Monday, October 01, 2007

Monks, Burma, Burmese Monks

If they really want to engage in political protest, why are they wearing robes?  Why can't they disrobe and protest?  The answer should be somewhat revealing.  The idea of becoming a monk (mono=single) means to leave the home life.  We take vows to that effect.  Yes, the whole world is watching now, because of the monks' political involvement.  But now the whole world knows what monks do: engage in political protest.  Meditation?  That's for "those that sit and do nothing".


  1. julianq10:26 PM

    This is one view and, I suppose, an age old question for monastics. Politics? There is surely a world of difference between showing peaceful dissent against a tyrannical and murderous regime and involvement in the party politics we are used to in the west. Are there not circumstances in which a monk should use his position in the interests of the welfare of others (a little Mahayana creeping in here?). And after all, is the monk not in a position of protest anyway. He shaves his head, dons simple robes, lives according to vows. He is very obviously apart from the rest of us. He says no to everything in society that leads to the complexity of suffering and anguish and that leads away from the peace of dhamma. That's a pretty big protest.

  2. Julian,

    Thanks for writing. I think yes, a monk should always use his position for the welfare of others. To lead them out of suffering. That's what Burmese monks have been doing for centuries. But getting involved in politics will only get them killed. I've said as much before, and it seems my predictions are coming true. It is also destroying the reputation of monks as being a way out of the horrors of society. If they do succeed in bringing about democracy, it will have been a large price to pay for what will only bring more and more involvement in society and politics.

    I must sound pitiless. I'm not, and all of our hearts are of course with the people of Burma. But a spade is a spade and a monk is a monk. If you want to protest a military regime, you should disrobe first.

  3. julianq9:59 AM

    Dear Yuttadhammo,
    Thank you for your replies. I will give careful thought to what you have said.