Image: Kongtsun Demo, Protector of the Dharma Kosigrim/tibet-archive, Wikipedia
GS(3) Thunderbolt 9-14-07: In Pakistan, the Dharma Repels an Attack; In Burma, the Dharma Inspires an Uprising
By Richard Power
In the 21st Century, global security, sustainability and spirit are interdependent (hence the "GS3" concept) -- we cannot achieve security without sustainability, and we cannot summon the political and economic will to achieve sustainability without drawing on the spiritual resevoir within us.
Fortunately, the spiritual heritage of the human race is not limited to the great desert religions (i.e., Judaism, Christianity and Islam) or their ancient, internecine feuds.
At their best, these three forces draw from the same well of social justice, religious tolerance and universal brotherhood, at their worst they share the same cracked view of the cosmos in which humanity is cut off from nature, heaven is divorced from earth, and divinity is robbed of the feminine.
Two recent stories in the world press offer a powerful reminder that there are other wells from which to draw the water of the spirit, and other ways to view the cosmos and humanity's place in it:
In Pakistan, a 7th century Buddha carved into the side of a mountain has survived an attack by Moslem extremists who attempted to blow it up.
Meanwhile, in Burma (aka Myanmar), Buddhist monks are at the vanguard of mass protests against harsh economic conditions imposed by the country's brutal military dictatorship.
There is much turmoil ahead both in Pakistan and Burma.
In Pakistan, even if the stone Buddha is eventually destroyed, as sacred as it is, not one atom of blessedness will have been destroyed. In reality, the statue is as transitory and insubstantial as the shimmering reflection of your face looking into a moonlit pool; what the statue reflect is a profound, abiding truth -- silent, eternal, all-pervading.
And in Burma, my money is on the monks.
If we are to survive and adapt in the 21st Century, we must overcome the psychological illnesses of religious fanaticism and greed; and Buddha Dharma, Sanatana Dharma (aka "Hinduism"), Shamanism, the Return of the Goddess, Baha'i and other vitamin-rich and diverse strains in our collective spiritual heritage will play a vital role in that overcoming.
Here are brief excerpts from the two stories, with links to the full texts:
Islamist militants in Pakistan have tried to blow up a seventh-century Buddhist rock carving in an attack reminiscent of the destruction of ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan six years ago.
There was, however, no damage to the image of the sitting Buddha carved into a 40-metre high rock in mountains 20 km north of Mingora, a town in the scenic Swat valley, northwest of the capital, Islamabad.
A group of masked-men tried to destroy the carving ... said provincial archaeology department official Aqleem Khan. ...
Buddhism spread through northern India and flourished in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan hundreds of years before the arrival of Islam. Both countries are now predominantly Muslim.
Khan compared the attack on the carving to the destruction of two giant standing Buddha statues in Bamiyan province in Afghanistan in early 2001 by the then ruling Taliban. Reuters, 9-12-07
They have since spread to several other parts of the country, including crucially the central town of Pakokku, near Mandalay, where an estimated 100 Buddhist monks recently spearheaded the unrest, including taking government officials hostage and burning their cars. The military eventually fired warning shots, and one monk was badly hurt in the melee.
The junta has long fretted about politicized monks - who command deep respect among the population and many of whom are known to sympathize with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. Since the early 1990s, the military have effectively controlled the Buddhist governing religious bodies by retiring, replacing and relocating known-dissident abbots.
But the recent clergy-inspired violence and the military's violent response may yet prove to be a watershed moment. The monks have demanded an apology from the government for its use of force, but to date junta leaders have failed to reply. In the meantime, in an unprecedented move, police and security forces have been deployed outside the monasteries in the key Buddhist cities of Mandalay, Pakkoku and Yangon to prevent the monks from staging further protests.
Nonetheless, the monks have expressed their particular concerns about the government's reported use of armed civilian vigilante groups to counter and contain protesters. Since the protests erupted last month, the authorities have arrested hundreds of people. The junta has often used pro-government thugs to disperse the crowds violently and deter journalists from recording events. Larry Jagan, Myanmar protests verge on mass movement, Asia Times, 9-13-07
Burma, Pakistan, Dharma, Buddhism, Spirituality, Human Rights