Myanmar is said to be 95% Buddhist with sprinkling of other denominations scattered throughout the country. A smidgen of Hindu, a speck of Christians, a spattering of Jews and the largely opposed
minority of Muslims. Before arriving I knew of the religious uprising that was occurring in the Rhogina region in the northern states of Myanmar between the buddhist and the Muslims however I was not aware of the extreme separatism that exists here. In fact, I feel it my responsibility to share some of what I have learned about Buddhist during my time traveling through SE ASIA, I think there lives a misconception that Buddhist are very “Zen” and a peaceful brood. However, as I travel throughout some of these asian countries where the majority of people are buddhist I have become keenly aware of the rather unapologetic and in flexible views of buddhist. It appears to me that there is a widely unspoken understanding of Equal but Separate. I have been quite surprised with the amount of religious unrest that exist between the Muslim and the Buddhist particularly. I have recently been made aware of the 969 Movement which is a anti-islamic movement created by none other than BUDDHIST MONKS. The 969 movement is growing rampantly and a stark contrast to the preconceived ideals of buddhism, which according to most of us is a religion and lifestyle that is built on peace and pacifism. Not so much here, Myanmar, where it is said that 90% of the world monks come from, it seems like an odd contradiction. Actually Ashin Wirathu- a buddhist monk is the creator of this anti-muslim movement, he has been nicknamed the “Burmese Bin Laden” .
The 969 number stands for three things: the 9 stands for the special attributes of Buddha, the founder of the religion; the 6 stands for attributes of his teachings of dharma; and finally, the last 9 stands for special characteristics or attributes of the clergy. Stickers and posters are everywhere . These openly racists icons warn Muslims away from buddhist shop owner, taxis , and restaurants but rest assured the muslims have a similar icon which warns buddhist from their establishments.
My Myanmar friend does a good job of explaining the intolerance as a way of preserving the history and culture of the Myanmar people from the immigrants from Bangladesh and other Muslim nations. For her it comes not as form of racism but more from a sense of wanting to preserve her history and religion. She also goes on to explain that the Muslims here have long ago separated themselves from the rest of the people here in Myanmar and only now that the Buddhist are staging their own demonstration does it become a conflict. I think it is all very interesting, especially considering that most of us would believe that buddhist are mostly accepting but unfortunately I have witness more intolerance than acceptance. ( so much for being ZEN)
The long and short of that sad little diatribe is that there is good and bad in all groups, religions and races. And just because a group would seem to be impervious to judgment, alienation and terroristic acts does not mean that there are some among them who harbor hate and intolerance!
Myanmar’s legislation will vote in the next coming weeks regarding a bill that strictly prohibits and makes it illegal for individuals to marry outside of their region. There have been some speculation that this piece of legislation will be removed however that is largely unlikely given the overall strong hold that the restrictive government still has on the citizens of Myanmar. This country may have just become open to the rest of the world in the last 3 years and the government may appear to be “reorganized” to make opportunity and civil liberties more accessible to its all of its citizens, I fear that there is still quite a bit of oppression and military-like control. Please keep in mind this is just my view from where I sit;)
I know in America we feel like we haven’t gotten very far where race relations or religious freedoms are concerned but each day that I spend witnessing the oppression and the extreme separatism that exist first hand, I am grateful to live in the wonderful US of A, with more religious , cultural, and civil liberties than most other countries in the world. To that I say ( everyone sing along with me) …… ” and I am proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free…”
Goddess Lakshmi means Good Luck to Hindus. The word ‘Lakshmi’ is derived from the Sanskrit word “Laksya”, meaning ‘aim’ or ‘goal’, and she is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual. Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families, and a favorite of women. I wonder if this is the HINDU GODDESS who will bring me a fantastic fellow?? Either way I shall pray to her…. it couldnt hurt. Lakshmi did I mention that I need him to be attractive, kind,smart, funny and wealthy!! lol. Just thought if we are sending out prayers I ought to be as specific as possible right?? Anywy, here I gave a prayer to all the beautiful, amazing, funny, fearless and brave women I know!!
One thought on “Temples, Synagogues, and Catholic churches in the land of the buddhist”
Kim!! Glad to see the blog post- amazing pics and such interesting learnings- I can’t wait for the one on one lesson and to go thru ALL the pictures!! Be safe, thinking of you, and keep blogging your adventure!