ALAN CLEMENTS was one of the first Westerners to ordain as a Buddhist monk in Burma where he lived in a monastery during the 1970s and 1980s. During that time he trained in Buddhist psychology and insight (mindfulness) meditation with two of the most respected meditation teachers of the modern era, the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw, and his successor, Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita.
In 1984, Clements was forced to leave the monastery by Burma's authorities, with no reason given. Subsequently, he returned to the West, and as an independent teacher, led numerous mindfulness-based silent meditation retreats in the US, Australia and Canada.
In 1988, he integrated into his classical Buddhist training a political awareness that included global human rights, environmental sanity, democracy and the preciousness of everyday freedom. His efforts working on behalf of oppressed peoples led a former director of Amnesty International to call Alan "one of the most important and compelling voices of our times."
As an investigative journalist Alan has lived in some of the most highly volatile areas of the world. In the jungles of Burma, in 1990, he was one of the first eye-witnesses to document the mass oppression of ethnic minorities by Burma's military, which resulted in his first book, "Burma: The Next Killing Fields?" (with a foreword by the Dalai Lama).
Shortly thereafter, Alan was invited to the former-Yugoslavia by a senior officer for the United Nations, where, based in Zagreb during the final year of the war, he wrote the film "Burning" while consulting with NGO's and the United Nation's on the "vital role of consciousness in understanding human rights, freedom, and peace."
In 1995, a French publisher asked Alan to attempt reentering Burma for the purpose of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of her country's pro-democracy movement and the recipient of the Nobel Peace laureate in 1991. Just released after six years of incarceration, Alan invited Aung San Suu Kyi to tell her courageous story to the world, thus illuminating the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of Burma's nonviolent struggle for freedom, known as a "revolution of the spirit."
The transcripts of their six months of conversations were smuggled out of the country and became the book "The Voice of Hope." Translated into numerous languages, The Voice of Hope offers insight into the nature totalitarianism, freedom and nonviolent revolution. Said the London Observer: "Clements is the perfect interlocutor....whatever the future of Burma, a possible future for politics itself is illuminated by these conversations."
Clements is also the co-author with Leslie Kean and a contributing photographer to "Burma's Revolution of the Spirit" (Aperture, NY) - a large format photographic tribute to Burma's nonviolent struggle for democracy, with a foreword by the Dalai Lama and essays by eight Nobel Peace laureates.
In addition, Clements was the script revisionist and principle adviser for Beyond Rangoon (Castle Rock Entertainment), a feature film depicting Burma's struggle for freedom, directed by John Boorman.
In 1999, Alan founded World Dharma, a nonsectarian, multicultural organization of self-styled seekers, artists, writers, scholars, journalists, and activists dedicated to a trans-religious, independent approach to personal and planetary transformation through the integration of global human rights, meditation and the experiential study of consciousness, with one's life expression through the arts, media, activism, and service.
In 2002 Alan wrote "Instinct for Freedom - Finding Liberation Through Living" (World Dharma Publications), a spiritual memoir about his years in Burma and chronicles his pursuit of truth and freedom, while illuminating the framework of the World Dharma vision that also forms the Courses offered through the World Dharma Online Institute (WDOI) that he co-founded with his colleague, Jeannine Davies Ph.D.
Instinct for Freedom was nominated for the best spiritual teaching/ memoir by the National Spiritual Booksellers Association in 2003 and has been translated into a numerous languages.
Alan's most recent book, "A Future to Believe In?108 Reflections on the Art and Activism of Freedom" (World Dharma Publications, 2012), inspired by and dedicated to his young daughter Sahra, has received distinguished praise from numerous leaders and activists, including Dr. Helen Caldicott, Joanna Macy, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Paul Hawkin, and Derrick Jensen (the environmental poet laureate) who wrote:
"This culture is killing the planet. If we are to have any future at all, we must unlearn everything the culture has taught us and begin to listen to the planet, to listen to life - the core intelligence of nature and the human heart. This book not only helps us with the unlearning process - the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced - it provides the essential wisdom, the spiritual intelligence, to open ourselves to finally start to hear."
Alan is also a political and spiritual satirist, and performs his one person show "Spiritually Incorrect: In Defense of Being, Human," to audiences around the world, as benefits to raise awareness of global human rights, Burma's ongoing struggle for freedom, as well as to highlight the plight of political prisoners, worldwide.
Clements has been interviewed on ABC's Nightline, CBS Evening News, Talk to America, CBC, VOA, BBC, and by the New York Times, London Times, Time and Newsweek magazines, Yoga Journal, Conscious Living, Utne, and scores of other media worldwide.
In addition, Alan has presented to such organizations as Mikhail Gorbachev's State of The World Forum, The Soros Foundation, United Nations Association of San Francisco, the universities of California, Toronto, Sydney, and many others, including a keynote address at the John Ford Theater for Amnesty International's 30th year anniversary.
Endorsements for Alan Clements
"How to describe Alan's presentations? A tall order. Love poems/riffs/odes/chants to the goddesses of compassion, deeply inscribed with the blood of Burmese slaves, soldiers in Iraq, Palestinian children, freedom fighters anywhere. A momentary entry into an internal tête-à-tête, ad infinitum; a glimpse at all that inner discursive dialog which marks us unequivocally as members of the human race. Just in case we get too spiritual, let's not forget that we are required to, by nature, include everything. To paraphrase the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hahn's poem, "Please Call Me by My True Names," I am both the 12-year-old raped girl and the pirate who raped her. It is difficult to reconcile seeming opposites, and it takes the heart of a poet. Thich Nhat Hahn is a poet; Alan is one as well."
- Marcia Jacobs, a psychotherapist specializing in victims of war, rape, and trauma; a senior U.N. representative for refugees in Bosnia and Croatia, 1993?1997; and a former officer of the International War Crimes Tribunal
"Alan Clements is a riveting communicator - challenging and inspiring. He articulates the essentials of courage and leadership in a way that can stir people from all sectors of society into action; his voice is not only a great contribution during these changeful times, it is a needed one."
- Jack Healy, former director of Amnesty International
"Rarely has a book touched me as deeply and personally as [Alan's book] Instinct for Freedom. This profound work is a call to action, a spiritual force for change. May the beauty of Alan's writing and the power of his personal journey compel you to be true to your own heart so that we may all experience the gift of freedom in its purest form."
- Cheryl Richardson, author of Stand Up for Your Life
"Alan is uniquely qualified to widen our perspectives, both of ourselves and of meaningful action in the world. His eloquence and sincerity calls us closer to our fullest potentials."
- Joseph Goldstein, author of One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism
"I have known Alan for over a decade. He is my first call when I seek insight and candor concerning personal and professional advice. As a teacher, his eloquence moves audiences to ask the questions behind questions about how we live, why we work, and how it fits together."
- Robert Chartoff, Chartoff productions. Producer of Rocky, The Right Stuff, and Raging Bull