Rod Meade Sperry68p
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Dear Lynette, thank you for sending such extensive and thoughtful comments. I wish I had seen them before the article was published, as I could have fine tuned my words and taken out whatever seems "totalizing" or pejorative of Burma in an unskillful way. What an interesting background you have. I did show the article to several thoughtful Burmese friends and colleagues most of whom are activists, and they gave me some guidance. But your comments are additionally helpful.
This is a painful situation that many of us fear could get much worse, and in some part the ignorance I speak of is one piece of what is allowing it to happen. Of course this ignorance is not just found in Burma. A lack of questioning authority can be found here in the USA too, as is great ignorance about the core values of love and forgiveness that Christ taught. The same happens in many middle eastern countries in which ignorant fundamentalism has replaced the mercy of Allah. Alas in Burma this year, many of the villagers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers etc I talked to and many I heard about from Burmese colleagues did believe the 969 monks who teach that Buddha was sometimes violent and espoused force and violence if it was to protect the Sasana. They were devoted and beautiful people, but too easily fooled by the words of these misguiding monks. This is sad to see.
I also appreciate your valuing of the oral tradition. I too learned Buddhist teachings by rote, starting from my first preceptor who was born in the 1890s when palm leaf books were too precious for students to handle and memorization was the rule. And I benefited from this training.
Being honest, the level of understanding of the core principles of Dharma is probably as strong in Burma as in any other Buddhist countries, and it appears that places such as Japan, Taiwan and Sri Lanka have a popular Buddhism that overall isn't even as fully practiced as in Burma. But for Burma to grow into a more tolerant nation, and resist the demagogues will ask of the Burmese people more questioning and a deeper following of the compassionate and non violent teachings of Buddha, embodying the tradition that is so beloved by many there. May this come to pass.
Do you ever write about your own experiences? Or about Burma? I'd be interested to read if you do.
Thanks and metta, Jack
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