Sunday, September 30, 2007

Monks’ Protest – Right or Wrong?

Anti-junta demonstration led by Buddhist monks in Burma recently has caught the attention of the world. From Asia to Europe, people wore red shirt to show their support. In my country, Malaysia, it turns out that some of the people least concerned with the plight of Burmese are Buddhists.

I don’t know how this could happen. Perhaps they thought monks should not be involved in politics. Perhaps they thought that was the karma of the Burmese. A respected teacher told us that democracy might not be good for the Burmese. But the unrest in Burma was not about democracy. It’s about human rights!

Hong Kong did not have democracy before 1997, but Hong Kongers generally were happy with the British-installed governors. In Bhutan, the ex-king called for election in the Himalayan Kingdom, but his subjects loved him so much that they actually preferred absolute monarchy! Unfortunately, I don’t think many Burmese would tell you that they love General Than Shwe.

Thai monks also took to the street a few months ago when they demanded an official religion status for Buddhism. I do NOT agree with them. The protest in Burma, on the other hand, was not for Buddhism or Buddhist monks. It was for the general public. It was also, in principle, a peaceful one, even thought it ended up in violence after the police crack-down. The Burmese monks also did not set themselves in fire, like what a Vietnamese monk did in Saigon back in 1960s.

In Thailand, King Bhumibol keeps a watchful eye on the junta that ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Burma does not have a monarchy. If the monks don’t defy the junta, who else can???

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Temples in Thailand

Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai...

Wat Santikiri, Mae Salong...

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Anti-meditation in Buddhism

The above picture shows the statue of Bodhisattva Maitreya, the future Buddha. Have you ever wondered why Bodhisattva Maitreya is usually depicted as sitting on chair rather than sitting cross-legged?

In a Mahayanist Sutra – which I don’t trust – we are told that the future Buddha “doesn’t practice meditation; doesn’t want to end suffering.” (不修禅定,不断烦恼。) I guess that explains the posture of Bodhisattva Maitreya.

In the West, Buddhism is synonymous to meditation. In Asia, however, a small number of Buddhists actually think meditation is a selfish act! These misguided people, rather than striving for awakening, vow to “suffer together with all beings in the universe”.

I have seen many Chinese monks and nuns, while compassionate, lack the wisdom I had expected. They want to help the people, but often it is like blind leading the blinds.