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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Myanmar: “Loving Kindness Will Win Every Time”

In Rudyard Kipling's day, Myanmar, formerly Burma, was a colony of the British Empire. Mention of Burmese cities in recent news broadcasts of the pro-democracy uprising there reminded me of Kipling’s poem, Mandalay, once required reading in high school English classes; re-reading those lines today, the vulgar chauvinism is jarring, shocking:

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"

Then in the next stanza:

An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
Bloomin' idol made o'mud –
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd –

Kipling (1865-1936) didn’t live to see it happen, but Burma gained its independence from the British Empire in 1948. The Burmese people have since struggled to establish a democratic government and in fact, the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in 1990. However, the junta refused to hand over power, and they placed the NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest where she is said to remain.

In the current pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar tens of thousands of Buddhist monks, later joined by nuns, were involved prior to the brutal military crackdown. Protestors reportedly carried signs reading, “loving kindness will win every time.”

Anyone who has been even briefly exposed to mindfulness meditation is likely familiar with the ancient Buddhist prayer of loving-kindness. As beginners, we are first invited to repeat the prayer many times to build up loving-kindness within ourselves. Later on, we substitute the names of loved ones, practicing until we gain the strength to include our enemies. Eventually, we extend our goodwill to people throughout the world.

But for now let’s focus our attention on Myanmar where the AP reports the junta’s brutal crackdown continues; many monks have been imprisoned, and the people are losing hope:

According to the AP, “As governments heap criticism on the junta, Myanmar and foreign activists continue to call for concrete, urgent action.

"The world cannot fail the people of Burma again," said the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, an exile group based in Washington. "Selfless sacrifices deserve more than words and lip-service. They want effective intervention before it is too late."

Here’s the good news: on this day, October 2, 2007, at the request of 53 nations, the UN Human Rights Council is holding an urgent, all-day meeting on the situation in Burma.

From around the world, may the rest of us pause for a few minutes and in solidarity with the suffering people of Myanmar and their brave Buddhist clergy, repeat the loving-kindness prayer on their behalf:

May the people of Myanmar be filled with loving kindness;
May the people of Myanmar be safe and protected from all internal and external harm;
May the people of Myanmar be as healthy and whole as possible;
May the people of Myanmar experience ease and well-being.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful perspective. Thank you.

    Please keep writing. We will all surely benefit from your keen observations and experience.