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Sunday, May 10, 2009
Last year's Oct 7 crackdown happened during Buddhist Lent, a time for restraint and self-contemplation.
This year's violent Redstruck during festivities traditionally reserved for family reunions to celebrate the virtues of thankfulness and gratitude.
The sacred Visakha Bucha Day this month is meant to remind us that all is transient, thus there is no use clinging to it. Yet, both the red and yellow shirts are still threatening another show of force.
During Visakha Bucha this month, Buddhist leaders worldwide gathered in Thailand to ponder how Buddhism provides ways out of violent conflict and environmental breakdown. We should not feel proud that this important event took place here. That is just an obsession with face.
Instead, we should be ashamed of ourselves.
The deep turmoil during the past four years - with no sign of repentance from all parties concerned - only gives a bad name to the Buddha, should we continue to call ourselves Buddhists.
Do only good deeds. Stop all bad actions. And purify our mind.
We've grown up with this Buddhist teaching. So why the endless violence?
Start asking this question and fingers will be pointed at the "morally degrading Western influences" which divorce the young minds from Thai cultural roots and push them under the powers of consumerism, materialism, and the glorification of violence.
Excuse me, but I don't buy that.
Just look at the bigwigs on the stages of both the red and yellow shirts. We mainly see the grey-haired, self-proclaimed saviours of the nation or revolutionaries. Both sides endlessly and passionately aroused hatred and violence in the name of high-minded goals such as patriotrism and social justice, although evil means cannot bring about any virtuous goals.
Fanning hatred is only a few steps away from committing the cardinal sin of causing violence, bloodshed and death - which is exactly what happened.
Mind you, most principal players in this political drama are in their sunset years, yet they refuse to fade away gracefully from the corridors of power to pursue what Buddhism suggests one should do in one's last phase of life - going to temples to meditate.
Interestingly, many of these so-called patriots and revolutionaries fluently recite Buddhist teachings - selectively, however, to support their causes. The orthodoxSect is in full support of the yellow shirts although the movement violates many basic Buddhist principles. Meanwhile, the red shirts also enjoy backing from the divided clergy.
In fact, one of the most disturbing sights during the Red Songkran violence was that of a monk joining the angry crowd to block and beat up the prime minister's sedan. He was obviously out for the kill.
With near silence from the clergy, that very image speaks volumes about the state of popular Thai Buddhism.
Much has been said about the structural inequality and injustice at the heart of our explosive politics. In the spirit of Visakha, we should ponder another lethal factor, one of the most dangerous things Buddhism cautions against: fierce attachment to views and ideologies.
In essence, beliefs are mere thoughts shaped by one's background, cultural values, self-interests, aspirations and selective information fanned by emotions and the us-against-them worldview.
Because we treat our beliefs as an extension of our ego, we are ready to react violently if our sense of self is threatened.
The bigger the ego, the more violent the reaction.
We refuse to accept the natural laws that beliefs - like anything else in the universe including ourselves - are inter-connected and ever-changing. We want to freeze what is constantly arising and passing away so we can hold on to it.
We refuse to accept that defying natural laws only creates trouble and suffering. So we get exactly what Nature promises: trouble and suffering.
Peace depends very much on truth and justice. But when we refuse to accept Nature's truth of transience and inter-connectedness, our definition of justice according to our views and ideologies ends up being just only for our group.
That is why peace remains ever elusive.
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