Five Monks, One Gun and an iPod

This interesting photo of Malaysian Buddhist monks was taken by photographer Wong Yu Liang and is one of the entries in the Sony World Photography Awards. The full size image can be seen at the Daily Mail.

The gun in the photo looks to be a BB firing toy gun.

I have blogged about Buddists and guns. Contra to popular perception in the West, many Buddists are not opposed to them, when necessary, occasionally even hiding them in monasteries when they are banned by local law. A number of gun lovin’ Buddists are long time readers of TFB.

[ Many thanks to Valter for the tip. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Máté

    If they are willing to burn themselves in hope to help to their country, I can only take them seriously.

  • John Doe

    I was raised in a Buddhist family (I don’t identify as Buddhist, but I do follow some aspects). A big part of Buddhism is being enlightened, and I find nothing enlightening about being ignorant about violence. Buddhist monks are very realistic people, and as you said, will occasionally have guns in the monastery.

  • Karina

    I believe in Buddhist principles myself, the same way I believe in the beauty of firearms and weapons as a whole; as part of my life.

    Violence is something that is part of human nature; we can live without, but some resort to it because it is easier to be violent than to be understanding, and many prefer to go the easy path, because it is the easy path, or because it is all they know. Thus, we must be prepared to face violence and for it, we must understand it and educate others about how to avoid using it.

    Understanding violence and using it as a tool, is exactly like owning and using a firearm. You want to have it and be able to use it, and be perfectly trained physically and mentally, but … never should you WANT to use it on anyone, as we all know, lest they are prepared to face the consequences, legal, moral and sometimes physical, that killing another human being brings.

    Firearms can be enjoyed, respected and appreciated for what they are; finely crafted pieces of engineering, tools for one’s life, if one’s life is to be a man or a woman using and keeping arms on a daily basis. Hunters, police officers, military personnel, security personnel, or for the lucky people who can, civilians.

    If you do love guns and shooting, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it for any reason whatsoever. People need to be respected for loving guns and loving shooting, as a sport, a recreational activity, a passion, or even a way of life. They can be separated from its cliché association with murders, killings, wars and all of this negativity; however, like my example of violence above, it is far easier for the less educated masses to pin “bad” on “guns” because guns have been used to do “bad” things, to sum it up simply; and because it is the easier way, it “makes sense” in the minds of these people, and they stick to it, unless they open their eyes and accept to be educated.

    If there are any “non-gun” people reading this article and my comment by chance, please read my personal message, one I’ve written with heart and experience and which I wanted to share with fellow TFB readers as well as newcomers and onlookers… I apologize if my comment was long, or seemed strange to read, but this article simply made me want to share my thoughts.

    • John Doe

      Amen. Guns can be used for great violence, but also a lot of fun. Just because it can hurt someone doesn’t stop me from being a gun owner. We’re adults, we’re supposed to be responsible!

      • Máté

        Speaking of hurt, millions die in traffic accidents, of starvation, or of pollution, but many people seem to not care about those as much as they care about guns.

    • Máté

      Says the guy writing with a heart. (joke)

    • fakefrank

      TFB is a new addition to my list of daily destinations and I dont know how I’ve not been here before, great site with solid info. Found the picture in this article very intriguing and scrolled down to the comments to see what people have to say about it. I must say I have never been so touched by a comment on a blog before. I love guns. They are beautifully engineered tools with great potential, be it righteous or evil or for pure enjoyment, but they always demand to be treated with respect. I live in a culture where public opinion created by the media and politicians have made it difficult for normal responsible people to openly enjoy their interests without a big fee and a stack of paperwork. This have almost made me give up my passion for firearms and shooting, because the amount of difficulties have taken away from the joy of the whole thing. To come to my point I want to make is, thank you for your comment, it has given me new resolve to pursue my love for guns and doing it with my head held high.

    • denny

      Excellent sum-up Karina! You are right; since we are not angels, we as humans need to be a bit affraid to behave. Possibility of loss of life is strong instinct not to be overlooked, that is in our genes. The potential felon will think twice before he/she attacks you knowing you are armed and determined to protect yourself!

      Let’s enjoy the guns – safely!

  • fred

    mmm no.
    Chinese lies about monks having arms does not convince me.
    Sure some “buddhists” have firearms.
    Generally a monk will NOT.
    Killing is totally against all buddhist teachings.
    In fact the main teaching is “do no harm”.
    No preaching. Just study the subject. You will see that the entire idea of firearms (when use to harm another being, regardless of the circumstances) is against the teachings.
    The entire training is to get to the point where you can refuse to harm another being no matter what.

    • Owen

      Buddhist morality is based more on principles, not rules. Killing is based upon what we perceive as a “wrong action” since it sows the seed of harmful karma. Yet, we must look past the simple view of “right” or “wrong.” The principles of being “good” or “fair” is the heart of Buddhist belief. Is it “good” or “fair” to sit back and watch atrocities happen (such as killing). What would be the “right” thing to do?

      My take on it is that the Buddha has taught me to fight the evils that I face. On a daily basis : pride, jealousy, want, hate, etc. But is not fighting the aggressor that is harming you or your family, the same? Would my karma in harming another with my concealed weapon that was attacking my family, equal to the karma in not doing anything to protect my love ones?

      If everyone was a Buddhist there would be no reason for war or violence or many of the things that plague mankind. We don’t live in that world.

      • Máté

        Though had it bean a widespread religion, eventually someone would have used it to gain power and control. Christianity was initially about peace as well, but then there were people, like XIII. pope innocent, who had a lot of people, who claimed to be Catholics killed saying kill them all, god will know his ones.

      • denny

        You are knowledgeable Owen, I can see that. But, as far as I know (and I have the benefit that my spouse is born in Buddhist culture) their ‘views’ are not as coolly pragmatic. They also have normal human compassion, believe me. Western popular culture had ‘achieved’ quite a bit of distortion pertaining Buddhist culture(s). They are not really much better or worse for that matter, than westerners; and they also do compromise. Best way is to experience it by yourself. And by the way, layman Buddhist have just 5 commandments – easy to remember. monk has 15.

      • denny

        to Mate:

        Just about every belief, ideal, ideology or religion are potential commodity for power abusers. The last big invention in that chain, being Democracy, is not treated much better. The fault is not with ideas per se, but with those who are liable to whims of tyrants.

      • Máté

        @denny I know that, I’m just glad it stayed true to it’s teaching and it’s for people, who believe in it, not for people, who use it.

      • denny

        You have the point Mate; buddhism is hard to use for power grab. For one thing it comes quite clear out of closet proclaiming that “all suffering is caused by wanting”. That is straight pissing in face of consumerism on which is our society based. No, buddhism is useless for corporate West.

      • Máté

        Well, Christianity was about being humble and loving everyone, including your enemies, then came the middle age. Originally it was socialist (not SSSR socialist, but real socialist).

    • J

      Orly? Please explain the Shaolin.

  • Owen

    Gun loving Buddhist right here. Always armed and peaceful.

    • J

      And here as well.

  • choochoo

    if that is in Malaysia, then that is not a BB gun since BB gun is outlawed. The citizenry (at least the male ones, mostly) defends their family and themselves with whatever pistols they have in their pants.

  • Lance

    The old monk better share is Ipod!

  • denny

    OOOOps, than they would be just as Churchians, the evangelical breed. Although, I must admitt that both of my grandads nominally catholics, were bravely (well, more-less) loading an discharging their Mannlichers in WWI.

    Fun sideways, and recognizing this is ‘guns-not religion’, one must appreciate the fact that monks are generally viewed as peaceful, vulnerable beings. I guess this perception was often abused and they had to start to fend for themselves. Everyone knows where kung-fu came from, right?! Anyone, in situation of extreme contingency will behave about same way.

  • gunslinger

    pretty cool stuff going on in this thread.

  • Neez

    If you follow history, buddhist monks will simply just sit there and take it when threatened. They will answer violence towards them with peace.

    However, also throughout history they will not sit idle as the innocent are killed, tortured and beaten. Protection of the innocent is part of their moral fabric and outweighs their moral for non-violence. You absolutely can’t do both in this world, be non-violent and protect the innocent, you just get both killed.

  • Mabey

    I find it extreamly rlaxing to clean a wepon almost meditative.

  • Bodie

    Buddhism as practiced in the US and as practiced OCONUS are not exactly the same; in other words, it has a more of a “hippy” connotations in the US. Over the last 40 years, US Buddhism has become synonymous with the left and has been co-opted into the left’s ideology.
    Above all else, the Buddha says you are not supposed to kill another being, yet the US Buddhist (not all of them, but most of them) are Pro Choice. I know of this personally as I am a practicing Buddhist and have been pro choice most of my life. But, once I accepted the precepts and was accepted as a monk, I took whole heartedly a Pro Life stance. Personally, I don’t think you can really be a Buddhist AND be pro choice.
    By-the-way, I’m really excited about Christmas as I’m getting another rifle (Sig 556 SWAT) and looking forward to arming the rest of my family with their weapons. I may be a Buddhist, but I’m a well ARMED Buddhist.

    • Partizan1942

      Finally! People are getting into politics in their replies and I did not start it, I am not even taking part in it. I’m only pointing out the fact that I resisted from taking part in the political discussion. How “Zen” of me 🙂
      Now for this in my next life I want to be a…

  • Mike Knox

    That’s three things I didn’t expect buddhist monks to have: a BB gun, an ipod and a patio chair..

  • “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” ~ The Dalai Lama, (May 15, 2001, The Seattle Times)

    Why not a Buddhist monk with a BB gun?

  • OnepWeessVefs