Buddhist-Based Resources for Relief and Social Change
The Last of the Saffron Monks
Below is a PDF of a wonderful article by Susie Poppick about our good friends in Brooklyn, the exiled Saffron Revolution monks of the All Burma Monks Alliance. This was published in the January 2011 issue of First Things, publication of The Institute on Religion and Public Life.
Aung San Suu Kyi is free — but what happens now? by Hozan Alan Senauke
they do to me, that’s between them and me; I can take it. What’s more
important is what they are doing to the country.”— Aung San Suu Kyi, 1994
images of Aung San Suu Kyi greeting thousands of supporters at the
gates of her Rangoon compound bring me to tears. It is a great joy to
see her smile and talk, wearing a beautiful flower in her hair and
looking fit for the next moment of her life which is completely entwined
with the future of Burma.
I know that thousands, millions of
people in Burma and around the world have the same response. She has
been confined to her ramshackle home under house arrest for the previous
seven years and for fifteen of last twenty-one years total, with no
opportunity to see her children, and little chance for engagement with
society. Daw Suu has been, in one sense, an icon. But she is a living,
breathing icon who will never allow herself to be an object. Aung San
Suu Kyi has work to do.
For now it appears that her release is
unconditional. Certainly that is Daw Suu’s firm determination. Burma’s
SPDC junta and the new “government,” selected just days ago in a bogus
election universally condemned by international advisers and governments
around the world, may have very different intentions and conditions for
her. Nonetheless, we pause to celebrate and shed tears of grief mingled
with joy. Aung San Suu Kyi’s release creates a new opening for change —
a gap in the apparently seamless wall of oppression through which
freedom can emerge.
It is up to our worldwide community of
conscience, hand in hand with Burma’s democracy activists, to use this
opportunity and Daw Suu’s political skills to best advantage. There are
still more than 2200 political prisoners in facing torture and long
years in Burma’s prisons, including student leader Min Ko Naing, labor
rights activist Su Su Nway, Saffron Revolution leader U Gambira,
comedian/social critic Zargana, and many, many others. Among these
political prisoners we have identified nearly 250 monks and nuns. We
demand their immediate release.
There must be an honest and
irreversible process of dialogue involving Aung San Suu Kyi, the
National League for Democracy, all the embattled ethnic groups, and the
junta itself towards a clear goal of democracy and national
reconciliation. Anything short of such deliberations is simply the
continuation of the junta’s business as usual — the business of theft,
fraud, impoverishment, and systematic violence. We cannot allow these
policies to shadow the lives of our Burmese sisters and brothers.
Twenty-five hundred years ago Shakyamuni Buddha included these verses in the “Metta Sutta.”
Let no one deceive another nor despise anyone anywhere. Neither in anger nor hatred should anyone wish harm to another. Even as a mother would risk her own life to protect her only child, just so one should cultivate a boundless heart towards all living beings.
are verses, too, that Burma’s Saffron Revolution monks chanted when
they took to the streets in September of 2007. Twenty-five hundred years
after Buddha, three years after the monks’ doomed uprising, this
teaching can still be our guide. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s way is the path
of active nonviolence. Her purpose is to liberate her country and
protect all beings, even the junta’s generals, from the folly and
destruction of hatred. We can only pray that in her newly accomplished
liberty she will succeed. And we must dedicate our own action and
cooperation towards that noble end. Burma will be free!