Wednesday, March 6, 2013

At Last--Some Western Monks are Taking Myanmar Buddhists to Task

From BuddahDharma magazine, February 14, 2013


First Thoughts

In this message to Buddhadharma’s readers, Jack Kornfield talks about the response of Western Buddhist leaders to the ethnic violence incited by Burmese monks and abbots.
It is an amazing time of positive transformation in Burma, now called Myanmar, from a severe and crippling military dictatorship to some real movement toward freedom and democracy. After seventeen years, Aung San Suu Kyi is out of house arrest, carrying a spirit of metta and dignity that is breathtaking. And President Obama recently visited Burma and gave a strong, wise, and encouraging speech. It’s heartening to see smiling photos of Barack Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Hillary Clinton together.
But when dictatorships are lifted, old unresolved ethnic tensions can reappear. There are many such conflicts in Burma, and recently the worst involves terrible persecution and violence against Muslims, especially the Rohingya people living near the border of Bangladesh. To our horror, certain Buddhist monks and abbots have encouraged the anti- Muslim violence. And others have been afraid to condemn it.
As a concerned response, a few Western teachers and I drafted an open letter to the monks and nuns of Burma and got our friendly world Buddhist leaders to sign on. The letter was published in several of the most widely read Burmese papers. It is a loving and deeply concerned appeal reminding the Burmese Buddhists of their noble dharma heritage and reaffirming the principles of nonviolence, compassion, and mutual respect. Stand up for these truths, we say.
We all need to be reminded of our commit­ment at times, and as friends of the people of Burma we want to support the best and most beautiful of the Burmese Buddhist tradition as they do the hard work to transform their society from half a century of repression to genuine freedom. Wish them well and send your prayers.


Buddhist teachers release letter encouraging Burmese Buddhists to treat Muslims with compassion

In response to ongoing sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine state, several prominent Buddhist teachers — including Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and Norman Fischer, among others — have signed their names to a message that will appear in Burmese newspapers this week. The letter urges Burmese Buddhists to practice non-harming, compassion, and mutual respect toward Muslims.
“Buddhist teaching is based on the precepts of refraining from killing and causing harm,” the letter says in part. “Buddhist teaching is based on compassion and mutual care. Buddhist teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed.” You can read the rest of the letter here:
To Our Brother and Sister Buddhists in Myanmar,
As world Buddhist leaders we send our lovingkindess and concern for the difficulties the people of Myanmar are faced with at this time. While it is a time of great positive change in Myanmar we are concerned about the growing ethnic violence and the targeting of Muslims in Rakhine State and the violence against Muslims and others across the country. The Burmese are a noble people, and Burmese Buddhists carry a long and profound history of upholding the Dharma.
We wish to reaffirm to the world and to support you in practicing the most fundamental Buddhist principles of non-harming, mutual respect and compassion.
These fundamental principles taught by the Buddha are at the core of Buddhist practice:
Buddhist teaching is based on the precepts of refraining from killing and causing harm. Buddhist teaching is based on compassion and mutual care. Buddhist teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed.
We are with you for courageously standing up for these Buddhist principles even when others would demonize or harm Muslims or other ethnic groups. It is only through mutual respect, harmony and tolerance that Myanmar can become a modern great nation benefiting all her people and a shining example to the world.
Whether you are a Sayadaw or young monk or nun, or whether you are a lay Buddhist, please, speak out, stand up, reaffirm these Buddhist truths, and support all in Myanmar with the compassion, dignity and respect offered by the Buddha.
We stand with you in the Dharma,
Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Vietnam
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi President Buddhist Global Relief (world’s foremost translator of the Pali Canon) Sri Lanka/USA
Dr. AT Ariyaratne Founder Nationwide Sarvodaya Movement Ghandi Peace Prize Laureate Sri Lanka
Ven. Chao Khun Raja Sumedhajahn Elder, Ajahn Chah Monasteries Wat Ratanavan, Thailand
Ven. Phra Paisal Visalo Chair Buddhika Network Buddhism and Society Thailand
Ven. Arjia Rinpoche VIII Abbot Tibetan Mongolian Cultural Center Mongolia/USA
Ven. Shodo Harada Roshi Abbot Sogenji Rinzai Zen Monastery Japan
Achariya Professor J Simmer Brown Chairperson Buddhist Studies Naropa Buddhist University USA
Ven. Ajahn Amaro Mahathera Abbot Amaravati Vihara England
Ven. Hozan A Senauke International Network of Engaged Buddhists Worldwide
Younge Khachab Rinpoche VIII Abbot Younge Drodul Ling Canada
Ven. Sr. Thich Nu Chan Kong President Plum Village Zen temples France/Vietnam
Dr. Jack Kornfield Vipassana Achariya Convener Western Buddhist Teachers Council USA
Lama Surya Das Dzogchen Foundation International Vajrayana Tibet/USA
Ven. Zoketsu N. Fischer Soto Roshi Fmr. Abbot largest Zen community in the West USA/Japan
Tulku Sherdor Rinpoche Director BI. Wisdom Institute Canada
Professor Robert Tenzin C. Thurman Center for Buddhist Studies Columbia University USA
HH the XIV Dalai Lama Nobel Laureate Tibet/India
Though not able to be reached in time to sign this letter, HH the Dalai Lama has publicly and repeatedly stated his concern about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. He urges everyone to continue to practice non-violence and retain the religious harmony that is central to our ancient and revered culture.
This is at least the third letter from Buddhist teachers condemning the violence in Burma — an open letter from the Buddhist community on Islamophobia was released during Ramadan, and a second letter, written by Bill Aiken of Soka Gakkai International and signed by Buddhist and Muslim teachers, was published in October.
Posted on: December 11, 2012 – 1:37 pm