Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is facing mounting criticism about her silence, regarding the Muslim Rohingya, who remain one of the most persecuted communities in the world. In light of the communal strife that started in 2012 and now with world attention focused upon the stranded boat people, some of whom are Rohingya, fleeing from persecution in Burma, she is feeling great pressure, as a symbol of human rights, to speak out about the Rohingya. Unfortunately, this also clashes with her other persona as a politician.
She finds herself in a deeply unenviable position, where she is trapped between how the Burmese see her and how the rest of the world sees her. For non-Burmese, she is (was) a bastion of human rights, so her silence is disappointing. For the Burmese, she is a politician, who they hope will be able to lead them out of decades of military rule towards real democracy. If she shows any sympathies for the plight of the Rohingya, she will instantly lose her base of supporters, because a vast number of Burmese are unwilling to show any compromise regarding the issue of Rohingya citizenship.
If DASSK becomes no longer a viable opposition leader, as a result of speaking out about the Rohingya, there will form a vacuum that no one can at this time fill, resulting in a further strengthening of the regime’s grip. What can she do? Either lose the respect of the international community or lose the respect of the Burmese? It would seem that her priorities remain at home, even if it means tarnishing her global image.
It is deeply regrettable that she finds herself in this position. It appears as if she has been out-maneuvered by the regime and blocked in.
Ideally, in keeping with her global image, it would have been preferable for her to have taken the human rights path, because there are too few such leaders of her status leading in this field, and the world desperately needs such lights. But, alas, idealism has very little currency in a country like Burma, where brutality and repression have dominated for decades.
Recently, a Burmese man informed me that the reason Aung San Suu Kyi has not spoken out about the plight of the Rohingya is because she shares the same opinion as the majority of Burmese. He was as certain of this, as are the human rights activists, who like to believe the opposite is true. In actual fact, none of us are privy to what her real opinion is on the matter. Either way, a lot of people are going to be disappointed, no more so than Aung San Suu Kyi herself.
“Better it is to live one day seeing the rise and fall of things than to live a hundred years without ever seeing the rise and fall of things.” – The Buddha
Buddhism and Nationalism cannot sit side-by-side. Nationalism is by nature the propagation and attempted sustaining of myths of identity. Those who choose to be attached to such notions, do so in disregard of the true, absolute reality that everything is transient, impermanent and in constant flux, whether it be the individual, society, culture, traditions and even ethnicity. Everything changes in time.
Old myths get replaced by new myths, so what is the point in fighting against the inevitable? To do so is like trying to paint all the autumn leaves green, in the hope of deluding oneself that summer has not gone.
In contrast, a core part of the Buddha’s teachings is to accept impermanence. By doing so, we surrender ourselves to the natural processes, no longer grasping onto the unreal, which creates the friction that produces suffering. We should accept the impermanence of all phenomena, including the fleeting breath that is our own existence. There is nothing to grasp onto, and if we do, we are not grasping truth, just merely illusory phantoms of fancy, including our sense of self.
Instead of standing against the winds of change in all our delusional, egocentric glory, fighting for this or that ideology and national identity, it is far better to let go of all that, and become the wind itself, rather than be separated from it. If we choose not to, we only postpone the inevitable. The wind will always conquer in time.
I spent a wonderful day with my Zen Master and other monks, including three hours of Zazen meditation.