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Burma September 30, 2007

Posted by Andre Vellino in Buddhism, Human Rights.
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This blog was originally intended to be about work-related issues, not political, religious or social ones, but the situation in Burma is of such concern to me, I feel I must say something here.

First of all, there is a good summary in the New York Times today describing what happened this week between the Buddhist Monks and the military junta. I think the article gets it mostly right, except for a few things (it refers to Burma as “Myanmar” but this BBC article explains why the country should be called “Burma”), such as describing alms-bowls as “begging bowls” and mendicant Monks as “begging”. In fact Theravada Buddhist Monks don’t beg or even ask for food, they create an opportunity for lay people to give, which is a subtle but very important distinction. It’s hard to understand this distinction unless you have a devotional respect for the renunciate life.

But the article does offer a good explanation for why the refusal of the Monks to be fed by the military was such an affront to them. Now that the monks are imprisoned in their own monasteries, it means that the military are starving them. One thing is for sure: things are going to get worse before they get better.

The Amnesty International web site has good coverage of the human rights abuses that are being perpetrated in Burma although it should be noted that Amnesty (and the western press as well) are very conservative in their assessment of the atrocities being perpetrated. I am aware of first-hand anecdotal evidence that things are in fact a lot worse than is being reported.

I sometimes think about the untold suffering that Vietnam veterans suffered after committing the terrible crimes of that war. No matter what happens now the Burmese soldiers who committed these horrific deeds will be haunted for the rest of their lives.  This aggression by the military must be stopped as much to protect the Monks and ordinary lay people as to protect the soldiers.

In closing, this is the Metta Sutra – The Buddha’s words on Kindness:

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

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