Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Robe Offering (Kathina) Ceremony

The annual Robe Offering (Kathina) ceremony is celebrated in Burma on the full moon day this month, falling on November 24th this year. Considered the largest alms giving festival in Theravadan Buddhism, the ordained are offered robes by the lay sangha. (For more information on the Kathina Ceremony, click here).

The Burmese government newspaper New Light of Burma had a vague entry about the celebration: “pagodas, stupas and religious buildings were packed with devotees and pilgrims and they performed meritorious deeds.” Contrast it with what the media outside of Burma is reporting - that security has tightened once again around Shwe Dagon Pagoda, which was the center of the monk-led protests in September. From the Democratic Voice of Burma (based in Norway): A sign has been put up over the entrance to Shwe Dagon pagoda saying that people must bring their identity cards to enter the pagoda grounds. While this rule was not enforced for all visitors, monks’ documents were checked by the guards. “They didn’t really check everyone for [ID cards], although they were checking on monks. Monks who were unable to show any identification were not allowed to enter the pagoda,” said a local visitor. Security was also tightened inside the pagoda, and government guards were positioned around the pagoda grounds.

Which to believe???

Ordained Buddhist monks and nuns who wear the robes represent the Sangha, the third component of the Triple Gem (also known as the Three Precious Jewels). When one takes refuge in Buddhism, one takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Sangha represents the Buddha’s disciples worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.

On the occasion of the Robe-Offering Ceremony to the Sangha, we wish to honor all ordained monks and nuns for keeping the teachings of the Buddha – who said “I am awake” – alive in the chaotic world of today.

In closing, Buddhist Relief would like to share the traditional Theravadan Refuge Vows (in Pali):

Buddham saranam gacchami
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dhammam saranam gacchami
I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Sangham saranam gacchami
I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Dutiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Dutiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Dutiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a second time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Tatiyampi Buddham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Buddha for refuge.
Tatiyampi Dhammam saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Dhamma for refuge.
Tatiyampi Sangham saranam gacchami
For a third time, I go to the Sangha for refuge.

Check out this website for more information on the Triple Gem.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Peaceful Protest Rally on November 17th

This just in:

A peaceful protest rally is being organized for outside the Burmese Embassy (2300 S St NW in Washington DC) Saturday, 17 November, from 1-2 pm.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gambira, Gambari

Bo Bo in Thailand submitted an amusing comment to the Democratic Voice of Burma:

"UN has appointed Mr. Gambari to mediate for the demonstrations headed by U Gambira. So co-inciding. U GAMBIRA & Mr.GAMBARI. U GAMBIRA is the most wanted monk for the SPDC. If SPDC can arrest U Gambira, Mr. Gambari will have to request to meet U Gambira. Mr. Gambari should talk to U Gambira over the phone. Actually SPDC should talk with U Gambira rather than talking to Mr. Gambari. Because, U Gambira can and will, call another more stronger revolt in the near future. He is the only person that can revolt under their brutal rule. Bo Bo 11/09/2007"

An OpEd piece in the Washington Post written by U Gambira can be found on this blog here.

Mr. Gambari has been in the news as well, having just left Burma once again, after a six-day visit. Buddhist Relief has taken note of yet another insightful OpEd piece that appeared in today's Washington Post that discusses Mr. Gambari's visit and a 'rescuer' for the UN. Here is the piece in its entirety:

Last Thursday, U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari looked sure to be slinking out of Burma in humiliating failure. The secretive general who runs that Southeast Asian nation had kept Gambari cooling his heels for six days, finally refusing to talk to him. Any semblance of a U.N.-sponsored diplomatic process seemed about to sputter to an undignified close.

Then Gambari, and the diplomatic process, too, found an unlikely rescuer: Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the democratic forces in Burma and daughter of Burma's independence hero. Having been escorted under police guard to a meeting with Gambari from the house arrest where she has spent the past 4 1/2 years -- and most of the past two decades -- she gave Gambari a statement to read on her behalf once he reached Singapore.

The statement validated his efforts and expressed something between hope and confidence that a dialogue between her and the dictatorship might ensue. Suddenly it seemed possible that the peaceful uprising of the people and the monks, which the junta brutally sought to crush in September, might yet lead to a negotiated political process for long-suffering Burma and its 50 million people.

How did the weakest actor in this drama -- one who has been almost entirely cut off from the world, from her supporters, even from her family -- manage to become its animating force? Why did she choose to throw Gambari and the faltering U.N. process a lifeline? And how might she expect the world to respond?

We have to guess at some answers because the junta is too afraid of Aung San Suu Kyi's popularity and legitimacy to allow her to speak freely. In 1990 the National League for Democracy, which she heads, won a landslide victory in national elections, but the junta never honored the results. In May 2003, the regime nearly killed her when a mob of government-sponsored thugs attacked her and her supporters in the town of Depayin. The statement read by Gambari is the first public expression the regime has allowed her since then.

Aung San Suu Kyi is often compared to Nelson Mandela, and not only because they share an otherworldly forbearance and are both recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Like Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi is savvy as well as saintly; she is playing for results. So her lifeline to Gambari probably indicates that she believes there is at least a chance the regime will enter into serious negotiations this time around.

Why might that be true, given how often the generals have played at dialogue only long enough to allow international attention to drift away? Because after the bloody crackdown on revered monks, even the generals may understand that they crossed a line that the majority of Burmese will not forgive. Just Friday, as Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to meet with her advisers for the first time in years, it was revealed that the regime was frantically dishing out promotions and raises to riot police officers while also reshuffling top military ranks. That could be a response to discontent in the ranks. And yesterday a U.N. human rights investigator was allowed into the country for the first time in four years.

But a close reading of Aung San Suu Kyi's note shows that she is hardly naive or sanguine about success. She stressed her willingness to cooperate but said that a dialogue must be "meaningful and timebound" -- it can't stretch on forever.

That is where the outside world must come in. U.N. officials are busy congratulating themselves and preparing for more visits, while other countries happily name new envoys and core groups and discussion panels. But what's needed is pressure, not celebration or more talk. The U.N. Security Council should implement an arms embargo. The Bush administration, which announced targeted banking sanctions against top officials and tycoons, needs to accelerate their implementation, and the European Union has to join in.

These are things Aung San Suu Kyi is not free to say, negotiating as she is from isolation and confinement. But having saved the U.N.'s bacon, the least she is owed is some tangible support to strengthen her position -- and the chances that dialogue might succeed.

The title of the OpEd piece is "A Rescuer for the U.N. -- and Burma" written by Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post. He can be reached at:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Memorial Service Saturday Nov 10 in New York

The recently formed International Burmese Monks Organization (see posting of October 31, 2007) will be holding a memorial service and sermon in New York City on Saturday, November 10th.

The ordained sangha (monks) will be officiating the memorial service to recognize the people of Burma who have given their lives for justice, peace and democracy in that country. The detailed programs are as follows:

10:00 – 11:30 AM: Meal offering to the members of the Sangha
11:30 – 12:30 PM: Memorial Service
1:00 – 4:00 PM: Sermon by the Ordained Sangha (Sasana Moli Sayadaws)

Please Note: Refreshments will be served to the attendees between 10:30-11:30 AM.

Location: 777 UN Plaza (corner of 44th Street and 1st Avenue), New York, NY 10017 (second floor).

This event is being organized by the International Campaign for Burma (ICB - New York). For further information, please contact: Ko Ye Htut(347) 226-0572; Ko Kyaw Zwar Lwin(917) 478-7086; Ko Zeyar Win (917) 834-6590; Ko Zaw Win(917) 238-8273; Ko Kyaw Thu(646) 404-4831; Ma Sandi (917) 445-9222; Ma Shwe War (347) 229-4309; Ma May Thet(917)586-1726; Ko Aung Khant (516) 808-1515; Ko Aung Min Htun (917) 415-7809; Ko Zaw Latt(718) 864-2032

Monday, November 5, 2007

U Gambira - A monk in hiding speaks up

"Burma's Saffron Revolution is just beginning" -- says "U Gambira", the pseudonym of a leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance, which spearheaded nationwide protests in September. Wanted by Burma's military junta, he is living in hiding as he continues the monks' campaign. The following Op-Ed piece appeared in the Washington Post, which is worth posting, for all to read wherever you may be in the world. Feel free to post to other blogs and websites, so that it may be accessible to the people of Burma.

What Burma's Junta Must Fear

By U Gambira
Sunday, November 4, 2007

In August, the Burmese people began to write a new chapter in their determination to find peace and freedom. Burmese monks peacefully protested to bring change to our long-suffering country. As we marched, hundreds of thousands of Burmese and our ethnic cousins joined us to reinforce our collective demand: that military rule finally give way to the people's desire for democracy.

Video and the Internet have allowed the world to witness the brutal response directed by Gen. Than Shwe, Burma's de facto ruler and military leader. Than Shwe unleashed his soldiers and the regime's thugs, who attacked us. Once again the streets in Rangoon and Mandalay ran red with the blood of innocent civilians seeking to save our country from the moral, social, political and economic crises that consume us.

Hundreds of our monks and nuns have been beaten and arrested. Many have been murdered. Alarmingly, thousands of clergy have disappeared. Our sacred monasteries have been looted and destroyed. As darkness falls each night, intelligence units try to round up political and religious leaders.

Military rule has brought Burma to collapse. Our economy is in ruins. Once the breadbasket of Asia, Burma cannot feed itself. Once we were a light for education and literacy; now, the regime has closed schools and universities. Once we breathed the air of freedom; now, we choke on the foul air of tyranny. We are an enslaved people.

My colleagues and I welcomed the strong actions of the United States to impose financial and travel restrictions on the regime and its enablers. Australia is following this model, and the European Union should as well.

Than Shwe and his fellow military leaders have sought to portray this uprising as a singular event, now over. A veneer of quiet has replaced the sounds of gunfire on city streets. Unfortunately, many in the international community buy in and actively support this propaganda.

At the United Nations, China and Russia continue to block the Security Council from facilitating a dialogue between democratic forces and the regime. Within our region, senior officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have condemned the regime's actions but have done little else. Perhaps most disappointing, the world's largest democracy, India, continues to provide military assistance and trade deals that help finance the regime's war on its people.

What will it take for the world to realize that Burma's generals are a menace and that because of their misrule, drugs, diseases and refugees from Burma spill across borders and wash through other societies, ruining lives?

The recent steps by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his special adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, to open a dialogue with Burma's generals are welcome and necessary. The United Nations can help bring peace to Burma. However, the Security Council is the proper forum. All efforts must focus on making council members take the steps necessary to coerce the generals to come to terms with the people. This involves setting a timetable for the regime to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; allow free assembly; and give a full accounting of the thousands who have disappeared. The council should also seek a ban on all arms sales to the regime.

People ask whether I am disheartened and whether this latest spasm of democratic activism is over. The answer to both questions is no. Although I am wanted by the military and forced to hide in my own country, I am awed by the bravery of so many, including sympathetic security agents of the junta who opened their homes to democracy leaders and me.

Since August, I have seen my country galvanized as never before. I have watched our 88 Generation leaders bravely confront the military. I have watched a new generation of activists join to issue an unequivocal call for freedom. And I have watched as many in the police and military, sickened at what they were forced to do to their countrymen, give so many of us quiet help. The primary tools wielded by Burma's senior generals, a climate of fear and the use of violence, are no longer working -- and with nothing to lose, we are no longer afraid.

On Wednesday, more than 200 monks staged a protest in Pakokku. They stared military officers in the face. Their spirit and determination are a warning to the regime and those that prop it up.

Burma's Saffron Revolution is just beginning. The regime's use of mass arrests, murder, torture and imprisonment has failed to extinguish our desire for the freedom that was stolen from us so many years ago. We have taken their best punch.

Now it is the generals who must fear the consequences of their actions. We adhere to nonviolence, but our spine is made of steel. There is no turning back. It matters little if my life or the lives of colleagues should be sacrificed on this journey. Others will fill our sandals, and more will join and follow.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Burma's Child Soldiers

Facing a military staffing crisis, the Burmese government is forcibly recruiting many children, some as young as age 10, into its armed forces. Military recruiters are literally buying and selling children in order to meet unrelenting demands for new recruits due to continued army expansion, high desertion rates and a lack of willing volunteers. Non-state armed groups, including ethnic-based insurgent groups, also recruit and use child soldiers, though in far smaller numbers.

Human Rights Watch recently released a report on “Sold to be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma". All are invited to join in a live, timely and important discussion on this topic:

WHO Jo Becker, Children’s Rights Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch

WHAT Burma Roundtable: The Recruitment and use of Child Soldiers

WHEN Monday, November 5, 2007, 1:00 PM-2:30 PM

WHERE Human Rights Watch, 1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. (Dupont Circle Metro, Q Street Exit)

Jo Becker is also the founding chairperson of the international Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. In 2002, she helped research the recruitment and use of child soldiers in Burma for Human Rights Watch’s report, “My Gun was as Tall as Me: Child Soldiers in Burma.” This year, she oversaw a follow-up investigation resulting in the new report, which was just released on October 31, 2007.

To RSVP contact Jon Cohen at 202-612-4338, or Space is limited.

All comments are strictly off the record. The Burma Roundtable is a gathering of NGOs, Congressional staff, administration officials and concerned individuals that meets periodically to discuss human rights, humanitarian assistance and other issues in Burma.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Candlelight Vigil at Frederick Community College November 2nd

On Friday, November 2nd from 7- 8pm, a Candlelight Vigil will be held at the Frederick Community College in Frederick, Maryland. The Vigil is to support and pray for the freedom of Burma. Dong Khup will be giving a short speech about the present situation of his homeland - Burma - at the event.

Everyone is invited and encouraged, to attend the Vigil. For further information, contact Dong Khup at:

"Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions, courage that could be described as "grace under pressure" — grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure." - Aung San Suu Kyi