Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: October 04, 2011 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412994163 | Print ISBN: 9781412959636 | Online ISBN: 9781412994163| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Buddhism is frequently regarded as a quietist religion, but while there may be some justification for this perception, its political presence and impact in many parts of Asia should not be underestimated. Ever since the period of the Indian emperor Aśoka (269–232 BCE), the religion has shown itself to be a distinctive social and political force in various countries, having considerable backing among the relevant populations. Naturally, where Buddhism is a small minority, as in modern Western countries, its influence is small and the quietist image is strong, but in the countries of Asia, where Buddhism is the majority religion, the situation is quite different. Here, both Buddhist monks and lay leaders have been prominent from time to time in elitist and military maneuverings and more recently in revolutionary and electoral situations. Self-consciously Buddhist political activism is not a stranger in India, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. Indeed, in most Asian ...