From a Reddit thread asking: “How did Buddhist-majority nations reconcile state violence (wars and so on) with Buddhist precepts of non-violence? Did they bother to do so?” A Redditor who explored this topic for their undergrad responds:
“First, Buddhism, like other religions, is linked to cultural and national identity. Buddhists would fight in protection of their nationstate and what they perceive as the “keepers of the tradition”. They apply a larger-than-life mentality to the warfare. … This war is on behalf of the country, people, religion, region, and motherland. It would be negative karma to shoot one’s neighbor over a land conflict, but the intention here is a good one.
“Second, there are attempts to de-humanize the opponents. This is very similar to Christian and Islamic justification of violence. Opponents are represented as possessed by demons, thereby transforming the violence from a mortal to a sanctified action. …
“Third, karmic sacrifice. This is a classic case of multiple interpretations of (somewhat) ambiguous theology. Some individuals are considered such sinful beings, that they will only commit more crimes the longer they live. Killing these individuals can be considered a heroic act, because the killer will sacrifice his own karma in order to prevent the victim from committing more crimes and going to hell.
“Lastly, on a more personal note (hope that’s allowed) there are some understandable misconceptions about Buddhism. (these same misconceptions incited my initial question for the aforementioned paper). Buddhism has many forms. And the majority of those forms has aspects similar to other religions. Please don’t believe that “Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion”. Many forms of buddhism have gods, demons, heaven, hell, prayer for help, and rituals with magic properties. Therefore, evil and violence toward perceived evil is not at all uncommon among buddhists. If someone tells you that that is not real Buddhism, that would be a theological belief, not a statement supported by scholars.”
Full discussions https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/3eg3w5/how_did_buddhistmajority_nations_reconcile_state/cteugq8
Image from Ali Express.