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A Revolution of the Spirit

by Margaret Howe & Hozan Alan Senauke, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 3, 2008

On the One-Year Anniversary of the Saffron Revolution

"They may control the streets and monasteries, but they will never be able to control our hearts and our determination." - U Gambira (imprisoned monk)

Berkeley, CA (USA) -- One year ago, last September, 100,000 Buddhist monks and nuns poured into streets of Burma, chanting the sutra of loving-kindness or metta. Their Saffron Revolution aimed to change the hardened hearts and shameful policies of the generals who run one of the world’s most repressive regimes. 

The monks’ actions encouraged hundreds of thousands of ordinary Burmese to take to the streets and join their quest for justice. The world watched breathlessly as their nonviolent courage galvanized a nation. In the end over half a million people marched in over 24 cities in Burma. Within days, the military cracked down and thousands were imprisoned, scores killed, and monasteries were raided.

One year later, many monasteries remain closed and many monks remain missing or in hiding. Of the 2000 political prisoners languishing in Burmese prisons, 196 are monks. Some of these monks have been tortured and all of them have been forcibly disrobed. Burma’s monastic life is under threat. Over 400,000 monks and nuns are under surveillance and live in fear.

This September 26, the world marks the 1st anniversary of the "Saffron Revolution". To commemorate the event, an initiative called "The Clear View Project" (www.clearviewproject.org) is being organized to support the monks and their spirit of standing up to tyrannism.

Here is their statement.

The Burmese have suffered since 1962 under brutal military junta that has turned the “rice bowl of Asia” into a destitute country. Fear controls the people.  Torture, imprisonment, forced labor, the burning of whole villages, and conscripting child soldiers are the norm.

It took years to bring change to South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. It may still take more years to bring change to Burma. But in Burma we have the principled, powerful example of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Buddhist monks and nuns who have refused to hate or retaliate in the face of horrific violence and injustice.

Western Buddhists owe a debt of gratitude to the Burmese for helping to bring the Buddha’s teachings to the West. They have kept and treasured the dharma for two thousand years. Whether Theravadan, Mahayana or Vajrayana, all Western Buddhists have been touched by the depth of Burmese Buddhism. And now many monasteries remain closed and thousands of monks remain unaccounted for.

The Burmese act in near isolation from outside support. But backing for their quest for democracy grows. Through careful and quiet channels, the democracy movement in Burma knows what we do on their behalf here in the US.  Our support is precious to them in their struggle. The Burmese need us to speak with them and for them.

Keep the courage and heart of the Buddhist monks and nuns in Burma alive. Honor the Saffron Revolution though taking some action, however small to keep their struggle in awareness, knowing that the revolution is far from over. Let the Burmese regime and the world know that we will continue to raise our voices until the military junta yields to a free and civil Burma.

The International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO) has called for September 26 to be a Day of Action for Burma and they will hold an all day meditation at the United Nations in NYC on Friday September 26, along with other NYC public events. If you are in NYC, please join them. BPF website will post the event and others we know about. Below are some suggestions for actions. The BPF website will have materials to print and use for these.  Thank you for all your good intentions and actions.

In peace,

Clear View Project
707-360-8452 / margaret@clearviewproject.org

SAFFRON REVOLUTION — IDEAS FOR ACTION

  • Hold a public meditation.
  • Hold a peaceful candlelight (or daytime) march, chanting the metta sutta as the monks did. (metta sutta and sign on BPF website)
  • Create mock monasteries in a public place (like the shanty-towns villages which sprang up on college campuses during the apartheid era) asking, “Where are the monks?”
  • Call or email Senator Obama (http://my.barackobama.com/page/s/contact2)
    and Senator McCain (http://www.johnmccain.com/Contact/) to ask them to mention the anniversary on that day, e.g. “Please, as a global citizen and US Presidential nominee, remind the world of the courage of the monks and nuns one year ago today to stand up and speak for their land with 50 million citizens being held hostage by their own government.”
  • Call your radio and TV stations or send a PSA to be read about the one-year anniversary. (on BPF website)
  • Create life-sized puppets.
  • Organize a teach-in on Burma.
  • Ask your Buddhist teacher to talk about the Burmese monastics’ actions in 2007 and/or socially engaged Buddhism. 
  • Hold a special meditation or service either at your center or in public in support of monastics in Burma.
  • Write a letter to the editor about the anniversary and current conditions in Burma.
    Write to the UN Secretary General asking for a complete arms embargo on Burma. (sample letter on BPF web-site.)
  • Host a speaker on Burma. (There may be a monk or Burmese expert near you. Contact us for suggestions.)
  • Send an email to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.
  • (http://www.amnestyusa.org/myanmar-burma/action/page.do?id=YCA0955)
  • Hang banners in public places.
  • Enjoy your freedoms. Aung San Suu Kyi says, “Please use your liberty to gain ours.”


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