Myanmar exiles pen open letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

From Mizzima:

A number of Myanmar exiles have signed an open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi asking her to re-evaluate her position as ‘Burmese society is sleep-walking into the abyss of racial hatred and religious bigotry’ The following is the letter in full.

‘As your fellow countrymen, with deep roots in our troubled birthplace, we are writing to you to share our sadness and concern about your personal legacy as the nation’s leader, the plight of our people, and the future of Myanmar as a nation.

Some of our family members and parents were contemporaries and colleagues of your late father, General Aung San. They made contributions to the country’s welfare as he did.

When you delivered your first speech in 1988, declaring that “as my father’s daughter I could no longer remain silent when the public remains subject to decades of oppression”, we were deeply moved and inspired by your determination and courage.

Like millions of Burmese we transferred to you, the love, respect and trust which your martyred father earned from our parents and generations of Burmese.

In your long years of captivity as a Prisoner of Conscience, we stood by you and did everything in our power, individually and collectively, to secure your freedom and build an international movement in support of your leadership.

We did indeed respond to your famous call, “use your liberty to promote ours”. Irrespective of our ethnic and religious backgrounds – including Rohingyas, other Muslims, Hindus and Christians, we all rallied to your call to end the oppression of the majority by an elite minority in the Tatmadaw.

We rejoiced when you were released, and waited to see how you would rally the nation to our common cause – democracy. But you acknowledged none of your able supporters and fellow dissidents, exiled or formerly jailed, much less consulted with them. Many would have assisted you in any way they could with years of invaluable global experience in many fields. You showed no interest in soliciting any intellectual or professional support.

Worse still, we were shocked by your statement that you were a politician – meaning political expediency might guide your decision-making, as if universal human rights and politics were mutually exclusive.

Then the make-up of your government caused us concern. None of the well-respected experienced senior NLD leaders were included. No one of outstanding ability and experience was drafted into your cabinet. Most were inexperienced NLD newcomers and the only ones with any real capacity or experience were ex-military, functionaries of the very regime that had incarcerated you, oppressed the nation for the last fifty years, and whitewashed the crimes of our former tormentors and jailers.

Where are we headed? Has our democratic transition in Myanmar turned full circle? Are we back under an autocratic regime albeit one that was democratically elected? You need to encourage a free press, allow dissent in the ranks, debate policy differences, and build up the next generation of leaders from all ethnic backgrounds and religions, besides building trust with the generals. We know it is not easy. But they are the building blocks of any reformist agenda. We are not expecting you to do it alone. It can only be done with a strong team.

Given the memory of your father and the supreme leadership position that you now hold in the country, we are appealing to you to draw a firm line based on democratic principles and human compassion. Burmese society is sleep-walking into the abyss of racial hatred and religious bigotry. The violence against the Rohingya must end. Whatever the crimes of the militants, it is wrong to kill innocent villagers – men, women, and children, in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, especially in Rakhine. You have a moral obligation to act.

We also urge you to allow the United Nations and human rights organizations full access to determine what went wrong. Humanitarian aid should also be made available to all those in need irrespective of whether or not they are citizens of Myanmar.

We, the undersigned are making this statement with sadness and regret. But we are compelled by the credible reports of the catastrophic turn of events in Norther Rakhine. You can still heal the wounds and lead the reconciliation process. We would like you to take the initiative as the elected leader of Myanmar. It is not too late to do the right thing by your father’s legacy.

We wish you well. May you walk in peace.

Sincerely,

1. Ko Aung, UK
2. Tun Aung, USA
3. Kin Oung, Australia
4. Bilal Raschid, USA
5. U Kyaw Win, USA
6. Harn Yawnghwe, Canada
7. Maung Zarni, UK’
8. Moethee Zun, USA”

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The Buddha Stool and Blasphemy

The Thailand based Knowing Buddha organisation, which campaigns against the misuse of images of the Buddha and other Buddhist sacred objects, has started a campaign directed at a stool using the an image of the Buddha’s head. It is as they appear, a seat made from an image of the Buddha’s head.

They are widely available online and one of the product descriptions reads:

A quirky yet beautiful addition to our collection of stools comes this delightful Buddha stool. In the design of a Buddha head and finished in white, this Buddha is sure to add to brighten up your home, adding charm in abundance

 

New article: The Idea of ‘Blasphemy’ in the Pāli Canon and Modern Myanmar

Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume 4 (2): 2016

Part of a special edition on blasphemy and Buddhism with some excellent contributions.

Details are here.

Abstract:

‘There are many terms in the Pāli Canon that refer to “disrespect” committed against venerated objects or people. Some of these ideas come close to the idea of “blasphemy” in other religious traditions. In traditional forms of Buddhism, the stress is on protective and auspicious acts. Images, texts and chanting are partly concerned with averting danger. Primarily it is the Buddha (and images of him), because of his great meritorious and ethical deeds, who accomplishes this. In this context blasphemy against sacred objects is a perfectly coherent idea in Buddhism. In Myanmar, monks from the Ma Ba Tha movement have expressed outrage at what they perceived to be the manipulation of images of the Buddha. These will be compared to ideas in the Pāli Canon to suggest how the idea of blasphemy is a constant feature in the history of Buddhism.’

More ‘blasphemy’ in Myanmar

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As reported in the Myanmar Times:

A Spanish tourist visiting Bagan with his wife over the weekend found his trip interrupted when police discovered a Buddha tattoo on his leg.

The tourist and his wife were escorted to Yangon on July 10, according to Mandalay Region police.

Shin Sandavaya from the Tharmakay monastery reported the case to the police station in Bagan after he spotted a Buddha image on the leg of visitor outside Kantotpalin Pagoda.

Religious authorities from the Nyaung-U office and immigration officers interviewed the 46-year-old tourist and confirmed that he has a Buddha tattoo on his calf that was inked in Spain. The two tourists were sent to Yangon the same day, and the embassy contacted, according to Mandalay police.

“They arrived in Yangon [yesterday] morning at 5am leaving Bagan by bus. The tourist police took them to the Spanish embassy around 5:30am,” said an officer from the Mingaladon township station.

AFP quoted a police officer saying that the man will be deported to Bangkok. The Myanmar Times was unable to independently confirm deportation plans.

 

 

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Leicester City: Buddhism, Karma and the Premier League Title

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As is being widely reported the English football team Leicester City look likely, against all the odds, to win the Premier League title this year. After struggling on the pitch for several years they were never considered contenders for the title at the beginning of the season. In fact, they were many people’s favourites to be relegated.

In the search for their turnaround of fortunes many have suggested the influence of Buddhism on the success of the team. Leicester City have Thai owners and Thai Buddhist monks have been regular visitors to the teams King Power Stadium ground. During these visits the monks have regularly performed Buddhist blessings and purifications.

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After their poor season the club’s owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, had the idea that their lack of success was due to a lack of ‘merit’ (an idea closely related to karma). By actively supporting the ordination of Buddhist monks and the building of Buddhist temples it was intended that Leicester City’s levels of merit would increase. With an increase of merit, generated primarily by performing Buddhist offerings and benevolent actions, good fortune would occur. The rituals at the club’s ground were intended to be auspicious and maintain the benefits of merit. Finally, certain powerful Buddhist objects were used in the form of amulets, believed to have a powerful and beneficial influence.

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Clearly, the terrible season suffered by Chelsea is down to a lack of religious merit accrued at Stamford Bridge.

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Soka Gakkai as a form of Buddhism

Philosophy & Religion Video Interviews

In this interview, I talk to Robert Harrap, General Director of SGI-UK, and we discuss the nature of Soka Gakkai as a form of Buddhism. We touch on the way n which SGI is distinctive, and also its points of commonality with other forms of Buddhism.

You can see more about how SGI seeks to embody Nichiren Buddhism at http://www.sgi-uk.org/Buddhism

The Religion, Philosophy & Ethics course at the University of Gloucestershire offers the chance to study philosophy, and a range of religious traditions. You can see the course map HERE.

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Memories of a Bowie Conference: 5. Someone sees it all

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Paul Fuller. David Bowie, Buddhist Modernism and Charismatic Charms

SPEAKER Fuller lectures in Buddhist Studies at the University of Cardiff and is the author of The Notion of Ditthi in Theravada Buddhism: The Point of View (Routledge, 2004).

imanbowieSYNOPSIS Examines how Bowie used Buddhist ideas taking as its starting point the notion of Buddhist Modernism (McMahan, 2008). Early Bowie was immersed in Buddhist ideas as reflected in his songs, but how did he understand them? Gombrich and Obeyesekere use the term ‘Protestant Buddhism’ to explain Buddhism that is rational and scientific. Or perhaps Bowie’s approach shows a more traditional understanding of Buddhism. Station to Station can be seen as charismatic, acting as a charm and this would be an apotropaic use of religious language in which language has a power beyond its content. At this time Bowie’s work was presumably Christian (for example, Word on Wing), but perhaps by not…

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