Crime against humanity under the ‘Shadow of Lord Buddha’

On 18th of October 2007, first time, military junta’s official mouthpiece – “The New Light of Myanmar” recognized Daw Aung San Suu’s writings and her analysis on Bogyoke Aung San views on politics and religion to persuade reverend Buddhist monks of Burma to remain silent on the question of Burmese people’s freedom and defend their crime against humanity under the Shadow of Lord Buddha. In an article published in the name of Pothudaw Yay Chan entitled, “Elements harmful to Dhamma and political opportunists”, while quoting, Daw Suu’s book – “Freedom From Fear”, it attempted to prove that, monks should not get involved in politics as even Bogyoke Aung San desired for that.[I] So it becomes important to explore and analyze that, what was Burma’s maker – Bogyoke Aung San’s vision on reverend monk’s role in the society and what is Buddhism all about on this issue, as well as what Daw Suu wanted to tell Burmese people and world in “Freedom from Fear and other writings”?     

Although, these sorts of propaganda tactics is not new in Burma by authoritarian rulers like SPDC to present half facts and distorted views on different issues including monk’s role in Politics. It is distorted, because the author took one paragraph of Daw Suu’s “Freedom from Fear”, which was serving his masters objectives (SPDC) against the basic ethos and teachings of Buddhism and leaving other finer points of “Freedom from Fear” away from reader’s eye as it goes against his masters dictates. Despite its masterly propaganda tactics, I’m thankful to the author as he bothered to read “Freedom from Fear” and it would be a great job if other respected General’s read it minutely to understand her views on the role of tatmadaw (army), NLD, democracy, ethnic issues and people of Burma    

However by burying Daw Aung San Suu Kyi alive while keeping in detention and away from peoples, media and party, they are doing great national disservice to Burma and world. Because her detention against the principles and great teachings of Theravada Buddhism not only made Burma aloof of her world visions, but it has been also preventing Asia to come closer to Western civilization as pronounced in the philosophy of Asia Cooperation Dialogue and in many Asia Europe Meetings.       

Bogyoke Aung San’s vision on Religion and Politics:   

But then important questions emerges that, what is the correct view of Bogyoke Aung San on Monk’s role in Burma? The great Bogyoke Aung San was very clear about his vision on monk’s role in the society. He expected that, great Burmese Buddhist monk’s should not only play an important role of high politics in Burma’s history but also in world history, which they also did in August-September 2007 revolution to protests like earlier occasions as wished by Bogyoke Aung San and established their golden mark in Modern Asian and World History. While speaking at the inaugural address at the AFPFL (Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League) convention in January 1946 in his speech entitled, “Problems for Burma’s Freedom”, Bogyoke Aung Said, that, “Reverend Sanghas! You have a tremendous role to play in world history, and if you succeed, you will be revered by the entire mankind for ages to come. This is one of the high functions ordained by your religion and this is the highest politics which you can do for your country and people. Go amongst our peoples, preach the doctrine of unity and love, carry the message of higher freedom to every nook and corner of the country, freedom of religious worship, freedom to preach and spread the Dharma anywhere and anytime, freedom from fear, ignorance, superstitions; teach our people to rely upon themselves and reconstruct themselves materially, spiritually and otherwise. You have these and many more noble tasks before you. Will you or will you not rise equal to your tasks? The answer lies doubtless with you.”[II]       

As mentioned in the above speech of Bogyoke Aung San, one can clearly see that maker of Burma wanted that reverend Monks should work to establish “freedom from fear” not only in Burma but also in world to truly achieve the basic ethos of Buddhism. It is a naked truth that, how threatening pledges has been imposed and daily taken from the monks and people, who recently protested against the views expressed by Bogyoke Aung San on Sangha’s role to establish “Freedom From Fear” and “message of higher freedom to every nook and corner of the country”.       

Bogyoke Aung San as a maker of national defence forces had been long aware of the danger of army taking over the rights of freedom of people in Burma. So in explaining ‘a system of social responsibility’, he said, that, “The original conception of the “state” as a solution of the growing problems of “society”, the “state” holding power derived from “society”, this original conception gradually become lost to view in the course of social history. The cause is the tendency of the “state” to rise higher and higher above the heads of the people, until “State” and “Society” becomes totally divorced.” He further stresses that, “If the state is personified in one or group of persons arrogating to itself and itself alone, forever, the powers which in fact were delegated to it by the people, then the original concept that the state after all is a creation of the people becomes lost.”[III]  Here, SLORC or SPDC, as a group of people, who has even not derived power from the people through election, has turned into “state” higher and higher above the heads of the people as feared by Bogyoke Aung San. The junta wants to bring un-elected elements of the army in proposed Burmese parliament or Pyithu Hlutaw through reservation as pronounced in National Convention in the name of genuine democracy to control “state” against the wishes of Bogyoke Aung San.        

On 19th of October 2007, through the announcement no. 2/2007 of SPDC, a fifty-four member commission for drafting Burma’s proposed constitution was formed.[IV] But it is important to know that what type of constitution Bogyoke Aung San wished for Burma.  Not even two months before his death, on 23rd of May 1947 address at the AFPFL  convention held at the Jubilee Hall in Rangoon, he said, that, “The kind of constitution the new democracy would envisage is one which would place power in the hands of the masses through their elected representatives from top to bottom. If they have no confidence in their representatives they must have the power to recall them. This will make a clean sweep of the existing bureaucratic form of government.”[V]       

Now, I again return to the theme of Daw Suu’s writing on Bogyoke Aung San’ socio-political vision of monks role in politics. Whether Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is wrong in her historical analysis of Bogyoke Aung San thoughts on Monk’s role because in her book “Freedom from Fear”, she wrote that Bogyoke Aung San desired that, “Monks should not get involved in politics” and I have quoted Bogyoke Aung San’s original speech as Monks should play a greater and higher role of politics? No, the answer is absolutely not. She is right in her analysis, but her later analysis in the same book was intentionally left by the author of the New Light of Myanmar  (or may be not understood) reveals that, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Bogyoke Aung San both desired a greater social-political role for monks in modern history, which was missed by Pothudaw Yay Chan. It is well undrstood by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the same book that, “weak logic, inconsistencies and alienation from the people are common features of authoritarianism.”[VI]      

Both, Bogyoke Aung San and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wanted that in normal condition when politics is playing its true role of serving people, then Monks should refrain from politics and religion should be not mixed with politics, and even India’s greatest leader and father of nation – Mahatma Gandhi also believed on these values. But here comes the “BIG NORMAL SITUATION”, when politics is truly serving the people. But in present day Burma, freedom of speech, thoughts and actions had been freezed with the force of the barrel of gun and by an un-elected group taking the role of “State” as warned by Bogyoke Aung San. Most importantly, the whole leadership of the nation, elected in the May 1990 elections by the people’s mandate had been forced to flee from the country and those who remained had been put under the prison cells and many died in their journey to establish freedom in Burma. So in this extraordinary situation of Burma, what would be the monk’s and other peoples role in Burmese history has been said clearly by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi defining teachings of Buddhism, in “Freedom from Fear,” and I quote, “The teachings of Buddhism which delve into the various causes of sufferings identify greed or lust – the passion for indulging an intemperate appetite – as the first Ten Impurities or Dasa-Kilesa which stand in the way of a tranquil, wholesome state of mind. On the other hand, much value is attached to liberality or generosity, which heads such lists as the Ten Perfections of the Buddha or Dasa-paramita, the ten Virtues which should be practiced and the Ten Duties of Kings,” unquote. She further clarifies, “This emphasis on liberality should not be regarded as a facile endorsement of alms-giving based on canny calculations of possible benefits in the way of worldly prestige or other –worldly rewards,” which can be easily seen in SPDC’s General’s giving alms and titles to Sangha and Monks to perpetuate their authoritarian rule. Daw Suu Kyi, further quotes, the great Sayadaw of the famous Mahagandharun monastery of Amarapura – Sayadaw Ashin Janaka Bivamsa’s saying, that, “Liberality without morality cannot be pure. An act of charity committed for the sake of earning praise or prestige or a place in a heavenly abode tantamount to an act of greed.”[VII]    

How Bogyoke Aung San differentiated “politics of serving people” with religion’ could be understood from the following speech of Burma’s maker? Yes, he draws a line between the politics and religion but line is drawn when politics must see that the individual also has his rights, including the right to freedom of religious worships as Bogyoke Aung San says, “Religion is a matter of individual conscience while politics is a social science,” and stresses that, “Of course, as a social science, politics must see that the individual also has his rights, including the right to freedom of religious worship. Here we must stop and draw the line definitely between politics and religion.”[VIII] Now the question comes that whether as a discipline of social science under military rule in Burma “politics is serving the purpose of insuring individuals rights of freedom from fear” as said to Sangha by Bogyoke Aung San or it is dirty politics played by military junta to perpetuate their rule through reserving seats for tatmadaw in forthcoming Burmese parliament and debarring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to contest the election of 1990 and future elections?          

Bogyoke Aung San never wanted that, Burmese people should remain aloof from politics. He wanted that politics should be changed for freedom and better life. In his speech to Burmese people, he says, “You have to live and get certain things that are yours for your living, and this is your politics. This is your everyday life; and as your everyday life changes, so change your politics. It is for you to have such opportunities for your livelihood and a better life that we say there must be freedom, freedom to live, freedom to create and develop nationally and individually, freedom which can raise your and our standards without effecting others! This is politics. Politics, then, is quite human! It is not dirty. It is not dangerous. It is not parochial. It is neither magic nor superstition. It is not above understanding.”[IX]     

However the reality is that, in contemporary Burma, politics has become dangerous and above understanding. If one raises voice to establish freedom and people’s rights, it turns out to be dangerous and those who speak including reverend Monks, find themselves behind prison, torture and deaths against teachings of Lord Buddha.       

Politics in Burma has become above understanding against Bogyoke Aung San’s vision of politics, because junta does not want to talk to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi without any pre-condition attached to it, despite United Nations, ASEAN and world communities many appeals. And even when a minister was appointed as a messenger between the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it is said that it was done because of UN envoy’s appeal.  Why there is a need to appoint a communicator, when both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Than Shwe lives few miles away and if the intentions are good? Those who thinks, that, by visiting Daw Aung San Suu without any pre-condition, would make them small; then, they have not understood the true teachings of Lord Buddha and Buddhism. It shows that politics in Burma from junta’s part is not above understanding as wished by Burma’s great leader Bogyoke Aung San.      

Moreover, even today’s article (20 October 2007) in the New Light of Myanmar (NLM) on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi written by Chan Mya Aye, attempts to belittle Daw Suu’s and NLD’s role in modern history of Burma, while first claiming to be her supporter then turning to be a critique like a fine propagandist.[X] It is bizarre and most heinous crime against the percepts of Theravada Buddhism like earlier ones that, junta publishes articles in the New Light of Myanmar against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi directly addressed to her but does not gives her chance to respond freely to the concerned articles in different media. It also indicates that, appointed minister to talk with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a mere eye wash and buying time tactics of military junta from the International Institutions like – UN, UNSC, ASEAN etc. and they want to prolong dialogue till Beijing Olympics.        

Junta’s acceptance of awarding Capital Punishment on mere Protests against Lord Buddha’s teachings and International Law:     

In addition, in yesterday’s official newspaper – NLM (19th of October 2007), it is accepted by junta’s writer – Mi Khin Thant, that even saying a words against government and freedom of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners can lead to violation of Section 121-122 and according to these laws “capital punishment” can be given.[XI] Now question emerges, that, whether these sorts of freedom Bogyoke Aung San desired for Burma and in these conditions what should be the roles of monks in Aung San’s said vision? It also indicates towards the blatant violation of international law and United Nations Charter by junta by their acceptance on awarding capital punishment for mere protest to their rule. It also proves that many faceless innocent people and reverend monks of Burma would have suffered capital punishment through these inhuman laws in their struggle for freedom as outlined by Bogyoke Aung San.     

So, it is important to revisit, that, what was Lord Buddha’s original teaching on capital punishment? Lord Buddha clearly denounces capital punishment and taking away life of anyone by anyone. Referring the thoughts of The Light of Asia, the former President and modern Asia’s greatest philosophers of oriental thought Shri S. Radhakrishnan writes that, “Lord Buddha declares in ‘Samyutta Nikaya’ that, Anyone, O Sariputta, who lays down this body and takes another one, I call blameworthy.”[XII] Although SPDC shows great reverence towards the Sangha by donating alms and gifts together with titles but awards capital punishment to their fellow citizens for mere protests and demand of freedom of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners in Burma    

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi understood well then any other leaders of Burma about junta’s tactics and strategy of defaming the democracy movement as a western ploy well before her detention, which is presently appearing daily in official media – NLM, in the name of “people’s desire” accusing DVB, RFA, BBC, VOA, AFP etc for instigating the protests. And she writes in her essay entitled, “In Quest of Democracy,” that, “It was predictable that as soon as the issue of human rights became an integral part of the movement for democracy the official media should start ridiculing and condemning the whole concept of human rights, dubbing it a western artifact alien to traditional values,”[XIII] and relating it with great teachings of Lord Buddha against capital punishment and importance of human life like Bogyoke Aung San, She elaborates that, “Buddhism, the foundation of traditional Burmese culture places the greatest value on man, who alone of all beings can achieve the supreme state of Buddhahood. Each man has in him the potential to realize the truth through his own will and endeavour and to help others to realize it. Human life is therefore is infinitely precious…But despotic governments do not recognize the precious human component of the state, seeing its citizens only as a faceless, mindless – and helpless – mass to be manipulated at will.”[XIV]     

Probably, for a moment, it is good for Burma, that national capital has been shifted to “Nay Pyi Taw” by military junta, now at least the great holy Shwedagon Pagoda of Rangoon, where Lord Buddha’s bright light exists, is not there to witness orders of crime of capital punishment committed against humanity under laws like Section 121-122 or in the name of Bogyoke Aung San’s social-political vision. 

      


 

 

 

ENDNOTES:   

 

[I] Pothudaw Yay Chan, Elements harmful to Dhamma and political opportunists, The New Light of Myanmar, 18th of October 2007, Volume XV, Number-185, , Rangoon, Burma, p.6.

[II] Josef Silverstein, The Political Legacy of Aung San, Data Paper No. 86, Southeast Asia Program, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, June 1972, p. 55-56.

[III] Ibid, p.93.

[IV] Commission for Drafting State Constitution formed, The New Light of Myanmar, 19th of October 2007, Volume – XV, Number- 186, Rangoon, Burma, pp.1, 3, and 4.

[V] Note No. 2, p.95.

[VI] Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom From Fear and other writings, Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, Year 1995 (First Published in 1991), p.175.

[VII] Ibid, p.242.

[VIII] Note No. 2, p.55

[IX] Ibid., p.54.

[X] Chan Mya Aye, Aunty Suu, we are living in hope or Our only wish is to see a win-win situation -1, The New Light of Myanmar, 20th  of October 2007, Volume XV, Number-187, , Rangoon, Burma, p.8-9.  [XI] Mi Khin Thant, Don’t get yourselves used by unscrupulous elements, The New Light of Myanmar, 19th of October 2007, Volume XV, Number-186, , Rangoon, Burma, p.6-7.  

[XII] S. Radhakrishnan, Eastern Religions and Western Thought, A Galaxy Book, Oxford University Press, New York, 1959, p.182.

[XIII] Note No. 6, p.174.

[XIV] Ibid, p.174.

     

(THE END)

   

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