Sunday, October 14, 2007

Burma: a sadness so unbelievable

In an article today in the New York Times, several more first-hand accounts of the recent demonstrations and crack-down are given. The article, titled "A Few Voices From the Deepening Silence" provides a few intimate stories of those who were there.
A housewife recalled the brutality she saw while shopping for food Sept. 28:

Someone who was with me at a previous job lost her son in these protests. He might have been on his way home, but we don’t know. This mother had a friend in the army and she asked him for help. He told her to stay home and — no questions. The son, her only child, is still missing.

A young man described how the junta has clamped down on social exchange, destroying trust among people:

There is no more connection between people. It’s been broken... This is not the end. This is just a stopping point and we are not satisfied. We don’t know the future but we will keep our anger burning inside.

A teacher talked about the pain of seeing Buddhism desecrated and the fear of the military that spread among the monks:

I cannot continue to tolerate this. We only hope that bad karma will fall upon them but there’s nothing else we can do now.... The day after the shootings started, I went to this monastery and the faces that I saw on those monks was something I had never seen. It is not fear. It was a sadness so unbelievable.


A businessman whose company lost an enormous amount of business during the upheaval lamented Myanmar’s isolation:

My own experience of traveling to other countries opened my mind and changed my life. I loved the freedom I found in the United States. It was something I had never experienced. If I hadn’t spent time abroad, I would have ended up as a military man. Or else I could have been an informer exposing the conversation we’re having right now.

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1 comment:

Gary said...

The situation in Burma seems so hopeless right now, but there's some solace to be found in contemplating that everything in life is impermanent (anicca). And that includes the Burmese junta.

A quality that is promoted in Buddhism is khanti, or patient endurance, and the Burmese people over the past four decades have shown so much of this towards their government. Unfortunately, it looks like they will need a lot more of it in the future.

The Net is awash with Buddhists, as well as other people, searching for answers to the question, "What should we do?" Some believe that the UN, US or whoever should invade Burma just as Iraq has been. This is not a Buddhist response to the situation, however, for to take life is against the first precept of the Buddha Dhamma, and as Buddhists we need to act wisely as well as compassionately to all concerned. (Looking at the present mess in Iraq, it's not clear that similar action in Burma would be that beneficial, either.)

The admission of the Burmese businessman that if he'd not seen the way other countries do things, he would probably be a military man or an informant for the government is both honest and revealing. How many informants and soldiers would prefer not to betray their countrymen but feel there's no alternative right now? What would we do if we'd been born and brought up in Burma, and faced the same dilemmas that the Burmese struggle with an a daily basis?

The Burmese junta, the armed forces and their informants are human beings, just as much as their victims. The Metta Sutta encourages us to have metta (loving-kindness) for all beings, and that includes 'the bad guys'. Ajahn Sumedho gives a wise and compassionate response to the situation in Burma at the following link:,5034,0,0,1,0

Let's hope that things improve in Burma, and that the regime listens to the world community protesting at its awful treatment of monks and laity. Moreover, let's hope for the day when the Burmese junta listens to its own people, putting their interests above its own, as the Buddha advised rulers to do in his teachings on the Ten Duties of a King (dasa-rajadhamma).

Be well,
Gary at Forest Wisdom.