Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What Would the Buddha Do?

Things in Myanmar are getting rougher. The police is currently shooting over the heads of the protesters. In 1988 they shot into the crowds and killed "thousands", you can always tell a murderous totalitarian state when "thousands" is the only figure available.

I'm going crazy in this room without any way to help the courageous Burmese people, and especially the Buddhist monks who are leading the protests. I'm a citizen of a nation that takes part in training the Myanmar army, the army that is killing them and enslaving them. I pay taxes that are used to fortify the junta in Myanmar, then again, so do the Burmese.

So many of us are exploited by violent factors without being aware of it and without doing much about it. Buddha is said to have taught: "Let us live in joy, in peace among people who wage war, among people who wage war, let us live in peace." (Dhamapadda, Chapter 15). This sounds like peacenik religion at its most passive, but in fact it is impossible to live in peace without being active, otherwise you end up becoming a tool of war.

The monks of Myanmar recognize this. This is why they are out on the streets, fighting tear gas. This is why they are in dungeons, experiencing torture. They know that sometimes Buddhism is exactly about breaking out of the lotus position and fighting for human rights and justice. I'll keep that in mind the next time I hear a call to action by my window.


Miriam (Mimi) Asnes said...

Speaking of Burma, I just started reading The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason dealing (fictionally) with the British occupation. You and the Burmese have that in common...Does Amazon deliver to Israel?

Yuval said...

I think they do but I don't use them. I'll keep in mind your recomendation and keep my eyes open for this book.

Been thinking a bit about this post since I've posted it. I thought about the role of religion in the Palestinian struggle (not really comparable, since the Buddhist resistance in non-violent), and also about the time I'd spent in Sri Lanka, where Buddhism is actually used by a corrupt government as an excuse for waging massive killings and abductions. The bottom line remains: peace is about doing. You've surely read a book or two that carry this message, Mimi, since this is how you live your life.