A Monk Remembers

Nearly a year after the Burmese uprising, a leading monk says the struggle will go on.
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A leader of the All Burma Monks Union, U Zawana, explained in an interview why monks joined the Saffron Revolution. He joined thousands of monks marching on Rangoon, but was forced into hiding after the military regime began detaining activist monks. He spoke in an interview Sept. 5 from an undisclosed location:

Let me tell you why the Sangha was involved. For instance, I am a monkthat is, an individual monk. But when you say Sangha, this refers to the order of monks, or the whole group of monks … We, the Sangha, are directly in touch with the kitchens of the people of Burma. Why? Because since we beg for alms [food] on a daily basis from Buddhist households, we can see by the food they donate to us how the economic situation has affected these families.

In this way, we, the monks, have become aware of the economic problems the people of Burma have to face …We pray for the well-being of the people.

As long as we live, in whatever way we can, we will continue to revolt against the military government for the freedom of the people of Burma."

U Zawana

The significance of the Saffron Revolution, as I have said before, is that it is a test of strength between prayer and violence. Buddhist philosophy teaches that nothing is permanent… For example, before [the current regime], Ne Win, the leader who ruled the country for 26 years, eventually fell. Similarly, [junta leader] Than Shwe and his people will fall too, in the end. This is what we want to say.

When the fate of the country is at stake, everyonelaypeople and monksmust be equally involved together … That, I would have to say, is the significance of the Saffron Revolution.

From the outset, when we staged our demonstrations, our objective was metta [loving-kindness]… That is in the teachings of the Buddha. Only when we have metta will we have peace.

If we have some hard feelings, it is [only] against the system… This is because this system is pushing us deeper into the depths of poverty… But I think that there are no hard feelings toward any particular person or individual. As for myself, I do not have that sort of feeling. I don't think any of the other monks have that sort of feeling, either.

As long as we live, in whatever way we can, we will continue to revolt against the military government for the freedom of the people of Burma. What we will do [next], we cannot tell you right now. I say this because conditions inside the country are very difficult at the moment.

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