The world's Sangha speaks out against brutal treatment of Burmese monks

The Buddhist Channel, Oct 9, 2007

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The sound that comes out from them are usually words of Dharma. And that too talks on meditation and the ways of being mindful. It is not too far off to say that these venerables usually keep themselves away from commenting on anything that deals with worldly life. They are after all, the "homeless ones", those who have given themselves to the cultivation of purity, clarity and mindfulness.

But after last week's gross and brutal treatment of Burmese monks by the governing military junta, these "silent" venerables, whether from the Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana tradition could not - and would not  - keep quiet any longer. Just like their brethens in Rangoon, Mandalay and other Burmese cities, they have led the call for the return of sanity and respect for basic humanity.

Indeed, never in recent memory have the voice of the global Sangha come together in such an uniform manner, voicing support and solidarity for the Burmese monks who led the street protests two weeks ago.

As hundreds of disrobed monks could be heard chanting from inside a windowless detention centre in Yangon, well known monks and Dharma teachers have raised their concern over the deteriorating situation.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile and the world's most prominent Buddhist, was among the first to offer his support to the tens of thousands of shaven-headed monks at the vanguard of the "saffron revolution."

"I fully support their call for freedom and democracy and take this opportunity to appeal to freedom-loving people all over the world to support such non-violent movements," the 72-year-old said in a statement.

"As a Buddhist monk, I am appealing to the members of the military regime who believe in Buddhism to act in accordance with the sacred dharma in the spirit of compassion and non-violence."

Ajahn Sumedho, one of the most famous disciple of the late Ajahn Chah, wrote an appeal saying that he was "making a statement of support and sympathy for the heroic efforts of the Buddhist Monks, Nuns, Students, and all the Burmese Laypeople who are peacefully protesting against the injustice and oppression of the present government of Myanmar."

"It is very confusing and distressing to witness a government which claims to respect the Buddhist religion react to a peaceful protest in such a violent and brutal way," the venerable said.

In his appeal, he asked the present government to "listen to the Sangha and to seek a way of reconciliation in accord with the Dhamma which will be for the welfare and happiness of all."

In their joint statement, Ven. Thich Quang Ba and Ajahn Brahmavamso (photo, left) spoke on behalf of the Australian Sangha Association. They declared their "total support" and offers "sympathetic blessings to all respected Sangha and members of the public in Myanmar who are risking their life and devoting their peaceful actions for justice, freedom, democracy and prosperity in their country."

The two venerables further expressed their "admiration, respect and understanding toward all Buddhist Sangha in Myanmar for their courage, their noble stand, and their positive actions based on the ancient principle of harmlessness for the benefits of all."

"Your compassion and wisdom is an inspiration to us all around the world," the joint statement concluded.

Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Ven Thich Quang Do addressed a letter (28.9.2007) to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, calling for urgent UN action to address the crisis in Burma and bring the military junta to cease repression against peaceful protesters.

In his letter Thich Quang Do wrote: "I express the deep alarm of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam on the violent repression of peaceful and democratic protests by the military government of Burma/Myanmar. I urge the UN Security Council to adopt and enforce a strong Resolution at this General Assembly meeting in New York, and also call on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to convene a special session to seek a swift solution to this tragedy. The brutal killings, beatings, arrests and disappearances we have witnessed in Burma over the past days cannot be allowed to continue".

Rev. Fuchi Eitoku, the President of the Administrative Headquarters of Soto Zen Buddhism, asked sanguinely in a statement addressed to Mr Thein Sein, the acting Prime Minister of the Union of Myanmar: "How can the use of force bring about a resolution to these problems?"

"We live according to the teachings of Buddhism. As Buddhists, we strongly protest these tragic actions that have grossly ignored and trampled irreplaceable human life," he emphasised.

Rev. Kojun Inaoka, the Secretary General of the Jodo (Pure Land) Shu Buddhist Denomination professed about "belief in non-violence" and that their organization deny "any warlike or military means for resolving problems, no matter the reason."

The strongly worded appeal also expressed his indignation and deep regret of the actions of the soldiers taken against the monks.

The statement concluded by expressing solidarity with the Burmese monks, saying, "We Jodo Shu priests and followers will not cease to pray for the rapid establishment of a world of co-existence in which humans non-violently trust, love and help one another."

In an appeal by the Karen Monk Union, the statement said: "The Pattanikujjhana Sangha Kamma (act of overturning the alms bowl) done by you is in accordance with Vinaya Pitaka. All Bhikkhu Sangha of the seven States (all ethnic minority Sangha) also support you very strongly. All you have to do is to go ahead only."

Meanwhile, Buddhist supporters in cities around the world continued their protest rallies and prayer vigils for them. Buddhist faithful have rallied, chanted and meditated in cities worldwide for the monks, who were shot, beaten, tear-gassed and arrested last week after they started refusing alms from soldiers and marched against the regime.

The involvement of these venerables in worldly affairs during times of crisis recalls other non-violent Buddhist protests from Asia's anti-colonial struggles and acts of defiance such as the self-immolations of monks during the Vietnam war.

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