What Makes Monks Mad

September 30, New York Times


As they marched through the streets of Myanmar’s cities last week leading the biggest antigovernment protests in two decades, some barefoot monks held their begging bowls before them. But instead of asking for their daily donations of food, they held the bowls upside down, the black lacquer surfaces reflecting the light. It was a shocking image in the devoutly Buddhist nation. The monks were refusing to receive alms from the military rulers and their families — effectively excommunicating them from the religion that is at the core of Burmese culture. That gesture is a key to understanding the power of the rebellion that shook Myanmar last week.


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At our Sunday service today, Sensei Ulrich wanted to discuss the situation in Burma. He wanted to hear our thoughts on religion and politics. Are church and state separate? Sensei told us some of the background on the how monks fit into Buddhist societies. As the monks beg for food in the streets, he described a relationship that evolves between the people, the monks, and the rulers (government). The monks count on the people for food. The people rely on the monks for dharma. The monks listen to the people. The monks become the voice of the people. The government listens to the monks so that they understand what is required of them. Their relationship is a triangle of interdependence and is well explained in the classic "The Buddha" by Trevor Ling (Penquin, 1973).

Unless you have a situation that is corrupt. (See wedding video of multi-million dollar wedding of Thandar Shwe, daughter of Burmese dictator Than Shwe)

The Burmese monks needed to help the people and make a stand. Sensei Ulrich ended our talk by asking us another question, how far we would have to be pushed before we took action?

Show support for the people of Burma.

Bonnie-Blake-Tittaferrante of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhists of Thunder Bay sent us this link to an online petition on Amnesty International web site.