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Burmese Buddhism and Society

Websites/Multiple Documents

Title: All Burma Monks
Description/subject: We are a religious and social service provider organization staffed by and composed of Burmese Buddhist monks from the 2007 Saffron Revolution. We are currently supporting and providing assistance to refugee monks inside and outside of Burma. The A.B.M.A was formed by a group of senior monks as a response to the severe economic and social problems existing in Burma in 2007. The A.B.M.A. leaders are recognized as the primary organizers and coordinators of the activities of the so-called Saffron Revolution in September, 2007. In a very dramatic way, the world was reminded again of the Burmese people’s struggle for democracy. The peaceful marches, demonstrations and rallies led by the saffron-robed monks were ultimately met by violent reactions of the Burmese military regime. Since that time there has been less media attention to the ongoing problems in Burma. However, as a result of their activities in September 2007, thousands of monks and individual citizens have suffered from the reaction and repression of the military regime. Some monks were arrested and tortured, and remain in prison. Some went into hiding inside Burma, and others left Burma as refugees. The A.B.M.A has established an assistance network for these internal and external refugees, both monks and civilian democracy activists. We hope that through the support of sympathetic organizations and individuals we will be able to continue and to expand on the important work we are doing. Exiled Burmese monks living in Thailand, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka are supported by the A.B.M.A. main office in Mae Sot, Thailand. Groups of exiled monks are also living in refugee status in various cities around the United States, supported by our monastery in Utica, New York. Objectives: * To maintain our support for the assistance network for monks, both inside and outside of Burma * To promote democracy inside Burma, especially in order to defend and preserve the religious and cultural foundations of the nation * To fulfill the customary role of Burmese monks by distributing reading material and sponsoring meetings and discussions on Buddhist beliefs, practices and education * To maintain and update the database of targeted and refugee monks. We have compiled a list of monks under threat, and we will continue to monitor and document information about them from inside Burma. * To support and expand the existing educational programs for both monks and needy families inside Burma. We are trying to procure assistance for educational facilities, schools and training programs for the monks and needy families inside Burma.
Language: English, Burmese
Source/publisher: All Burma Monks
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://allburmamonksalliance.org/
Date of entry/update: 03 December 2009

Title: Religions in Burma/Myanmar (ကိုးကြယ္သည့္ဘာသာ)
Language: Burmese/ ျမန္မာဘာသာ
Source/publisher: Wikipedia
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 09 June 2014

Individual Documents

Title: Sitagu Sayadaw and justifiable evils in Buddhism
Date of publication: 13 November 2017
Description/subject: "Sitagu Sayadaw is one of the most respected religious leaders in Myanmar. He is very well known for his teachings and for his philanthropic work. He has considerable influence. It therefore surprised many in his native Myanmar and worldwide when he gave a sermon in Kayin State on 30 October with a particularly striking message. The sermon appeared to suggest that the killing of those who are not Buddhist could be justified on the grounds that they were not complete humans, or indeed humans at all. A photo of Sitagu Sayadaw with Barack Obama in 2012 (via Burma Dhamma blog) There has been much online discussion about the passage. In its extreme form, there is the idea that Sitagu Sayadaw argued that non-Buddhists are less than human, and that on this basis it is permissible to cause them harm. How could such a revered teacher as Sitagu Sayadaw preach such a message? Particularly troubling was that the sermon was given to a group of army officers likely to be involved in the conflict against Muslim Rohingyas. The interpretation could be that this was a Buddhist justification for the killing of Rohingyas. The sermon was indeed delivered to army officers at the Bayintnaung garrison and military training school in Kayin State. In reflecting on the relationship between the actions of the Burmese military and the consequences of a soldier’s duty to protect the Myanmar nation, Sitagu Sayadaw used the 5th Century CE Sri Lankan chronicle, the Mahavamsa. He also chose to quote from a notorious passage from the 25th chapter of the Mahavamsa, “The Victory of Dutthagamani”. The passage in question appears to go against many of what most people would understand to be the key ideas of Buddhism. One possible way to interpret it is simply to suggest that “Buddhists are as capable of hypocrisy, double standards and special pleading as anyone.” I would suggest that the primary intention of the Dutthagamani passage is not to justify the killing of living beings who are not Buddhist per se. The point of the passage—however much we might disagree with its logic—is the idea that actions performed with the idea of protecting and defending Buddhism, or “bringing glory to the doctrine of the Buddha”, overrides more accepted ethical norms such as the precept of not killing living beings. Protecting the Dhamma circumvents the usual operation of karma. All actions have consequences, but the effects of these actions can be lessened if the motivation for them is a noble one. In case I am misunderstood, I would like to state clearly that the use of the passage was unwise in the extreme by the revered Sayadaw. It is also a passage which sits very uneasily with mainstream Buddhist thinking on the use of violence. However, it can, has, and is being used by Buddhists to describe how “unwholesome actions” (Burmese: arkhutho Pali: akusala-kamma) can be used to defend and preserve Buddhism. In the famous episode recounted in the Mahavamsa, Dutthagamani, having waged a long and bloody war in which millions were killed, suffers from extreme unease and remorse. Through their supernatural powers, a group of eight Arahants become aware of this remorse and travel to see Dutthagamani. Using their supernatural powers, they travel through the air from the Island of Piyangudipa to comfort him. However, Dutthagamani tells the Arahants: How shall there be any comfort for me, O venerable sirs, since by me was caused the slaughter of a great host numbering millions? He is then famously advised: From this deed arises no hindrance in thy way to heaven. Only one and a half human beings have been slain here by thee, O lord of men. The one had come unto the (three) refuges, the other had taken on himself the five precepts. Unbelievers [they have “wrong-views”, micchādiá¹­á¹­hi] and men of evil life were the rest, not more to be esteemed than beasts. But as for thee, thou wilt bring glory to the doctrine of the Buddha in manifold ways; therefore cast away care from thy heart, O ruler of men!..."
Author/creator: Paul Fuller
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 22 December 2017

Title: Buddhism and State Power in Myanmar (English and Burmese)
Date of publication: 05 September 2017
Description/subject: "Extreme Buddhist nationalist positions including hate speech and violence are on the rise in Myanmar. Rather than ineffective bans on broad-based groups like the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (MaBaTha), the government should address underlying causes and reframe the debate on Buddhism’s place in society and politics."....Executive Summary: The August 2017 attacks by al-Yaqin or Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which the Myanmar government has designated a terrorist organisation, have pushed Rakhine state into renewed crisis. They also are being used by radical Buddhist nationalists in the rest of the country to promote their agenda. While dynamics at play in Rakhine are mostly driven by local fears and grievances, the current crisis has led to a broader spike in anti-Muslim sentiment, raising anew the spectre of communal violence across the country that could imperil the country’s transition. Since the start of the political liberalisation in 2011, Myanmar has been troubled by an upsurge in extreme Buddhist nationalism, anti-Muslim hate speech and deadly communal violence, not only in Rakhine state but across the country. The most prominent nationalist organisation is the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (commonly referred to by its Burmese-language acronym, MaBaTha), made up of monks, nuns and laypeople. The government has focused considerable effort on curtailing this group and pushing the top Buddhist authority in Myanmar to ban it. Yet these efforts have been largely ineffective at weakening the appeal of nationalist narratives and organisations, and have probably even enhanced them. However uncomfortable it may be, a more nuanced understanding of the sources of social support for MaBaTha, as opposed to simplistic one-dimensional portrayals, is vital if the government and Myanmar’s international partners are to find effective ways to address the challenges posed by radical nationalism and reduce risks of violence..."
Language: English, Burmese (ျမန္မာဘာသာ)
Source/publisher: International Crisis Group (ICG) Asia Report N°290
Format/size: pdf (English: 435K-reduced version, 1.74MB-original). Burmese: 1MB-original, full text; Executive Summary, 160K
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs24/ICG-2017-09-05-buddhism-and-state-power-in-myanmar-bu.pdf
Date of entry/update: 05 September 2017

Title: Putting Myanmar’s “Buddhist Extremism” in an International Context
Date of publication: 01 September 2017
Description/subject: "Aye Thein argues that the international influences on “Buddhist extremism” have been overlooked... This article further develops an idea I had briefly discussed in an earlier piece written for New Mandala in February 2017. A recent phenomenon in Myanmar, which has been called by different names by commentators depending on their preference, has put the country in the international spotlight. It has been characterised, among others terms, as “Buddhist nationalist”, “ultra-nationalist”, “militant Buddhist” and “Buddhist extremist”, the latter being used in the title of this article. MaBaTha or the Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion, being the largest of the groups described by these various terms, has triggered a good deal of scholarly and journalistic attention... '
Author/creator: Aye Thein
Language: English
Source/publisher: teacircleoxford
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 02 September 2017

Date of publication: 19 February 2016
Description/subject: "...Despite criticism of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for not speaking more forcefully to condemn religious prejudice and discrimination, she is reviled by Buddhist nationalists over the NLD’s opposition to the four so-called “race and religion laws” enacted by the outgoing government. As an NLD government moves to address these issues it will be considering the role of the supreme body representing the monkhood in Myanmar, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, which is under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The 47-member committee, which includes representatives from the country’s nine main Buddhist sects, was established by the military government in 1980 to strengthen state control over the community of monks, the sangha. The committee enjoyed considerable influence until 2003 and 2004, when divisions emerged over whether or not to support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The dispute, an indication of the politicisation of some monks, resulted in ministerial intervention to exert greater control over the committee and its influence went into decline. There has been disappointment among some prominent members of the sangha over the committee’s silence about the activities of the anti-Muslim 969 movement, which includes U Wirathu as a leading member. “The Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee made no attempt to intervene in the conflict caused by 969 movement’s campaigns,” said U Thawbita, popularly known as the Bawa Alinn (Light of Life) Sayadaw..."..... Tags: religion, Buddhism, Ministry of Religious Affairs, NLD, Sangha Maha Nayaka
Author/creator: Mratt Kyaw Thu
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Frontier Myanmar"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 20 February 2016

Title: The threat of Myanmar’s extremist monks
Date of publication: 27 August 2015
Description/subject: "Rhetoric, violence and growing influence could derail the country’s political transition... The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion—a group of nationalist Buddhist monks in Myanmar—has been rapidly gaining political clout in recent months. More commonly known by its Burmese-language acronym Ma Ba Tha, the group has scored several major policy victories, demonstrating the extent to which it has the capacity to influence Burmese politics as the 2015 general election approaches. As Ma Ba Tha has expanded its reach, questions about its connections to the Myanmar government and the ruling Union Solidary and Development Party (USDP) have emerged..."
Author/creator: Oren Samet
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 27 August 2015

Title: Cross-border Migration and Revitalization of Shan Buddhist Practices in Myanmar-Thai Border Area
Date of publication: 26 July 2015
Description/subject: Abstract: "This presentation aims to examine how the new Shan migrants help revitalize Shan Buddhist practices in Myanmar-Thai border area in Northern Thailand. This area has a long history of the ceaseless migrations of the Shan and other ethnic groups; the flow of people has continued even after the border demarcation in the early 20th century. Recently, we could find two contradictory processes- a rigid border control by the state administration and a fluid border crossing of people, goods and information. The border crossing of people may be characterized by a one-way flow from Myanmar to Thailand and its steady increase in quantity. By focusing on the flow of Shan lay Buddhist readers/reciters in Mae Hong Son, the northern Thai-Myanmar border area, this presentation analyzes the important role of the border crossing migrations for revitalizing Shan Buddhist practices in Northern Thailand."...Paper delivered at the International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015.
Author/creator: Tadayoshi Murakami
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015
Format/size: pdf (88K)
Alternate URLs: http://rcsd.soc.cmu.ac.th/web/Burma/home.php#
Date of entry/update: 29 August 2015

Title: Dhamma Predication and Political Transition
Date of publication: 26 July 2015
Description/subject: "For those who have observed Burmese religious life long enough, one striking evolution of the last decades has been the growing place of Buddhist preaching in the practice of many monks and in the public space . While until the late eighties dhamma predication was hardly to be seen on the public scene, from the beginning of the nineties onward, it started to become more and more visible. Traditional ly monks were requested to preach on private or communal ritual occasions such as funerals, noviciation or offerings made at the monastery at the end of the rain retreat season (kahteinbwe). The large public performance of «dhamma talks» by monks invited by laypeople independently of any ritual occasion contrasts sharply with these previous practices. They are c alled in Burmese taya bwe, the “feast of Law”, they are held at night and usually last around an hour, or more. As stated by Mahinda Deegalle in his study on Sri Lanka (2006), the development of public predication, known as the bana tradition in that context, particularly from the beginning of the eighteen th century onward, corresponds to the will of consolidating Buddhist communities through popularization of Buddhist teachings. In Burma, resorting to mass preaching to educate the public at large has its own genealogy starting in the early nineteenth century with the famous addresses of Thingaza Hsayadaw and those not less famous of Ledi Hsayadaw towards the end of the nineteenth century. Mass preaching had its heyday in the 1920s, when it was used as a tool to initiate reform among the public and contest the colonial rule by young activist monks such as Ottama and Wisara. It had continued until the 1960 s when it drastically decreased, after Ne Win’s military coup, because expressions of religious life then tended to be relegated to the p rivate sphere. The large public dhamma talks were to re-emerge only in the 1990s, at the joint initiative of local communities and the authorities, to become the highly popular events prevailing today...".....Paper delivered at the International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015.
Author/creator: Brac de la Perrière Bénédicte
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015
Format/size: pdf (711K)
Alternate URLs: http://rcsd.soc.cmu.ac.th/web/Burma/home.php#
Date of entry/update: 10 August 2015

Title: The Value of Life in Myanmar Theravada Buddhist Thought
Date of publication: 26 July 2015
Description/subject: Introduction: "...The first question mainly concerns with the characteristic of human life. The answer for this question is that which characteristic and quality are involved in human life. The second question chiefly regards with the cause or the origin of human life. Regarding this, there are some alternative questions such as 'How did life get here'?' Why are we here'?' How did life start'? etc. The third quest ion is very clear that it investigates the meaning of human life. The last question is also clear that it is searching for the value and purpose of human life. It is making assessment of the value and purpose of life in various philosophical systems. This paper mainly concerns with the last question. Many ordinary men may think that the value and purpose of life lies in the concept of fame, status, power, wealth etc. However, most philosophers never regard fame, status, power, wealth as the true value and purpose of life. Instead, they advocates happiness, harmony, knowledge etc are the true value of life.".....Paper delivered at the International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015.
Author/creator: Tun Shwe
Language: English
Source/publisher: International Conference on Burma/Myanmar Studies: Burma/Myanmar in Transition: Connectivity, Changes and Challenges: University Academic Service Centre (UNISERV), Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 24-­26 July 2015
Format/size: pdf (216K)
Date of entry/update: 26 August 2015

Title: Reality check on Islam, Buddhism in Myanmar
Date of publication: 17 November 2014
Description/subject: "The West has been wondering what has gone wrong with Buddhism in Myanmar since 2012 and the violence primarily by Buddhists against Muslims. Yet I want to suggest that this is the wrong question, and that the West needs to take a look in the mirror. The West’s skewed view of Buddhism as a ‘peaceful’ religion, combined with the stereotypical view of Islam as inherently ‘violent’, are a core part of the problem. Over the past month several reports and a barrage of media reports have surfaced in an attempt to explain the violence against Muslims in Myanmar. Yet implicitly such reports often promote the ‘real’ teachings of Buddhism as a ‘peaceful’ religion, and this adds to the Western stereotype of Islam as somehow ‘violent’. Let me illustrate this by taking a different perspective to some of the issued raised by Contesting Buddhist Narratives. This report prioritises understanding Buddhist fears and concerns, represented in the irrational ranting of the monk (and former convicted criminal) U Wirathu, who is mentioned or quoted from at least 25 times in the report. Yes, we need to understand all aspects of the conflict, but we have paid so little attention to Muslim communities in Myanmar, and this lack of information continues to fuel stereotypes about both Buddhism and Islam. This obscures Muslims’ concerns and fails to acknowledge that Muslims have serious fears too..."
Author/creator: Melissa Crouch
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 14 December 2014

Title: Myanmar: The calm before the storm?
Date of publication: 16 November 2014
Description/subject: "How should we interpret the current state of anti-Muslim Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar that has emerged as one of the greatest threats to the country’s still-uncertain political transition? Compared with previous moments, the last few months have been relatively quiet, with no riots or bloodshed. U Wirathu’s summit meeting with Bodu Bala Sena leaders in Sri Lanka was cause for concern, but it is still unclear what cooperation might actually materialize between Buddhist partisans in the two countries. Large demonstrations in several cities in favor of four pieces of religious legislation proposed by monks that unfavorably target Muslims have kept the issue in the headlines, but given other pressing constitutional and legislative concerns, there seems to be no rush in Parliament to pass them.
Author/creator: Matthew J. Walton
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 14 December 2014

Title: Text of the Memorandum of Understanding between Bodu Bala Sena of Sri Lanka and 969 of Burma
Date of publication: 01 October 2014
Description/subject: "The Buddhist Society of the world has awoken to the ground realities of subtle incursions taking place under the guise of secular, multicultural and other liberal notions that are directly impacting on the Buddhist ethos and space. These incursions are being funded from overseas and have made its impact globally and are subtly spreading into the local situations. Both the Bodu Bala Sena (of Sri Lanka) and 969 movement (of Burma) in realizing the impeding dangers have felt that it must now come forward to derive practical and meaningful ways to address these burning issues which cannot be left for politicians to deal with. We feel that in the light of the same incursions taking place in the Buddhist countries that remain it is now opportune a time for the Buddhists of the world to get together and derive a national and international plan to address these issues without delay...".....In the meantime, the old BBS website has gone offline and the new one, http://bodubalasena.net/ seems not to contain the text of the MOU - in English, anyway
Language: English
Source/publisher: Bodu Bala Sena website
Format/size: html, pdf
Alternate URLs: http://bodubalasena.net/
Date of entry/update: 02 October 2014

Title: Violence and responsibility in Myanmar
Date of publication: 23 August 2013
Description/subject: "After a brief lull in Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Myanmar, there are reports of renewed violence and unrest in western Rakhine State, where Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhines remain forcibly separated. A law that would restrict inter-religious marriage is gaining in popularity, while Buddhist monks associated with the 969 movement continue to preach anti-Muslim sermons. At the same time, they rely on a particular interpretation of Buddhist teachings to deny responsibility for the violence committed in the name of 969 and the protection of Buddhism. However, others have argued for a different interpretation of Buddhist philosophy rooted in the teaching of ''right speech'' and an awareness of the effects of our actions on others..."
Author/creator: Matthew J Walton
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Asia Times Online"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 06 June 2014

Title: Politics in the Moral Universe: Burmese Buddhist Political Thought
Date of publication: 2012
Description/subject: Abstract: "This dissertation is a work of comparative political theory that draws attention to how religious beliefs can generate fundamentally different concep tions of what is political. I argue that Theravāda Buddhism is the source of the conceptual framework within which most Buddhists in Myanmar think about politics. Specifically, being embedded in the Theravāda moral conception of the universe, Burmese Buddhists understand the politica l as a sphere of moral action, governed by particular rules of cause and effect. Within this framework Burmese Buddhists vary as to their interpretation of particular concepts and the degree to which they see Buddhist teachings as relevant to politics; how ever, I demonstrate that this framework and Buddhist conceptions of politics continue to be salient for contemporary political practice in Myanmar. There are also variations between Theravāda Buddhism as it is practiced in Myanmar and in other countries, a s well as important differences in interpretation and emphasis among Burmese Buddhists themselves. I examine these variations while also comparing Burmese Buddhist political thought with other religious and cultural traditions. Buddhism in Myanmar has pr ovided a repertoire of “raw materials” which people have used to make sense of their political environment. These include a particular conception of human nature, an understanding of the universe as governed by a law of cause and effect that works accordin g to moral principles, a conception of human existence as fundamentally dissatisfactory, and the acceptance of a range of methods to overcome and escape its dissatisfactory character. I explore how Burmese Buddhists have used these ideas in deploying argum ents regarding the nature of politics, the proper ends of politics, alternative conceptions and methods of political participation, and a range of understandings of “democracy.” My findings not only illuminate a relatively unexamined tradition of political thought, they also help us to understand some of the challenges facing a democratic tra nsition in contemporary Myanmar"
Author/creator: Matthew J. Walton
Language: English
Source/publisher: University of Washington thesis
Format/size: pdf (1.8MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/Walton_2012-thesis-Burmese_Buddhist_Political_Thought.pdf
Date of entry/update: 06 August 2015

Date of publication: 07 December 2009
Description/subject: Abstract: "The term, ‘post-secular society’ would be almost inexplicable to citizens of Thailand (Siam) and Myanmar (Burma) because the concept of a ‘secular’ society itself would be inconsistent with socio-cultural norms, despite the rampant consumerism which pervades the one and the endemic poverty the other. Far from being ‘secular’ societies, defined as those in which religion has a subordinate or minimal role in public life and is divorced from the policy-making centres of power, the contemporary states of Thailand and Myanmar have established their national identities on the cornerstone of Buddhism. In official parlance, to be Thai or Burmese is to be Buddhist. This exclusionary formula is pursued despite each of these two nation states giving official support to the international mantra, ‘freedom of religion’, and each of them having substantial minorities who follow the Muslim, Christian, Hindu or other faiths. Religion is so tightly interwoven with political life in these two countries that one might ask whether it is possible that they could be conceived as religio-political societies in the manner of the pre-Reformation Italian city states. This paper explores the integral relationship between religion and public political society in contemporary Thailand and Myanmar in the context of Buddhism’s philosophy of non-violence, its reification of ahimsa (non-violence, non-harm), and commitment to atman (selflessness) and moksha (non-attachment to materiality) as essential values for transforming socio-political relations."
Author/creator: Helen James
Language: English
Source/publisher: Parliament of the World's Religions
Format/size: pdf (71K)
Date of entry/update: 06 October 2010

Title: Of Monarchs Monks and Men: Religion and the State in Myanmar
Date of publication: December 2009
Description/subject: "...The relationship between religion and the state during the pre-colonial period was the most dominant one in Burmese society for at least a thousand years if not more. With the dawn of the colonial period, it saw a hiatus, but revived when nationalism took center stage. After independence in 1948, the relationship once again became important and remains so until today. Whereas their economic relationship was more crucial in the earlier phases of the pre-colonial period, their political relationship increasingly assumed a larger role as time went on, until today it is predominantly political. Throughout this slow transformation, their symbolic relationship remained largely unchanged. This essay is a summary of that historical process beginning with the Pagan period in the mid 11th century until the present..."
Author/creator: Michael A. Aung Thwin
Language: English
Source/publisher: Asia Research Institute • Singapore...ARI Working Paper No. 127
Format/size: pdf (218K)
Date of entry/update: 11 March 2010

Title: The Resistance of the Monks: Buddhism and Activism in Burma
Date of publication: 22 September 2009
Description/subject: "Since the Burmese army’s brutal military crackdown on Buddhist monks and other peaceful protestors in September 2007, a constant refrain has been, “What happened to the monks?” ...This report attempts to answer that question. It tells the story of many among hundreds of monks who were arrested and beaten, and the more than 250 monks and nuns who remain in prison today, often with decades remaining on their sentences. It tells the story of large numbers of monks who left their monasteries, returning to their villages or seeking refuge in other countries. And it tells the story of monks who remained, many of whom live under constant surveillance...".....TABLE OF CONTENTS: * The Resistance of the Monks * Map of Burma * I. Summary * II. Burma: A Long Tradition of Buddhist Activism * III. The Role of the Sangha in the 1988 Uprising and After the 1990 Election * IV. Aung San Suu Kyi and Buddhism * V. The SPDC and Buddhism * VI. The Reemergence of Buddhist Political Activism in Burma * VII. The September 2007 Crackdown * VIII. Cyclone Nargis and Its Aftermath * IX. International Networks * X. Conclusion * XI. Recommendations * Acknowledgments * Appendix I: Terminology and Abbreviations * Appendix II: Letter to the Penang Sayadaw U Bhaddantapannyavamsa from the Burmese Foreign Ministry, October 27, 2007[195] * Appendix III: Statement by Sasana Moli, the International Burmese Monks Organization, May 2008
Language: English
Source/publisher: Human Rights Watch
Format/size: pdf
Date of entry/update: 22 September 2009

Title: The 'Bit of Fun’ that Turned Sour
Date of publication: September 2009
Description/subject: "A photograph of well-known Burmese actor, Min Maw Kun, and his 11 friends posing in saffron robes on the day of their ordination at a Buddhist monastery caused a wave of outrage when it was published on a popular Burmese Web site. Although their heads are shaved and they are wearing religious robes, most of the young men are displaying fashionable tattoos. Some of the men smile cheekily at the camera while others hug or pose provocatively. Actor Min Maw Kun, fifth from left, and friends. Many dismayed Burmese, especially Buddhist monks, felt the photo was in bad taste. A revered monk who lives in the US, Ashin Candobhasacara, asked: “Why would Min Maw Kun and his friends insult our religion like that?” He said the young men “should apologize for their decadent behavior.” One member of the group in the photograph who spoke anonymously to The Irrawaddy, said, “It was only meant as a bit of fun. It certainly had no political meaning.” The photo was taken before the 2007 monk-led uprising."
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 17, No. 6
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 19 January 2010

Title: The Role of Monkhood in Contemporary Myanmar Society
Date of publication: September 2008
Description/subject: Introduction: "Recent events in Myanmar, particularly the “Saffron Revolution” in 2007 and cyclone Nargis in 2008 placed Myanmar monks in the focus of the international community. Not for the first time in history, the Myanmar "Sangha" took a leading role in times of emergency, and was able to mobilise rapidly their forces in order to help and represent the people of Myanmar. In 1988 they went to the streets with other citizens to call for democratic and economic reforms in the country. Similarly, in 2007, monks participated in the nation-wide protests against rising fuel and commodity prices. The visible and silent support of the monks provided encouragement and moral guidance for the predominantly Buddhist na-tion. Facing the post-Nargis devastation and indecisiveness related to access of interna-tional humanitarian aid, Myanmar monks became the only organised group able to respond promptly with aid for traumatised victims, providing them with shelter and distributing basic commodities in their communities. The saffron revolution did not succeed. How-ever, for some analysts it was not the end but rather the beginning of a new chapter in Myanmar’s contemporary history, marking the emergence of a new potential social and political force, nourishing hopes of the opposition and for all who expect general changes in Myanmar. Monks, particularly the younger generation, became more aware of their strength and responsibility for the country. In Myanmar most independent activity is suppressed or under strict control of the state. The monkhood, in contrast, enjoys a high level of immunity and freedom, for instance, with regard to freedom of movement (within the country and abroad)3 or various social activities, mostly in the local area. The recent events showed that their role in the society is not limited to the preservation of religion and rituals..."
Author/creator: Sylwia Gil
Language: English
Source/publisher: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Format/size: pdf (288K)
Date of entry/update: 12 October 2010

Title: Putting Compassion into Action
Date of publication: July 2008
Description/subject: Do Burmese people really understand the meaning of compassion? Not according to a prominent Buddhist monk who has taken a leading role in Cyclone Nargis relief efforts... MAE SOT, Thailand — "“HOW did you feel when you heard that people were homeless, that monks had lost their monasteries and had nowhere to stay? Over 130,000 people were killed and 2.4 million suffered badly. How did you feel?” The monk who asked these questions paused and looked at his audience of around 3,000 people at the Tawya Burmese monastery in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, opposite Myawaddy. A patient is comforted by Sitagu Sayadaw in a clinic in the Irrawaddy delta. He continued: “If you felt concerned and afraid for them, that’s good. It means you have compassion.” But before anyone could take too much satisfaction in that thought, he added: “That’s good, but it’s not good enough.” The speaker was Dr Ashin Nyanissara—better known as Sitagu Sayadaw [abbot]—one of Burma’s most respected monks. He was in Mae Sot in late June to give a dhamma talk on compassion—and to ask the local Burmese community, estimated to be tens of thousands strong, to support relief efforts in the Irrawaddy delta, where millions still struggle in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Since the cyclone struck on May 2-3, Sitagu Sayadaw has been rallying his followers to come to the assistance of their compatriots in the delta and the former capital, Rangoon, which also suffered substantial damage. His message was simple: Compassion is important, but it doesn’t amount to much unless it is accompanied by action. “If you lack compassion, you will be an irresponsible person,” the 71-year-old abbot told his attentive audience, who were seated both inside the monastery’s main building and outside on the ground. “But compassion in mind and in words alone won’t help the refugees in the cyclone-affected area,” he added. “Such compassion won’t bring food to people in need.”..."
Author/creator: Lyaw Zwa Moe
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 7
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 15 July 2008

Title: Will Thamanya Sayadaw’s Body Ever Rest in Peace?
Date of publication: June 2008
Description/subject: Body snatchers cart off the remains of a legendary abbot. Is the theft linked to the junta, the result of astrologers’ advice, a jealous rival abbot, or was it the action of loyal disciples?... IT was a dark night on April 2 when the body of the revered U Winaya, the Thamanya Sayadaw (abbot), one of Burma’s holiest monks, was mysteriously stolen.
Author/creator: Amy Gold May
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 6
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 23 July 2008

Title: Ruling the Rulers
Date of publication: May 2008
Description/subject: Efforts to limit the powers of Burma’s absolute monarchs failed. So did the monarchy... "THROUGHTOUT Asia, the middle of the 19th century was a period of political turmoil, as Western imperial powers pressed in upon countries that were subject to various forms of pre-modern rule. Burma was no exception, as it was forced to come to terms with a nation that was not only militarily superior, but also politically more advanced. Under the country’s last two monarchs, King Mindon (1853-78) and King Thibaw (1878-85), there were attempts to reform Burmese polity in the face of growing external challenges. At the center of these efforts was Yaw Atwinwun U Hpo Hlaing, the author of “Rajadhammasangaha,” a treatise which would have laid the basis for a constitutional monarchy in Burma, and which, in the words of respected scholar Maung Htin, “might have kept King Thibaw in the enjoyment of his throne..."”
Author/creator: Min Lwin
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 5
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 01 May 2008

Title: Laity of the Land -- a review of Ingrid Jordt's "Burma’s mass lay meditation movement"
Date of publication: April 2008
Description/subject: An anthropologist examines the role of Burma’s “New Laity” in the complex relationship between Buddhism and the military regime... "Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement: Buddhism and the Cultural Construction of Power, by Ingrid Jordt.... DURING his official visit to Burma in March, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej learned something about his Burmese hosts that apparently struck him as significant. “Myanmar’s leaders meditate,” he said upon his return to Bangkok, as if this fact alone should be enough to convince anyone that Burma’s despotic rulers are not as bad as they are made out to be. While Samak’s implied approval of the Burmese generals on the grounds that they meditate may strike most observers as absurd, it does highlight a practice that has played an important role in forming Burma’s post-independence political consciousness. As anthropologist Ingrid Jordt argues in a recently published book, Burma’s mass lay meditation movement “has become a resistance and a parallel construction of economy, spheres of potency, and influence that stand against the state in its militaristic unity"...."
Author/creator: Neil Lawrence
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 4
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 27 April 2008

Title: Compassionate Confrontation
Date of publication: March 2008
Description/subject: "...Metta, usually rendered as “loving-kindness” in English, is a strong wish for the well-being and happiness of all living things. A mind with metta is inclusive and nondiscriminatory and has the power to transform any situation. This is what the Buddha taught and exemplified. As the Burmese monks who participated in last September’s protests demonstrated, metta is not an attitude of passive acquiescence. Metta does not accept evil, but confronts it directly with a force that is its exact opposite. In times of trouble, the revered Sangha, or community of monks, cannot merely insulate itself from the suffering of ordinary people. The monks who protested in Burma showed that they are not just peace lovers, but peacemakers. They did not stop at praying for the benefit of the Burmese people, but took to the streets to oppose the malice manifested in the exclusionary politics of military domination..."
Author/creator: Min Zin
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 3
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 27 April 2008

Title: Serving the People
Date of publication: March 2008
Description/subject: A leading Burmese monk instructs his disciples to treat the ill and to study the Buddha’s teachings... "When Burmese monks protested in September 2007, the disciples and monks at Sayadaw Nyanissara’s monastery in the Sagaing hills near Mandalay exercised restraint and stayed away from the demonstrations, largely because of their respect for the work the activist monks were accomplishing throughout the country..."
Author/creator: Zhuang Wubin
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 3
Format/size: html (16K)
Date of entry/update: 27 April 2008

Title: Burmas Mönche zwischen Gleichschaltung und Rebellion
Date of publication: 25 September 2007
Description/subject: Zehntausende buddhistische Mönche demonstrieren in Burma für Demokratie und den Sturz der Militärjunta. Sie riefen sogar zur "Exkommunikation" der herrschenden Generäle auf, indem sie erklärten, von Militärs keine Nahrungsmittelspenden oder Almosen mehr anzunehmen. Da sich Buddhisten mit diesen Gaben traditionell jedoch Verdienste für das nächste Leben erwerben wollen, strafen die Mönche die Militärs mit ihrer Verweigerung wirksam ab.
Language: German, Deutsch
Source/publisher: Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008

Title: Mönche sind Birmas moralische Instanz
Date of publication: 24 September 2007
Description/subject: Buddhistische Mönche stehen an der Spitze der Proteste gegen die Militärjunta in Birma. Sie spielen in dem südostasiatischen Land eine herausragende Rolle: Die Menschen verehren die Robenträger als Lehrer und Vorbilder und sehen sie als wichtigste moralische Instanz. Aufstände 2007; Role of Buddhist monks; uprisings 2007
Author/creator: Christiane Oelrich
Language: German, Deutsch
Source/publisher: Tagesspiegel
Date of entry/update: 03 May 2008

Title: The Political Face of Burmese Buddhism
Date of publication: December 2004
Description/subject: "...Religion is an important medium in the formulation of political strategies and identities in Burma. No political practice is possible without involving Buddhism—and Buddhism has been politicized to a degree where no religious act is apolitical..."
Author/creator: Editorial
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 12. No. 11
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 28 April 2008

Title: Rethinking Daná in Burma:
Date of publication: 23 May 2004
Description/subject: "Previous anthropological literature construes daná (Pali dâna) in Burma rather narrowly, as giving to monks or to the Buddha. However, the detailed data I collected during fieldwork in Burma reveal that the Burmese understand daná more broadly, as 'giving' in which saydana (Pali cetanâ) plays a key role. The paper is a chapter of my PhD dissertation entitled "In the World of Rebirth: Politics, Economy and Society of Burmese Buddhists." By presenting ethnographic data that has not been offered in previous literature, I re-examine the Burmese concept and practice of daná. Daná is closely associated with the Burmese notions of purity, detachment, and nobility, as well as merit. Its idea is deeply grounded in the Burmese language and culture. Some forms of daná are not as conspicuous as giving to the monastic order. They are less identifiable by an outside observer, for they are not always revealed as daná because they occur in the everyday act of giving. Thus, such forms of daná have been largely neglected, or at best treated less seriously. I argue, however, that we cannot fully understand the idea of daná or the mindsets of the Burmese Buddhists without taking these forms of daná into account. A detailed observation of the everyday discourse of daná reveals that daná permeates all kinds of daily transactions, shaping the practice of giving in Burmese society. This understanding of daná may seem at odds with the traditional descriptions of daná in Burma or in other Theravada Buddhist societies. However, I will show that the Burmese understanding of daná in fact resonates with the idea of daná we find in stories of giving in Buddhist cultures. The point of my argument is not to understate the significance of giving to monks or to the Buddha. My intention is to offer a description and analysis that takes into fuller account the subtleties of the practice and language of daná."... Paper from "Burmese Buddhism and the Spirit Cult Revisited - An Interdisciplinary Conference on Religion in Contemporary Myanmar Saturday, May 22-Sunday, May 23, 2004 Hartley Conference Center Mitchell Building Stanford University.
Author/creator: Naoko Kumada
Language: English
Source/publisher: Stanford University
Format/size: pdf (162.86 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.dhammaweb.net/dhammabook/view.php?id=259
Date of entry/update: 08 July 2010

Title: Engaging Buddhism for Social Change
Date of publication: March 2003
Description/subject: "Buddhism will only be a force for social change in Burma if it can effect a paradigm shift away from the prevailing discourse of "samsara"... "Many Burmese Buddhists seem content resting in their "magical gardens"–to borrow a term from the German sociologist, Max Weber–where tradition is rarely questioned and adversity is accepted as just. But even in their magical gardens, their slumber is full of misery, with more nightmares than dreams. Eighty-nine percent of Burma’s population is Theravada Buddhist, yet "un-Buddhist" experiences are also common. The people of Burma bear unspeakable suffering through corruption, human rights violations, a media blackout and the free-running drug industry. If the five basic Buddhist precepts of abstinence from killing, stealing, engaging in sexual misconduct, lying or using drugs were truly observed, Burma would be a much different country. Institutional controls on Buddhism, set mainly by the military, restrict the potential for religion to be a force for change in Burma. In other ways, Burmese Buddhism has a tendency to render people passive and complacent rather than as political actors vigilant for change... "
Author/creator: Min Zin
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 11, No. 2
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Date of publication: 2002
Description/subject: Keywords: Burmese elephants, Burma. I. THE ASIAN ELEPHANT: A. Cultural; B. Ecological and Conservation Issues; C. Conservation Measures... II. BUDDHISM AND DEEP ECOLOGY: A. Need for Spiritual Approach; B. Buddhism; C. Deep Ecology; D. Wildlife (poaching); E. Forest Protection (D and E are considered the two major elephant threats)... III. DHAMMA/ECOLOGY GLOSSARY... IV. APPENDIX: DHAMMA/DEEP ECOLOGY EXPERIENTIAL EXERCISES... " Dr. Henning’s resource guide, which combines Buddhist principles and Asian elephant conservation in Myanmar, is an innovative approach to Asian elephant conservation. I have never seen someone with a biological background such as Dr. Henning’s attempt this approach in such a clear, concise manner. I found the resource guide to be an excellent potential teaching tool not only for Myanmar but also for any Buddhist country in which elephant conservation is an issue. I could easily envision this guide as the first in a series of written materials that deals with such conservation issues, perhaps beyond elephants. I would think that any individuals or agencies interested in conserving Asian elephants would be interested in this guide and would want to help make it available to a wider audience."... "The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), an endangered species listed in Appendix I of CITIES, is thought to number between 34,000 to 56,000 in thirteen Asian countries. According to U Uga, there are less than 4,000 elephants in the wild in Myanmar, which has the largest population in the ASEAN countries (India has a larger population for the continent). The total Asian elephant population is less than 10 percent of its more glamorous cousin-the African elephant. The Myanmar elephant is internationally endangered and is regarded as a worldwide flagship species. Throughout their range states, the wild elephant is severely threatened by habitat destruction, poaching, and fragmentation into small isolated groups. Many population biologists believe that nowhere in Asia is there a single wild population large enough to avoid inbreeding over the long term. ..."
Author/creator: Daniel H. Henning PhD
Language: English
Source/publisher: Daniel H. Henning
Format/size: pdf (832K)
Date of entry/update: 23 February 2004

Title: The First Perfection: Charity in Buddhism and Burmese Culture
Date of publication: July 2001
Description/subject: "Charity, one of the Buddhist perfections, has long been an integral part of Burmese culture. But history—and habit—have obscured its real social and spiritual value. "If you knew what I know about dana (generosity), you would not let one meal go by without sharing it," the Buddha once said. Dana is the Pali term for giving, generosity and charity, and it is an integral part of the Buddhist ethos. It includes giving of material support to those in need; giving of spiritual knowledge to those in despair; giving of love to those who are abandoned; and giving of protection to those who are threatened. Having given away something with the intention of making life easier for another being, one immediately feels a happiness that fills one’s heart and mind. The Venerable Ashin Thittila of Burma explains the benefits of dana thus: "The object in giving is to eliminate the craving that lies dormant within oneself; apart from which there are the attendant blessings of generosity such as the joy of service, the ensuing happiness and consolation, and the alleviation of suffering." The main idea concerning generosity or any of the ten parami (or "perfections", of which dana is the first and foremost) is that there should be no strings attached. The Buddha urged his followers to give without any expectation of personal reward. Basically, the ultimate aim of generosity practice is the transformation of the individual from a self-centered, greed-driven existence to one that is other-centered and greed-free. Giving is literally a practice in letting go—one that increasingly flies in the face of the acquisitive tendencies that drive modern society. However, even in societies that are not completely consumerist in orientation, true generosity faces serious social pressures. In Burma, for instance, dana has been misinterpreted by successive reigns and regimes to serve the interests of the ruling elite, who profess to promote the values espoused by Buddhism..."
Author/creator: Min Zin
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy", Vol 9. No. 6
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 04 May 2008

Title: Ethnic and Religious Diversity: Myanmar’s Unfolding Nemesis
Date of publication: May 2001
Description/subject: Abstract: "By whatever statistics one relies on, Myanmar has a genuine ethnic and religious plurality. From a geographical perspective, about one half of the country is comprised of territory traditionally occupied by non-Burmese ethnic minorities. Demographically, the Burmese (BaMa) make up 65% of the nation’s 50 million population. A complicated picture of different religious allegiances also emerges. Although some of the minorities share Theravada Buddhism with the Burmese majority, there are as well substantial communities of Muslims, Hindus and Christians. These ethnic and religious minorities find themselves frequently marginalized. Few appear now to have the opportunity to join the armed forces, and with some notable exceptions, few can expect promotion in any government service, the domain of the BaMa Buddhist majority. Although other nations in the region have somewhat similar challenges of ethnic and religious minority challenges, Myanmar’s case can be considered exceptional. It has also been historically problematic. The military government that took over Burma in 1962 justified its action as necessary to keep the state from fragmenting into ethnic and political secessionist blocs. The present generation of military government can also argue that a strong army is necessary to hold the country together. Despite several carefully negotiated cease-fires between the state and fractious minority groups in the last decade, ethnic discontent is still a serious problem. Further, an unyielding and patronizing Burmese cultural hubris prevails which continues to polarize the nation. Thus it can be argued that unresolved ethnic-religious tensions represent a greater threat to Myanmar’s military government than any other feature, including the continuing presence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and National League for Democracy."
Author/creator: Bruce Matthews
Language: English
Source/publisher: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 23 December 2010

Title: Monks Used to Recruit Forced Labour
Date of publication: October 2000
Description/subject: "...According to reliable sources, military authorities in Karen State have been turning to local Buddhist abbots to recruit villagers for road-building and other construction projects. The sources added that sizeable donations were being offered to the senior monks in exchange for their cooperation..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy", Vol. 8. No. 10 (Intelligence section)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: Buddhism and Burmese Politics
Date of publication: September 2000
Description/subject: On Miltary Authority (ANA) and Electoral Influence (AWZA): extract from Gustaaf Houtman's "Mental Culture"
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Burma Debate", Vol. VII, No. 3
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: Burmese Sisterhood: Unacknowledged Piety
Date of publication: September 2000
Description/subject: Buddhist nuns have long played an important role in the country's spiritual life, despite centuries of discrimination.
Author/creator: Thameechit
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy", Vol. 8. No. 9
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: The Blessed Steps of Mingala
Date of publication: March 2000
Description/subject: Pyei Lwin Nyeinchan examines the Buddha's most auspicious teaching and its place in Burmese culture.
Author/creator: Pyei Lwin Nyeinchan
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy", Vol. 8 No. 3
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: A Review of Gustaaf Houtman's "Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics"
Date of publication: 2000
Description/subject: Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics. By Gustaaf Houtman. Tokyo: ILCAA Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa Monograph Series, no. 33, Publication of the Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 1999... "Gustaaf Houtman’s book offers an insightful and innovative analysis of the present day political crisis in Burma. Houtman’s primary aim is to demonstrate the central importance of mental culture, which he defines as the practices of vipassana (“contemplation”) and samatha (“meditation”) for understanding Burmese political ideology and the shape of the ongoing political conflict between the military regime that seized power in 1962 and the democracy movement. Houtman describes his agenda thus: “It [this book] focuses on how the terminology and practices of mental culture inform, indeed constitute coherent internal cultural debates surrounding the politics of the military regimes since 1962, and in particular since 1988” (p. 9). He provides a focused analysis of the most recent events in the conflict together with discussions of the historical development of Burmese politics, beginning with the anti-colonial movements against the British..."
Author/creator: Karen Derris,
Language: English
Source/publisher: Journal of Buddhist Ethics Volume 7, 2000
Format/size: pdf (60.53 K)
Alternate URLs: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/2010/04/22/a-review-of-mental-culture-in-burmese-crisis-p...
Date of entry/update: 23 December 2010

Title: The Pagoda and the General - A Millennium-old Struggle
Date of publication: October 1999
Description/subject: "...t is interesting to note that Theravada Buddhism, Burma’s state religion for almost a thousand years, came to Burma by way of war. In the 11th century, King Anawrahta of the Pagan dynasty invaded the Mon Kingdom of Thaton in what is now southern Burma. Among the loot he took back to Pagan was the missionary monk Shin Arahan and the Buddhist scriptures he had brought with him from Ceylon. After establishing the Pagan dynasty through relentless warfare, Anawrahta made Theravada Buddhism the state religion in 1056 AD and went on a pagoda-building spree, as if to atone for the bloody atrocities he had committed while building his empire...[Ne Win's] His “Burmese Way to Socialism,” which was in effect until the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, was peppered with Buddhist cosmology. He also keeps some of the best astrologers in Burma as his personal consultants...Apart from his alleged mystical powers, [the Thamanya Sayadaw] is perhaps most venerated for his refusal to kowtow to the military junta. He rejected an invitation from Khin Nyunt, the junta’s intelligence chief, to receive honors in Rangoon. When Khin Nyunt went to Thamanya and offered him a sleek limousine, the abbot allegedly ordered the car be used to carry gravel..."
Author/creator: Zaw Myo Han
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy", Vol. 7. No. 8
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: Shewedagon and the Generals
Date of publication: May 1999
Description/subject: Playing the religion card. The Burmese generals recently renovated Shwedagon Pagoda. Under the junta's guidance intensive restoration of ancient pagodas and temples is being carried out all over Burma. As people throughout the country donate gold, diamonds and rubies to pagodas, the generals pay daily visits to sacred shrines. But what is the reason behind all this?
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy", Vol. 7. No. 4
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics
Date of publication: 29 March 1999
Description/subject: "This book deals with the Buddhist dimensions underlying the politics of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese democracy movement in general. Today, Aung San Suu Kyi is identified in the international arena as an icon of democracy hemmed in by conservative military forces. Within the country, however, the military manipulates this �foreign� sentiment as a welcome addition to its propaganda armoury. It portrays Aung San Suu Kyi as a puppet, an honorary ambassador of the foreigner who is driven by foreign interests in disregard of her own native traditions. This book argues that neither the international image of her, nor the military misuse of her international image within the country come to terms with Burmese political values as expressed in the Burmese language. Gustaaf Houtman analyses military politics as a politics of authority (ana) and confinement that emphasises the local delineation of boundaries under the guise of benevolence, using the discourse of culture, archaeology and race, and the threat of imprisonment. By contrast, he analyses the democracy movement as a politics of influence (awza) that aims to transcend these boundaries. This elaborates on political terminology in terms of Buddhist mental culture leading to �non-self� (anatta), promising freedom from imprisonment and confinement. The ideals of the four byama-so tay� � in particular loving-kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna) � stand for democracy, just as they have stood for ideal true socialist government. The senior NLD leaders all closely identify with this and with the practice of Buddhist mental culture in general. Furthermore, though the lower forms of magic are more common amongst the military, many retired military responsible for imprisoning and disqualifying the NLD from office also proclaim to be engaged in the practice of mental culture and patronise the same Buddhist meditation centres. Mental culture, while strongly represented as democracy politics, thus plays a role as a conciliatory third force in Burmese politics. The author decodes the present political situation in terms of continuities with past colonial politics and assesses commonalties between the two sides. The book argues that, through association with Buddhist ideas emphasising substantive commonalties in all forms of life, Burmese political vocabulary itself has the promise within it to promote reconciliation in this divided polity..." (from the Press Release)
Author/creator: Gustaaf Houtman
Language: English
Source/publisher: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Format/size: pdf (1.9MB)
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: Myaing-gye: Ngu Sayadaw: A Jahan who Shines the light of Dhamma
Date of publication: 30 July 1998
Description/subject: "This book is not a biography of Myainggye: Ngu Sayadaw U Thu Za-na. In fact it is a personal record of Sayadaw's life experiences. As mortal being Sayadaw has passed through many ups and downs in his life. This has been recorded and narrated without any bias. Facts, even though they may be bitter are being presented in this book...U Thu Za-na is a young monk with a few years in monkhood (Vassa). The author has reached an agreement with U Thu Za-na—not to write about his biography. Therefore, my purpose is not to write Sayadaw's biography, or for any cause or causes, but merely to write everything as it was, as I saw and understand it. As everybody knows that Myaing-gye: Ngu Sayadaw U Thu Za-na has become a wellknown person in the country. Also rumours have been rife in the country. Some said Sayadaw stands on this side. Some accused him that he is from the other side. Who and What Myaing-gye: Ngu Sayadaw is? This book will after all answer all these questions. The readers will, after reading this book, understand to some extent Who and What Myaing-gye: Ngu Sayadaw is..."
Author/creator: Myaing Nan Swe; Shin Khay Meinda (trans)
Language: English
Source/publisher: Democratic Karen Buddhist Association (DKBA)
Format/size: pdf (646K - OBL version; 13 MB - original scan)
Date of entry/update: 07 June 2011

Title: Buddhism under a Military Regime: The Iron Heel in Burma
Date of publication: April 1993
Description/subject: "As a community of believers, Buddhism in Burma is involved in a continuing and intense ideological struggle against a repressive military regime. A "church" (sasana) comprising both lay and clerical (sangha) devotees, Buddhism is the religion of the majority of the Burmese and the leading cultural institution in the country-what one Western observer over a century ago called "the soul of a people."' For the Burmese of today, tired and demoralized by three decades of military rule, Buddhism plays a crucial role..."
Author/creator: Bruce Matthews
Language: English
Source/publisher: Asian Survey, Vol. 33, No. 4. (Apr., 1993), pp. 408-423.
Format/size: pdf (323K)
Alternate URLs: http://charlesesalazar.pbworks.com/f/Buddhism+under+a+military+regime--the+iron+heel+in+burma.pdf
Date of entry/update: 23 December 2010

Date of publication: November 1989
Description/subject: "In pre-colonial Burma, there was a balance between the state, the people and the Sangha (the community of monks and nuns). The state protected and supported the Sangha, which in turn legitimized the state and by acting as the conscience of society, protected the people. To the kings, the Sangha pointed out the moral path which Buddhist teaching holds out to rulers, correcting them when they departed from the norm, or Dhamma. At village level the monks, dependent for their livelihood on the people, were always aware of the situation of the villagers, and had every interest in promoting their well-being. Monks often acted as spokesmen for the village people in their dealings with the local authorities. In this way, the Sangha protected the people from the depredations of rulers, and supported the rule of righteous kings by encouraging the people to obey them. The basic framework of Buddhist ethics for rulers is set out in the "Ten Duties of the King" (dasa-raja-dhamma):..."
Author/creator: Sayadaw U Rewata Dhamma
Language: English
Source/publisher: Sayadaw U Rewata Dhamma
Format/size: pdf (93K)
Date of entry/update: 29 April 2008

Title: Two Indigenous Karen Religious Denominations
Date of publication: 1981
Description/subject: "This paper is a short presentation of two Pwo Karen sects as they may be found in contemporary Western Central Thailand. It will discuss the organization, origin, and cultural content of the two denominations in order to show how their politico-religious concepts and ritual architecture are related to their historical position in a larger system comprising the Buddhist monarchial civilizations of Burma and Thailand. It is my supposition that the religious paraphernalia of present day sects materialized in a certain historical context as symbols of royalty and autonomy, and in the larger social context functioned to identify these Pwo Karen collectively as a sovereign part of a larger civilized world. These symbols of self-defined participation in the world, and at times even claims to superiority, had been moulded according to a model set by the monarchism of the 18th century Mon Buddhist kingdom in Lower Burma. It included a messianic Buddhist framework, which precipitated millenarian expectations of the rise of a world conqueror and subsequent future Buddha, the Buddha Ariya Mettaya, who would install a new and ideal society for the elect. Viewing the history of the Buddhist valley civilizations, be they Burmese, Mon or Thai, we may see that this messianic aspect of Theravada Buddhism has been the catalyst for both social discontent and personal political ambitions within the Buddhist societies of Southeast Asia.2 The term 'Karen' covers a category of people in Burma and Thailand who speak related languages. Karen-speaking people are spread over a large area, and their habitations are found in the hills and forests as well as the lowland. Everywhere Karen groups live interspersed among various other ethnic groups, hill as well as valley peoples..."
Author/creator: Kirsten Ewers Andersen
Language: English
Source/publisher: Soertryk FOLK Reprint Vol. 23 1981 K0BENHAVN
Format/size: pdf (247K)
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: The Rajadhammasangaha
Date of publication: 1979
Description/subject: "The Rajadhammasangaha" was presented to King Thibaw in December 1878. The first printing was c.1915. This translation by L.E.Bagshawe is from the version edited with a biographical preface by Maung Htin (U Htin Fatt) and published by the Sape U Publishing House in 1979... "On the seventh waxing day of Nadaw...the Wetmasut Myoza Wungyi finished the writing of his book Rajadhammasangaha and presented it to King Thibaw. The author describes it pleasantly as “a book of the proper behaviour for Kings and other high officers of government”. The Pagan Wundauk U Tin, however, says “it is a book of admonishment addressed to King Thibaw.” And in this he speaks the direct truth. In this book the Wetmasut Myoza Wungyi documents the proposals for changes in the system of government that were planned from the time of King Mindon. His intention in writing the book, he says, is, “In bygone times of the Buddha-to-be there were good and excellent Kings who guarded the well-being of all living creatures; like them may our own King, Lord of the Saddanta Elephant and Lawful King, under the Law guard the well-being of all living creatures like that of his own beloved children.” This expressed intention has a further meaning. Under an autocracy we cannot really say that the monarch rules with the single-minded wish to rule all living creatures on the same terms as his own children. If he is brought to the point where he must consult the "living creatures", we may be able to say that he regards them on equal terms with his own children. If there is no law requiring consultation, his guardianship becomes dubious..."
Author/creator: By the Yaw Mingyi U Hpo Hlaing (the Wetmasut Myoza Wungyi). Edited with biographical preface by Maung Htin (U Htin Fatt) and translated from the Burmese by L.E. Bagshawe
Language: English
Source/publisher: Online Burma/Myanmar Library
Format/size: pdf (1MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs/The_Rajadhammasangaha-print.pdf (configured for print)
Date of entry/update: 05 September 2004

Date of publication: 1978
Description/subject: "...the frequent dichotomization of Burman and Thai "hill-tribes" as animists opposed to the valley population as Buddhists, the Buddhism of the "hill-tribes" being only a thin veneer on animistic beliefs, does not hold. It is rather a question of an inclusive hierarchization of religious activities and value orientations, where the basis for an exclusive dichotomization becomes unclear and elusive, when one investigates the concerned activities more closely. The levels of activities are interlocked and a future value orientation may be directed towards an increased emphasis on "pure" monk- and more Buddhist elements, as the Karens become subsumed under the Thai cash-crop economy and the concommittant cultural contacts. The role of the boungkhos as maintainers of nature's order will disappear when it becomes evident that economic survival under a new economy immediately seems to depend more on insights into the market-mechanisms than on maintenance of the up till now balanced eco-system."
Author/creator: Kirsten Ewers Andersen
Language: English
Source/publisher: The Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies
Format/size: html (35K)
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003