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Please check facts before making statement

by Sumanaminda, Bangkok, Thailand, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 14, 2007

I refer to the letter by Jorge de Silva on "Political activities are forbidden for Sangha members".

Before Jorge spews forward any references to the Vinaya which forbid monks from participating in political activities, it would be good if he can specify exactly where the vinaya says that it is forbidden for monks to be involved in such actions.

Secondly, by criticising the actions based on his knowledge - which I assume - on news reports, does he actually know first hand what has been happening on the ground in Yangon, Mandalay and Pakokku?

It is very easy to hold the moral high ground in the comfort of an adequate surrounding in a western enviroment. But if Jorge would to take a flight into Yangon, and see for himself the economical and political situation in Myanmar, I'm sure he would have chosen far more careful wordings to express his views.

For starters, the monks which were involved in the initial flare up were just initially protesting peacefully with villagers at Pakokku town, to show their solidarity with the locals on the economic hardship faced by them. All they wanted to demonstrate that they understood how the villagers felt and to impress upon the millitary junta that things are really bad.

It has come to a point that villagers could not afford to give alms to monks because they themselves do not have enough to eat. As it is, this is a vital symbiotic existence between the local villagers and the Sangha, one that has long endured over time. Westerners will never appreciate this symbiosis until and unless they have experienced first hand of the local culture here.

Trouble started when the soldiers decided to attack the monks, tying some of them as well as lay protestors to electrical poles and beating them up. For the local Burmese, this is the ultimate show of moral decay, where the army seems to have no more respect for this holy institution.

When faced with such a moral dilemma, what can the monks really do?

So it would be wise if Jorge, or anyone critical of monks being involved in "lay affairs" for that matter, to be more sensitive to what's really going on before making such rash statements. The bit about comparing the situation with "shooting down rabid dogs" was really uncalled for.

Since Jorge has brought up the vinaya to back his argument, may I point him to an incident in the Parinibbana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya, in which the Buddha was said to have stood in the middle of a river to stop two warring kingdoms who were about to fight over the supply of water.

So please tell me, can you say that this was not a political act? I hope all parties will at least practice some form of "Right Speech" before unleashing their tongue on any matter which they find disagreeble.


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