The 2555 Kathina Dana Ceremony, presided by the Maha Thera Hiang Uaen, Wat Ratanaram, Bristol, Connecticut United States of America on Sunday the 4th Waning Moon of Assayuja B.E.2555, October 16, A.D.2011 Year of the Rabbit.
Five Buddhist monks are demonstrating at a monastery in Mandalay to demand the immediate release of political prisoners (AFP)
MANDALAY, Myanmar — A rare protest by Buddhist monks in Myanmar entered a second day Wednesday, as Southeast Asian nations announced a plan to let the military-dominated country chair their regional bloc.
The five monks are demonstrating at a monastery in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, to demand peace and the immediate release of political prisoners, and they have vowed to continue their action until Friday.
Rallies by monks are extremely unusual in Myanmar, and this is thought to be the first since mass protests led by clergy in 2007 — known as the “Saffron Revolution” — were brutally quashed, with the deaths of at least 31 people and the arrest of hundreds of clerics.
Ministers at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the Indonesian island of Bali were Wednesday set to endorse a plan to pass the rotating chairmanship to Myanmar in 2014.
Around 500 people, mostly monks, gathered at Masoeyein monastery to hear the protesters give a speech, an AFP reporter on the scene said.
“I support their demands,” said local resident Khin Maung Tun, 27, as he delivered food offerings at the compound, which is home to some 600 monks.
“So I came here to listen to their speech and show my support.”
The five demonstrators attracted around 500 onlookers when they began their protest on Tuesday, after an expected amnesty for political detainees failed to materialise.
They unfurled banners in English and Burmese reading: “Free all political prisoners” and “Stop civil war now” — a reference to the decades-long conflict between the army and ethnic minorities.
Their third demand is freedom of speech for monks, Ashin Sopaka, the leader of the five protesters, told AFP at the monastery.
“I think things are going well,” he said, but he admitted he feared a crackdown by the authorities. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”
The monks originally started their protest at a different religious building in Mandalay, but following talks with senior clerics in the area agreed to move their protest to the Masoeyein monastery.
The release of all of the country’s political prisoners, whose exact numbers remain unclear, is one of the major demands of Western nations which have imposed sanctions on Myanmar.
Authorities had been expected to release some political detainees on Monday before President Thein Sein attends the ASEAN meeting later this week.
But officials said the move was put off at short notice for reasons that remain unclear.
Buddhist monks join the crowd listening to the monks' calls for the government to release political prisoners. Photo/Mandalay Breeze Facebook
Five Buddhist monks launched a protest at Maha Mya Muni Monastery in Mandalay on Tuesday, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of political activists who are being detained in prisons across the country, one of the protesters told The Irrawaddy.
The move came after Win Mra, the chairman of a government-appointed rights body, the National Human Rights Commission, called on President Thein Sein to grant another amnesty as a reflection of his magnanimity or to transfer political prisoners in remote prisons to facilities with easy access for their family members.
The Buddhist monks also urged the government to end armed hostilities in ethnic Kachin State in northern Burma and to hold peace talks with ethnic armed groups.
They held signs which read: “Peace Here Right Now!” “Free All Political Prisoners!” “We Want Freedom!” and “Stop the Civil War Now!” as they protested using loudspeakers. The monks began the vigil at 5 am and it was still continuing at 2pm.
The Buddhist monks have also demanded that the government allow monks to exercise their right of religion such as by being able to give religious speeches in public. The police did not intervene but instead questioned the monks, then stood by and monitored the demonstration, said the source.
One of the monks was identified as Ashin Sopoka who lived in exile in Germany until recently, and who runs Burmese book stores in Chiang Mai and Mae Sot in Thailand.
Another Buddhist monk, U Sawpaka, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is do hold a telephone conversation with the protesting monks in Mandalay. Electricity lines have been cut at the Maha Mya Muni Monastery where the protest is taking place.
Members of the public watch the protesting monks at Maha Mya Muni Monastery in Mandalay on Tuesday morning. Photo/Mandalay Breeze Facebook
Hundreds of residents have turned up to cheer the monks and have offered them food, drinking water and petrol to work a generator. Plain-clothed security was beefed up around the protest site, and both police and fire trucks were deployed nearby, said the monk.
* Later on Tuesday afternoon, the five monks moved from Maha Mya Muni monastery to Ma Soe Yein monastery in Mandalay and continued their protest. They said they will maintain their protest until the government accepts their demands.
They said they moved location after being persuaded to by senior monks at Ma Soe Yein monastery.
“Even though the government released some political prisoners, there remain many Buddhist monks and political activists in prison. We call for the government to immediately release them and end the civil war for the sake of peace in Burma,” one of the protesting monks told The Irrawaddy by telephone.
Good Question, Good Answer with Ven. S Dhammika
I often hear Buddhists talk about wisdom and compassion. What do these two terms mean?
Some religions believe that compassion or love (the two are very similar) is the most important spiritual quality but they fail to develop any wisdom. The result is that you end up being a good-hearted fool, a very kind person but with little or no understanding. Other systems of thought, like science, believe that wisdom can best be developed when all emotions, including compassion, are kept out of the way. The outcome of this is that science has tended to become preoccupied with results and has forgotten that science is to serve man not to control and dominate him. How, otherwise could scientists have lent their skills to develop the nuclear bomb, germ warfare, and the like. Religion has always seen reason and wisdom as the enemy of emotions like love and faith. Science has always seen emotions like love and faith as being enemies of reason and objectivity. And of course, as science progresses, religion declines. Buddhism, on the other hand, teaches that to be a truly balanced and complete individual, you must develop both wisdom and compassion. And because it is not dogmatic but based on experience, Buddhism has nothing to fear from science.
So what, according to Buddhism, is wisdom?
The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent, and not self. This understanding is totally freeing and leads to the great security and happiness which is called Nirvana. However, the Buddha doesn’t speak too much about this level of wisdom. It is not wisdom if we simply believe what we are told. True wisdom is to directly see and understand for ourselves. At this level then, wisdom is to keep an open mind rather than being closed-minded, listening to other points of view rather than being bigoted; to carefully examine facts that contradict our beliefs, rather than burying our heads in the sand; to be objective rather than prejudiced and partisan; to take time about forming our opinions and beliefs rather than just accepting the first or most emotional thing that is offered to us; and to always be ready to change our beliefs when facts that contradict them are presented to us. A person who does this is certainly wise and is certain to eventually arrive at true understanding. The path of just believing what you are told is easy. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.
I think few people could do this. So what is the point of Buddhism if only a few can practice it?
It is true that not everyone is ready for Buddhism yet. But to say that therefore we should teach a religion that is false but easily understandable just so that everyone can practice it is ridiculous. Buddhism aims at the truth and if not everyone has the capacity to understand it yet, they perhaps will be ready for it in their next life. However, there are many who, with just the right words or encouragement, are able to increase their understanding. And it is for this reason that Buddhists gently and quietly strive to share the insights of Buddhism with others. The Buddha taught us out of compassion and we teach others out of compassion.
So we arrive at compassion. What, according to Buddhism, is compassion?
Just as wisdom covers the intellectual or comprehending side of our nature, compassion covers the emotional or feeling side of our nature. Like wisdom, compassion is a uniquely human quality. Compassion is made up of two words, ‘co’ meaning together and ‘passion’ meaning a strong feeling. And this is what compassion is. When we see someone in distress and we feel their pain as if it were our own, and strive to eliminate or lessen their pain, then this is compassion. So all the best in human beings, all the Buddha-like qualities like sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern and caring – all are manifestations of compassion. You will notice also that in the compassionate person, care and love towards others has its origins in care and love for oneself. We can really understand others when we really understand ourselves. We will know what’s best for others when we know what’s best for ourselves. We can feel for others when we feel for ourselves. So in Buddhism, one’s own spiritual development blossoms quite naturally into concern for the welfare of others. The Buddha’s life illustrates this very well. He spent six years struggling for his own welfare, after which, he was able to be of benefit to the whole of mankind.
So you are saying that we are best able to help others after we have helped ourselves. Isn’t that a bit selfish?
We usually see altruism, concern for others before oneself, as being the opposite of selfishness, concern for oneself before others. Buddhism does not see it as either one or the other but rather as a blending of the two. Genuine self-concern will gradually mature into concern for others as one sees that others are really the same as oneself. This is genuine compassion and it is the most beautiful jewel in the crown of the Buddha’s teaching.
A Dhamma Talk on Vipassana and mindfulness meditation by Vipassana Gossalaya Jotannano Hong Keo, Vipassana Buddhist Master during a 10-Day Meditation & Vipassana Retreats at the Buddhist Meditation Center, Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam on the 11th Waxing Moon – 7th Waning Moon of Jeṭṭha B.E.2560 equivalent to June 15 – 26, A.D.2016 in Leverett, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in 2016.
ក្រុងសាវត្ថី Sāvatthī or Śrāvastī
Vipassana chanting by Meditation Master Ketodhammo Som Bunthoeun. Footages from 2016 Vipassana classes at the Buddhist Meditation Center – Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam in Leverett, Massachusetts, USA.
SAMDECH CHUON NATH
Khmer literature and Dhamma talk by His Holiness Jotannano Chuon Nath, the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism. His Holiness was born on March 11, 1883; passed away on September 25, 1969
MAHA GHOSANANDA SERVICES
Extraordinary Funeral and Memorial Services for His Holiness Samdech Dr. Maha Ghosananda