mm. and 105-mm. artillery cartridges.

Laotian soldiers wear Buddhist necklaces into battle and often piously shoot to miss, but it is considered highly bad form to wear the amulet into a bordello. And though Vientiane's whisky-tippling set often honors Buddha's fourth rule more in spirits than in spirit, at least their chauffeurs use only the softest tail feathers of a rooster to dust the Mercedes-so as to avoid crushing the least ant, who could well be somebody's mother.

> CAMBODIA. One of the greatest kings of early Buddhism was Cambodia's Jayavarman VII, the builder of Angkor Wat. Today leftist Prince Sihanouk, as Cambodia's Chief of State and High Protector of the Buddhist religion, assiduously cultivates the god-king role. Following the Buddhist road of the middle, intones Sihanouk, he means to be halfway between capitalism and Marxism at home and neutralist abroad.

"Our equality principle isn't from the French Revolution or Karl Marx," he says, "but from the Buddha." Though this is largely rhetoric, Sihanouk has so cultivated his clergy that Cambodian monks have voluntarily pitched into his public-works projects, and help build country roads, bridges, dig wells.

> THAILAND. Probably nowhere in Asia is Buddhism a gentler, more pervasive force than in pro-Western Thailand. Though now a constitutional monarch. King Bhumibol is still widely revered as a Buddhist god-king. Everywhere monks are valued not only as spiritual leaders but as astrologers and diviners. Some have even become management consultants, called on by businessmen before major investment decisions.

The Thais tithe their annual income in contributions to temple building and Buddhist ceremonies—good Buddhism but a serious drawback to the government's efforts at capital formation. Not long ago, Bangkok carried out a little-publicized roundup of leftist-oriented monks to prevent any Communist infiltration of the clergy. But by and large, in peaceful, prosperous Thailand, the golden mean rules. Bangkok is still rocking from the Sarit scandal—the tough, able late Prime Minister is charged with misappropriating vast government funds—and King Bhumibol has been urged to strip Sarit posthumously of his title of field marshal.

Replies the King: "We are all Buddhist, and it is un-Buddhist to be vengeful because of a personal grudge."

> JAPAN. Amid the dizzying changes of industrialization, Buddhist laymen have seized on the widespread yearning for new values to form Soka Gakkai (Value-Creation Society). Staging great circuses with acrobats, brass bands and dancing girls, Soka Gakkai has recruited over 13 million adherents, largely from Japan's lower middle class and urban-poor discontents. Tightly regimented, from family squads on up, they must vote for the sect's political candidate as a religious duty.

Leftist and reforming in political attitudes, intolerant in its religious fanaticism (it considers itself "True Buddhism" and everything else heresy), Soka Gakkai envisions first turning Japan into a welfare state, then achieving eternal peace through spreading its gospel of chikyu minzoku shugi, or one-nation-on-earth. Since the Japanese constitution prohibits the exercise of political authority by any religion, Soka Gakkai insists—unconvincingly—that the Clean Government Party started last month under the chairmanship of Soka Gakkai's Koji Harashima is a completely independent entity. C.G.P. is putting up 32 candidates for the 467-seat lower house and ten in the upper house next spring—all likely to be elected.

> CEYLON. As an exception to the less political little-chariot tradition, CeyIon's clergy are hip-deep in politicking; in the unstable tight little island, the Buddhists are the only steady, if not steadying, power. What began as a long Buddhist temperance campaign in the 1940s turned into a drive to oust the British. In 1956 the monks formed a political organization, helped sweep Solomon Bandaranaike, a devout Buddhist and political middle-roader. into power as Prime Minister. Ironically, three years later he was assassinated by an extremist Buddhist monk, and his plump, matronly widow replaced him.

Mrs. Bandaranaike created a shaky, far-left coalition government whose every step had to have the approval of the Buddhists to survive. When the lady Prime Minister tried to balance the budget by a "tree tax" on the tapping of coconut trees for toddy, the potent and popular liquor of the masses, the temperance-minded Buddhists took this as a legalization of the drink and organized protest demonstrations and prayer meetings. Hundreds of saffron-robed bhikkus (monks) marched through Colombo, threatened to bar Mrs. Bandaranaike and her ministers from Ceylon's temples unless they resigned. Mrs. Bandaranaike backed down, withdrew the toddy-tapping plan, even though it had already been approved by both houses of Parliament.

The next clash came over the Prime Minister's scheme to nationalize the country's largest newspaper group. Oddly enough, the Buddhists gave her the idea in their complaints that the papers gave favored treatment to Catholic news and neglected Buddhist news. But when she tried to follow through, the Buddhists, fearing control of the press would work to the advantage of the nation's leftists rather than their own, dug in their sandaled heels, finally forced a no-confidence vote in Parliament, which the Prime Minister lost.

> BURMA. The most glaring failure of Buddhism in Asian politics began when, as in Ceylon, the Buddhist clergy sparked resistance to British rule. With independence won, Premier U Nu attempted a socialist forced-march into the modern world. Instead he ended up at the brink of national chaos, and General Ne Win and the army took over. The army restored order but wore the carefree Burmese raw with its zeal, and in the 1960 elections, U Nu hit the comeback trail. He promised to make Buddhism the state religion, used saffron color for his party's ballots. He won easily and plunged Burma into a great Buddhist revival, but neglected the nation's affairs.

In 1962 General Ne Win and the army took over for the second time, and U Nu remains under house arrest. The wildly socialist military regime has been running the country into the ground, but there is no evidence that Buddhists could do better. Still, the Buddhists remain the government's only effective opposition. Recently, orange-and yellow-robed monks stormed and wrecked the printing plant of a pro-government newspaper. Ne Win and the Buddhist leaders have set a Dec. 15 meeting to air their differences.

The Provincials. Who are the faceless but no longer self-effacing monks behind Buddhism's political offensive?

In many ways South Viet Nam's Thich Tri Quang personifies the saffron politicians. He entered the Buddhist Institute in Hue when he was 13, has traveled little, speaks neither French nor English. Though not without personal charm and even a certain detached charisma, he has the provincial's distrust of all things Western, refuses to meet with U.S. Ambassador Maxwell Taylor on the ground that he is more comfortable dealing with lesser officials. The son of a farmer in what is now North Viet Nam, he went to Hanoi in his 20s, taught and edited a Buddhist magazine, helped found the Vietnamese Boy Scouts. In 1948, the French arrested Tri on charges of being a Communist, but released him within ten days. The Diem government also suspected him of working for the Viet Cong, but could never prove it.

During the Khanh regime, Tri Quang tried to set up a grass-roots Buddhist political party, but the Viet Cong got control of it and used it to provoke riots. Apparently frightened, Tri Quang dissolved his local councils, withdrew from Saigon to Hué, the true spiritual center of Vietnamese Buddhism, where a thousand ceremonies go on in a hundred temples and the sun is obscured by the smoke of millions of burning joss sticks. Here Tri lives in a spare cell in the Tu Dam pagoda, receives crowds of awed visitors, plays chess, and plots his moves against the government.

The Organizers. Tri Quang and the other political monks certainly do not speak for all of South Vietnamese Buddhism. Besides, though the monks claim that 85% of the Vietnamese are Buddhists, in fact the Vietnamese religion is an indiscriminate mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and animism. Nevertheless, last January all 14 Buddhist sects in Viet Nam joined together in the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Church, under the leadership of Tri and Thich Tarn Chau, a tiny, affable monk who is currently leading the Buddhist activists in Saigon and is clearly emerging as Tri's rival. The two leaders moved 50 chaplains into the South Vietnamese army and set up two ambitious institutes, one for religious and the other for secular affairs, with plans to organize families in rural areas into Communist-like cells.

South Viet Nam's military, including General Khanh, last week announced their backing of the Huong government—a setback for the Buddhists. But at Tam Chau's Buddhist secular institute—a ramshackle compound that has been the Buddhist base ever since laymen, fed up with politicking, chased the political monks out of Saigon's modern Xa Loi pagoda—the mimeograph machines and rumor mills were still grinding away against Huong.

There is no evidence that a Buddhist-controlled government would press the war against the Viet Cong. There is a great deal of evidence that instead it would try to negotiate with the Reds to bring about the "neutralization" of South Viet Nam. U.S. officials tend to accept Tri Quang's assertions that he is not a Communist or working with them. Still, there can be little doubt that the Communists have infiltrated the Buddhists to some extent. Besides, illusions may well be more dangerous than infiltration. Tri Quang is guilty of the classic, fatal error: he seems to believe that he and his fellow Buddhists could "handle" the Communists.

In the Heartland. Yet the lesson of Buddhism's fate under Communism is plain to see. In North Korea, the monks were simply put to work in factories or on farms. In North Viet Nam, where, oddly enough, Buddhism officially remains the state religion, the Communists have killed Buddhism with "kindness" by installing puppet monks to back the government. But with 6,000 pagodas, North Viet Nam now has only 4,000 monks. Says one recent resident: "They don't even bother to light incense in the temples any more."

Peking's brutality in suppressing the Buddhist revolt in Tibet in 1959 outraged the world. Monks were shot, forced to sole their worn boots with sacred Buddhist texts, induced to take opiates. Members of a strict male celibate order were locked up with prostitutes imported for the occasion. Some of the younger monks gave way and then committed suicide in shame.

In the heartland of China itself, Buddhism fares not too badly—on the surface. Ancient shrines have been refurbished. A few sample monasteries and nunneries, while shorn of their lands, are meticulously maintained to impress and soothe foreign Buddhists. But Peking has killed the living faith: of half a million monks in China in 1949, it is estimated that barely a few thousand survive.

Put Out More Flags. Despite the antics of the Buddhists in South Viet Nam and elsewhere, it would be a grave error for the U.S. and the West to conclude that a great and ancient faith is necessarily prey to Communism. When it comes to an ultimate choice, the majority of Buddhist leaders still know that Buddhism is incompatible with the Marxist gospel.