I’ve followed news accounts for several days now about the non-violent protests taking place in Rangoon, the capital city of Burma, which has a long history as a Buddhist nation. Today, more than 100,000 Buddhist monks and their supporters rallied in the former capital of the nation, which has been ruled by a bizarre, paranoid and often ruthless military junta since 1988.
I’m torn here. I’ve written in the past about Buddhist monks who have gotten involved in politics in Sri Lanka. From what I’ve read, those monks are acting more and more like the Taliban, introducing laws that would criminalize proselytism by foreign Christians.
And for now, the monks in Burma are being pacifists, but what if they turn to violence, as I’ve heard some young monks in Chinese-occupied Tibet have done?
Where is the merit, if any, in a monk giving his life to protest a military junta? I know that Burma’s ill-named State Peace and Development Council is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocents, including Buddhist monks who died during the 8888 Uprising on Aug. 8, 1988. But from a purely Buddhist perspective, aren’t the monks’ lives better spent working to serve, heal and liberate from samsara those who are the living victims of the regime?
If our work in this life is to be focused on the end of samsara for all living beings, and we have been blessed to be a human who is exposed to the Dharma on this go-round, it seems like an ordained man would have different priorities.
Of course, what do I know? I have taken freedom for granted my entire life.