Archive for September 2007

Peace Warriors and Struggle for Freedom in Burma

September 28, 2007

“Warriors, warriors, Lord, we call ourselves. In what way are we warriors?’‘We wage war, Brethren; therefore are we called warriors.’‘Wherefore, Lord, do we wage war?’For lofty virtue, for high endeavour, for sublime wisdom – for these things do we wage war? Therefore we are called warriors.’                                                    

(Anguttara-Nikaya, Sutta-pitaka)   

The above mentioned golden verses about the role of monks or Bhikkhus as a “warriors” had been once acknowledged by Lord Buddha’s disciples in the holy Buddhist text of “Anguttara-Nikaya” and very scholarly referred fifty-six years ago by a famous Buddhist Studies scholar- Mr. Christmas Humphreys in his equally famous book – “Buddhism” as one of the important essence of “Theravada Buddhism or Doctrine of the Elders”.[i] And today world community has not to search anywhere for these warriors of Lord Buddha in orange robe, which could be easily found in all big and small cities – Rangoon, Mandalay, Pakokku, Sittwe, Hakha, Kyakse, Myitkyina, Taunggok and many other cities/villages of Burma.

The disciples of Lord Buddha once again proved that, they truly adhere to the vibrant principles of Buddhism to establish lofty virtue and sublime wisdom of freedom not only in words but also in deeds as a non-violent peace warriors despite draconian atrocities committed against them by ruling military junta – State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in Burma.

Moreover, military rulers also ignored the United Nations Security Council’s and ASEAN’s appeal to exercise restraint towards non-violent peace warriors and fired several round of rifle shots on 26th and 27th September 2007 in Rangoon to crush the monks and protesters demand to free Nobel peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners of Burma.

However, the unfortunate incident of 26th and 27th caught the world media attention but many secret military police raids and atrocities against monks and protesters had been going on in Burma unreported since last month.     

The beginning of mass brutal repression of peace warriors or monks in Burma on 26th September was well planned on 24th of September in the name of new directives – 65, 81, 83, 85, 93, issued to state/division/township/ward Sangha Nayaka Committees to supervise the Buddhist monks and novices so that, they are to practise only Pariyatti and Patipatti, as well as not to commit any activities that are not related to Gantha Dhura, Vipassana Dhura and Theravada Buddhism. Which was published in the official media – The New Light of Myanmar on 25th of September 2007?[ii] In addition, the directives No. 83 also threatens and abuses Buddhist Sangha against basic core principles of Theravada Buddhism of its ruins and says that, “If the Sangha did party politics, political parties would approach and serve them as their mentors. Then the members of the Sangha would not be able to practice both Pariyatti and Paripatti, thereby contributing to harming the perpetuity of the Sasana as they would have to get involved in the affairs of their favoured political parties. Moreover, there would be disagreements between the members of the Sangha, the unity of the all ganas be weakened and all Sangha ganas be in ruin,” and even further negates the role played by, Buddha Sasana Naggaha Athin (founded in Madalay on 6th July 1897), Buddha Kalyana Meitta Athin of Myingyan, founded in 1897, Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA, founded in 1906) and General Council of Buddhist Association (GCBA, founded in 1920) in the freedom struggle of Burma by saying in its directives that, “During the colonial rule, there were different political parties like Vinsanu and Diarchy in Myanmar. As some members of the Sangha engaged in party politics, there broke out dissension among the mass of members of the Sangha and emerged Vinsanu monks and Diarchy monks.” The present military rulers by these directives not only undermined the rich positive contribution made by many monks like – U Wisara and U Ottama in the freedom struggle but also used their office with power of gun to silence the non-violent march of peace warriors towards freedom in Burma.     

There is a famous example in the holy texts of Buddhism that, once a man abused Lord Buddha vehemently like SPDC’s perception of peace warrior’s protests in Burma in their official media. But for Lord Buddha, who believed that anyone who foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love, replied to man when he finished his abuse. And he asked him saying – “Son, when a man forgets the rules of politeness in making a present to another, the custom is to say, keep your present. Son, you have now railed at me; I decline to entertain your abuse, and respect you to keep it, a source of misery to yourself.”[iii]   

The disciples of Buddha in orange robe mentioned in the holy texts of Tripitaka’s – “Anguttara-Nikaya” as a warrior of lofty virtues, high endeavour and sublime wisdom, which is a fourth part of the holy Sutta-pitaka together with – Digha-nikaya, Majjhim-nikaya, Samyutta-nikaya and Khuddaka-nikaya contains biographical notes on almost all the chief disciples of the Lord Buddha, besides explanation of names of all the places where Lord Buddha went during the rainy season. Which was explained in details by great Buddhist Studies scholar – Buddhaghosa in his commentary of Anguttara-Nikaya entitled – Manorathapurani.[iv]

Moreover, Vinaya rules of Buddhism have been not explained by Lord Buddha in seclusion and indifference to the socio-political problems of the place of abode as explained by the military junta but in totality with the holy Sutta-pitaka’s message of equality, liberty and fraternity with all living beings. The military rulers in Burma intentionally forgets to propagate that, the protests by monks was not to make any monk head of state or rulers in Burma but for the freedom of political prisoners and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who were languishing in prison since years despite many calls made by UN arbitration council to free them as well as against rising commodity prices. And asking for freedom of someone is not in anyway indulging into the politics as military is trying to propagate. If Buddhism had been indifferent to the social problem, then Lord Buddha would have not emerged in the Sixth century BC as a great master against honorific Brahmanical ritual of sacrifice of animals and challenging ultimate authority of Vedas as a revealed texts associated with deity.     

Politics, which is more related with the functioning of Governments and States. From its earliest time, Buddhism seeks independence from deities in the origin of government and state. In modern era, dictatorial regimes like SPDC are trying to project themselves as deities and Gods or saviours of human civilization. In ancient days, Vedic Brahmanism invoked the gods in association with the origin of government in India; Buddhism described it as a process of gradual social change in which the instituting of the family and the ownership of fields led to civil strife. And according to the original Buddhist philosophy, such strife could only be controlled by people electing a person to govern them and to establish laws for their protection, which has been described by eminent historian Romila Thapar as a logical way of explaining the origin of civil strife and end of it with the need for law formulated by elected members of the society.[v]  Not as making and issuing directives without any represented mandate from the society negating peoples verdict of May 1990 election and proposing back entry of tatmadaw (military elements) in the Parliament or Pyidaungsu Hluttaw through reserving seats by National Convention against basic principles of Theravada Buddhism?    

Moreover, interestingly SPDC themselves takes credit of initiating learning and practice of Monks towards Pariyatti and Patipatti and propagates in their article written by Yadanasi Sayadaw (Loilem) entitled, “Myanmar and the Sangha Today” on 15th of September 2007 in the New Light of Myanmar (NLM) as, “Thanks to the encouragement and support of the Tatmadaw government, monks are able to learn Pariyatti and practise Patipatti to the best of their ability,” as if Monks or Bhikkhus would not follow Pariyatti and Patipatti without SPDC’s support. Further, it also threatens Monks against practices of Theravada Buddhism in the same article that; “A bad deed or a wrongdoing of a person will invite a lot of troubles, confusions, difficulties and sufferings. So we should not tolerate any bad deeds and wrongdoings at this time. Hence, all the monks should be reinvigorated with their constructive mind.”[vi] The threatening message to monks was issued without giving to thoughts that; those peace warriors who adhere to the principles of eight fold path of Buddhism (right belief, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right endeavour, right memory, right meditation) based on four noble truths are above any threats or offers of state shelters, money and award of titles. Importantly, the concerned article of Yadanasi Sayadaw (Loilem) mentions over and round about four lakhs monks in Burma but the official directives no. 83 published on 25th of September 2007 of the New Light of Myanmar mentions ‘more than three lakhs monks’, reducing around one lakhs monks in number within ten days of peace protests.   

The struggle of freedom led by All Myanmar Sangha Sammaggi and Young Monks Samagga is true to the ethos of Theravada Buddhism to free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Burma. As reported by gathering of more than seventy thousands protestors on 27th of September 2007 only in Rangoon[vii] (out of four or three lakhs monks as earlier reported as a number of monks in official media) expels the myth created by government media that only two percent of monks are on streets and are bogus monks (NLM, 25thSeptember, p.8). The participation of monks all across Burma in different cities proves that, All Myanmar Sangha Sammaggi and Young Monks Samagga truly represents peace warriors of Burma and more than ninety percent monks are participating in the struggle of freedom in Burma on the principles established by Anguttara-Nikaya and Dhamma.     

In addition, Vinaya rules of Buddhism are not explained by Lord Buddha without Dhamma. Even during his lifetime, Lord Buddha allowed things to be decided democratically by the Sangha. And even after his death, too, he did not want to restrict the freedom of Sangha by appointing his own successor. He wanted the Dhamma and not only Vinaya to be guides after his death and anything which was not authorized by the Dhamma and Vinaya together were to be rejected by the Sangha.

In his teachings, the great master always shown great respect for women’s as he explains in “Mahaparinibbana-sutta” to the  Vajjis that they would remain invincible if they follow seven rules or ‘satta aparihaniya dhamma’ and one of the rules was respect for women who were never to be molested.[viii] Although, prolong detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explicitly explains the view and respect of SPDC towards women and Buddhist philosophy.

The world would not see monks as explained by the SPDC’s Minister for Religious Affairs Brig-Gen Thura Myint Maung on 24th of September that, “Persons from other countries who do not know about the admirable Myanmar monks with good morale may look down the Buddhism when they witness the monks’ protest on the streets,”[ix] but they would be remembered in Modern Asian History as a great peace warriors and true disciples of Lord Buddha in the struggle for freedom in Burma.   

Burma’s ruling military junta should feel proud of the courageous role played by monks and all sections of Burmese society rather then criticizing them. It also proves the strong existence of vibrant nature of democratic civil society in Burma rejecting all theories that, Burmese people likes authoritarian regime. And it is high time that, SPDC should engage without hesitations in a constructive and transparent dialogue with all parties and free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the benefit of great country and Asia at large.     

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 ENDNOTES: 

♥ Mr. Christmas Humphreys, a British born noted Buddhist Studies scholar is also known for establishing Buddhist Society in London, United Kingdom in 1924 and was also very close to the reverend Bhikkhu U Thittila of Burma.

[i] Christmas Humphreys, Buddhism, Penguin Books Ltd., Baltimore, USA, Year 1951, p.129.

[ii] The New Light of Myanmar, Yangon, Myanmar, Volume XV, Number- 162, 25 September 2007, pp. 1,6,7, and 16.

[iii] Annie Besant, Buddhism, The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Chennai, India, 2005, p.28.

[iv] Prof. P.V. Bapat (General Editor), Foreword by S. Radhakrishnan, 2500 Years of Buddhism, Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, September 1987, p.189.

[v] Romila Thapar, The Penguin History of Early India: From Origins to AD 1300, Penguin Books India (P) Ltd., New Delhi, Year 2002, p.168.

[vi] Yadanasi Sayadaw, Myanmar and the Sangha Today, The New Light of Myanmar, Volume XV, Number 152, 15 September 2007, p.7.

[vii] Guardian Unlimited, UK, Press Association News, Several dead as troops open fire, 27th of September 2007. (from the web site: guardian.co.uk)

[viii] Note No. 3, p.5-6.

[ix] Note No. 2, pp.8-9.

(THE END)

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India can’t afford to be a fence sitter in Burma’s struggle for Democracy

September 12, 2007

By: Nirmala Deshpande  

Few months ago fifty-nine former Heads of State made an appeal to release Aung San Suu Kyi, who is known across the world for her Gandhian values struggling to establish human rights and democracy in Burma. She is unfortunately also world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate despite many appeals made by United Nations Secretary General’s and others to free her. Her undying commitment towards the ideology of non-violence as a true Gandhian recently facilitated galaxy of world leaders to join together to demand her unconditional release.

A century ago, Mahatma Gandhi emerged on the world scene with an entirely new political method of Satyagraha. From many examples of world history, it has been proved that ideology and methods of violence can’t solve the contemporary world’s problem standing on the brink of a catastrophe. It is known that, world is becoming less and less safe & secure with the invention of more and more weapons of destruction. In this age of violence, Aung San Suu Kyi stands as one of the tallest leaders and bacon of light and hope in the darkness of violence. She is fighting for the establishment of genuine democracy and human rights in Burma, the land of her birth. But her fight has become a symbol of a bigger fight that is waged across the world against menace of violence. So rulers in Burma and world community should not forget that those voicing the demand for her release are representing the world’s conscience. Thus she is proving the efficacy of non-violence by her continuous suffering. Her struggle is based on the firm foundation of truth and as the great Ancient Indian wisdom of seers that, “truth always wins” or “Satyamev Jayate”. So she is bound to win sooner or later in her journey towards truth. Those who are voicing for her release as friends, sympathizers’ and admirers all over the world are trying to lessen the suffering of Aung San Suu Kyi, her colleagues and of the people of Burma. 

According to the philosophy of Yoga or “Yoga Darshan” – there are three types of violence. The first type of violence is known as – “Krita” – done by one self. The second type of violence is “Karita”, which one gets through others act or, by creating situations that leads to violence. The third type of violence is “Anumodita”, which is for those people who remain silent in the face of violence. And those who remain quiet in the face of violence are equally guilty of committing violence because their silence is a sign of accepting violence.  The worldwide demand for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and restoration of true democracy in Burma is an expression that people of the world doesn’t belong to third category or “Anumodita” or, third category of violence. Thus, those who speak for her have joined the non-violent struggle in Burma.

India and China have a special duty to perform in this journey of truth. Both are great countries with ancient civilization and faith in Lord Buddha. The beauty of non-violence lies in its power of converting a foe into a friend. While violence destroys the enemy, non-violence destroys the enmity. It is also noteworthy that non-violent battle ends in the victory of both sides. The philosophy of Lord Buddha also teaches us, that, victory of hearts through non-violence is the best method and sustainable one in which both sides wins. Time and again, it has been proved that, non-violence brings an end to injustice and generates love, compassion and friendly feelings. 

So India, the land of Lord Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi can not afford to be a fence sitter in this ‘battle for right against might’ in Burma.    

(The author, Sushri Nirmala Deshpande is a noted Gandhian, social activist and Honourable Member of Rajya Sabha of Indian Parliament)  

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