The political uprising of the Burmese buddhist monks

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"AS they marched through the streets of Myanmar’s cities last week leading the biggest antigovernment protests in two decades, some barefoot monks held their begging bowls before them. But instead of asking for their daily donations of food, they held the bowls upside down, the black lacquer surfaces reflecting the light."

I overlooked the significance of uprising monks from our neighboring country Burma with a biased mind in:

(1) why would a decent Buddhist monk participated in such a secular activity as political protests - it's not a monk business!,

(2) our history books portrayed Burma as Thailand's archenemy, so it was not in my interest, in fact, I did not care for the well being and the business of Myanmar.

Monks at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Burmese monks led protests

But these paragraphs somehow sound familiar:

“Legitimacy in Burma is not about regime performance, it’s not about human rights like the West,” said Ingrid Jordt, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and an expert on Burmese Buddhism. “It is something that comes from the potency and karma bestowed by the monks. That’s why the sangha is so important to the government,” she said, referring to the Buddhist hierarchy and the spiritual status that its monks can convey. “They are actually the source of power.”

"The junta has gone to great lengths to identify itself with Buddhism. Like their predecessors through the centuries, the generals have been busy building temples, supporting monasteries and carrying out religiously symbolic acts. In 1999, they regilded the spire of the Shwedagon Pagoda, which now glitters with 53 tons of gold and 4,341 diamonds on the crowning orb."

Source: The NY Times: "What Makes a Monk Mad" by Seth Mydan

There are parallels in the above paragraphs considering our last democratically elected government which was toppled by a monk-friendly coup. The government whose record on human rights was scandalous, and yet remained legitimate.The government who had gone to great lengths to identify itself with the Thai majority and created a fake sense of wealth for the sake of getting their support.

Where am I going here ? History repeats itself, it may not come in the same shape and form, but the message is basically the same -  it's an accident waiting to happen.

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01 Oct 2007 @ 07:49


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