I was reading my latest copy of the Buddhadharma magazine when I came across a reference to the Tendai school of Buddhism and being curious started reading about it online.
I began reading and soon found reference to "warrior monks" and had to chuckle. What was a "warrior monk" I wondered and read on. Apparently there was a time when different Buddhist temples in ancient Japan fought with each other and developed these "warrior monks" that would fight to defend their temple and attack other temples. Most of the violence erupted over political feuds surrounding imperial appointments to the top temples. On some occasions the "rival temple" was burned to the ground with their holy relics and statues inside.
If any of this sounds not very Buddhist then you're not alone. The idea of a "Buddhist warrior monk" is just well (for lack of a better term) bizarre to say the least. Can following the Buddha and engaging in violence be congruent?? Nope. Especially if you're an "ordained monk!!" Buddhist monks take a vow to never kill or use violence and lay people are highly encouraged to do the same.
Just another example of how fundamentalism can really screw up a religion.
This isn't the only example of militantism creeping into Buddhism in ancient Japan (such as the Samurai). However, one can not say that all Samurai were Buddhist per se. Many were just influenced by Buddhist philosophy and practices--especially meditation. Perhaps that is the case with these "warrior monks" as well.
UPDATE: Speaking of "militant Buddhism" I just read something about the DKBA. It stands for, "Democratic Karen Buddhist Army." Apparently it is the oldest and largest insurgent group in Burma.
~Peace to all beings~