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Wisdom for the World

The Requisites of Reconciliation

Mindful Advice To My Nation
Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita of Burma
In Conversation with Alan Clements

Read the press release for Wisdom for the World

Wisdom for the World is one set of conversations (22,000 words) within a four volume 1,500 page (600,000 word) set of books titled, “Burma’s Voices of Freedom – An Ongoing Nonviolent Struggle for Democracy.”

“Burma’s Voices of Freedom,” co-authored with Alan Clements’ colleague and personal assistant, Fergus Harlow, will feature numerous conversations with former political prisoners, religious and spiritual leaders, activists, poets, writers, performers, satirists, teachers, and government leaders.
Seven years in the making, “Burma’s Voices of Freedom” not only illuminates the wisdom of nonviolent revolution and the power of forgiveness and reconciliation, it inspires the value of safeguarding universal human rights as the best means of preventing violence, war and genocide.
The four volume set will be self-published in early 2020.⁣ It is 95% completed.

To bring this treasure to the world, we need financial assistance. And we offer Wisdom for the World freely as a taste of the four volume set. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to support the publication of these books it would be greatly appreciated. You can make your one time offering or a monthly pledge of any amount either on the World Dharma Support Page or on our Patreon Pledge page, either by bank, debit or credit card.

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— Alan Clements in Conversation with the late Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita of Burma.

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For the last thirty-seven years of his life, Sayadaw U Pandita was my spiritual teacher, my life mentor, and my friend. In the early years of that period, I was a monk living at the Mahasi Thathana Yeiktha, the monastery in Yangon which had been founded by Mahasi Sayadaw in 1947 and which had been Sayadaw U Pandita’s home since 1954. He later moved to his own monastery, Panditarama, where I visited him in the months before he died. It was here that I was privileged to have nine nights of profound conversations with him—his final teachings. He died forty-five days later on April 16, 2016 at the age of ninety-five. This book is the edited record of those conversations, his offering on the way of reconciliation for a troubled world.

By the time of his passing, he had been in the monastic order within Burma for eighty-three years, having novice monk as an orphan at the age of twelve. During his years at Mahasi Thathana Yeikkta he became a senior meditation teacher and founded an annual three month Dhamma Culture course specifically for children in the development of “mindful intelligence.” When Mahasi Sayadaw passed away in 1982 Sayadaw U Pandita was appointed the Ovadcariya Sayadaw (Head Monk) of the monastery. As the senior teacher, he was for many years the spiritual advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders in Burma’s democracy movement and had been influential in honing their strategies of nonviolence. Over the years, he also became the dhamma teacher to many thousands of Asian and Western students worldwide.

I met Sayadaw U Pandita within a few months of my arrival at Mahasi Thathana Yeiktha in 1979. He was already a senior teacher at that time, and on our first meeting we talked well into the night. Despite not having traveled much at that point, he had a vast knowledge of science, literature, culture, art, and, of course, classical Buddhist teachings and in particular, vipassana (mindfulness practice). He spoke several languages and could quote at will from, say, Tolstoy to an obscure Buddhist text from the 1920s. Often in the middle of a discussion he would cheerfully pull a passage from one of the thousands of books in his greeting room at the monastery. A great conversationalist, he also had a natural curiosity about his young western guest and wanted to know all about my life growing up in America: what were my interests as a child, my difficulties, my education. Thus began a cross-cultural understanding that was to deepen over the decades. Perhaps we educated each other in the differences of how eastern and western minds are conditioned.

I was dazzled by his brilliance and his kindness to me, and I think he found in me a novice in need of direction. I asked for and was granted permission for him to be my primary teacher there in that exotic land of Burma in which I found myself, eager to come to terms with my mind, living as a monk in a monastery far from home.

Eventually, I made my way back to my own homeland but Sayadaw U Pandita and I never lost touch. I organized his first trips to America and Australia and I went regularly back to Burma to visit him and to continue our exploration of the deeper streams of life. His wisdom and intellect only grew with time.

Although these nine nights of conversation cover a wide range of subjects, in the end Sayadaw U Pandita’s passion was to convey the importance of finding ways to live in harmony with each other. He could see the trends in the world and their potential for political and social strife. As someone who had lived through two world wars along with the more recent troubles in Burma, he also knew the limits of force, hatred, and abuse of power. His lifelong message was that peace is only possible through communication and understanding. Thus, he spent some of his last moments on earth emphasizing these ideals in the art of dialogue, which was his particular genius.

Alan Clements

August 8, 2019

Requisites for Reconciliation”

ALAN CLEMENTS: Allow me start by saying how grateful I am for the opportunity to speak with you. Your words, upon approval, will be published in a forthcoming book titled, “Burma’s Voices of Freedom: A Nation’s Unfinished Struggle for Democracy.” You are a voice of freedom.

I wish to make it clear that my intention in speaking with you is rooted in dhamma, seeking your wisdom in illuminating the way beyond fear, anger, and delusion. I have known you for thirty-seven years and have known you to only speak what is true and beneficial. It is for that reason that I seek your advice and insights into what is most beneficial for the people of your country.

My first question: For anyone who has been violated, it is common to react with hurt, anger, even outrage, and at times, seek revenge. As we know, many millions of people in your country have been oppressed for over fifty years by a succession of dictatorships. What advice can you offer the oppressed, especially those harboring feelings of hostility and retribution? How to overcome those feelings of anger and revenge and restrain from acting on them?

VENERABLE SAYADAW U PANDITA: Forbearance is the best. It is what the Buddha taught. Social problems are sure to happen in human society. There are things one likes and things one doesn’t like. One smiles at what one likes and scowls at what one doesn’t like. It is important to have forbearance – the ability to withstand these swings. Forbearance should be developed from the start, before problems occur. One should make it strong.

In this country we say, “Khanti is the highest austerity.” In the human world, we are certain to encounter things we do not like. If every time one encounters such things, there is no forbearance and one retaliates, there will be no end to human problems. There will only be quarrels.

To be patient and forbear fully, there must be the ability to logically reason. Without forbearance, a fight occurs, both sides get hurt and there’s no relief. And many wrongs are done. When one can forbear, the quarrel quiets. This is the benefit gained.

In this, one needs to add mettā – the desire for another’s welfare. When the desire for the welfare of others becomes strong, one can be patient and forbearing. When harmed one can forgive, one can give up one’s own benefit and make sacrifices. Problems occur because people are not able to have this attitude of mettā – the desire for another’s welfare.

AC: To end the cycle of conflict, first neutralize one’s reaction?

SUP: There are two kinds of enemies or danger: the danger of akusala and the danger in the form of a person. Akusala are the unwholesome deeds which occur when lobha (desire, selfishness), dosa (anger, cruelty, hatred) and moha (delusion, stupidity) are extreme. These are called the internal enemy. They are also called the nearest danger. Danger in the form of a person is an enemy, a person who is hostile to us. The Buddha practiced to gradually weaken the internal enemies until they disappeared.

If one cares for oneself and can reason, “When the danger of akusala, unwholesome deeds based on lobha, dosa, and moha occurs, there’s no end to human problems – there’s no relief, neither for myself nor for others. Therefore, one should control oneself.” If one restrains oneself and comes to understand the benefit of doing so, when one’s forbearance becomes strong, problems are naturally resolved. Since it’s important to resolve social problems, the main quality needed to do this is forbearance. And in order to have forbearance, one must have mettā as well as compassion.

AC: What is the basis, the spiritual or moral motivation, to restrain akusala?

SUP: One should be as disgusted by akusala as if it were excrement. And one should shrink from doing akusala just as one would shrink from picking up a red-hot coal. With a healthy disgust and fear, understanding that akusala gives us trouble, one can refrain from wrong-doing.

Further, there should be consideration for others. One should spare others because one understands how they would feel if harmed. That is important. Hirī and ottappa [moral shame and moral fear] and consideration for others are the qualities which motivate one to refrain from akusala –unwholesome deeds.

If lobha (greed) and dosa (anger) arise in us, one will easily break one’s sīla. One should be disgusted by breaking sīla, just as one would be disgusted by excrement. One should be disgusted by the lack of shame and the lack of fear, just as if these were feces. Being without shame and fear, one becomes brash. One should fear being without moral shame and moral fear as one would fear touching a red-hot coal. When one possesses moral shame and moral fear, who would pick up excrement? Who would pick up a red-hot coal? It would burn one. These are the first mental attitudes to arise.

To explain this in material terms, if one wears white clothing in the hot sun, it won’t absorb heat. It will reflect the rays of the sun. If one wears black clothing, it will be hot. Lack of moral shame and fear is like wearing black in the sun. These qualities absorb base actions, speech, and mental attitudes. Hirī and ottappa, like the color white, repel unwholesomeness. People need to know this.

They are also called the Deva Dhammas. Deva dhamma means dhammas which make virtues brilliant. When one lacks these, one’s human virtues fade. The quality of behaving like a human being, being able to keep one’s mentality humane, having human intelligence, being able to develop special human knowledge – without hirī and ottappa, all these human virtues fade. When one has these qualities, one’s virtues become bright. They are the dhammas that make human virtues shine.

They are also called the loka pāla dhammas. Loka pāla means the ‘Guardians of the World.’ They preserve the world, keep it from being destroyed. What’s important here is one’s own individual world as well as the world around one. These qualities preserve one’s own individual world so that it is not destroyed. To the extent they are strong, one’s own world is secure, and equally, one no longer harms the world around one. The world around one is peaceful.

AC: This forbearance, this loving-kindness and compassion you are speaking of directed towards those who have violated your people – imprisoning many of them, torturing them, and denying their most basic human rights – in your worldview, how do these dhamma attributes intersect with accountability and justice?

For instance, we know that if there isn’t some form of accountability and justice, some preventive measure to cure the delusions of the old guard, the very horrors of that old order could easily reoccur, and do so, again and again. And generation to generation, we’d have the same problems. So don’t the dhamma virtues of forbearance, loving kindness, and compassion need to be coupled with the ethical components of ‘accountability and justice’ for reconciliation to become real?

SUP: If there is selfishness how can there be those qualities of mind? If there is no selfish desire for oneself or for one’s own group, then there will be the attitude of wanting good things for the people of this country.

Wanting to have the best only for oneself or for one’s group is lobha, or greed – extreme greed. If extreme greed is forceful, then mettākaruṇā will dry up. Only if there is mettā and karuṇā will one be happy to see another’s welfare. One will want others to be well, just like oneself. One should also develop muditā, or joy at seeing another’s good situation. If there is no mettā and karuṇā, there will be no muditā. There will only be envy and miserliness.

AC: Allow me to ask the question another way: here in Myanmar, the newly elected leaders along with the vast majority of citizens, have stated their desire for “National Reconciliation” – societal harmony based on a policy of non-hostility and non-retribution. You have advised how the oppressed can do their part to both heal themselves and society. What role can the oppressors play in healing the nation – moving forward towards a safer, more peaceful and prosperous future, with respect for rule of law, democratic principles, and universal human rights?

SUP: The answer is that those who have done wrong should correct it by dhamma means, just like when a monk commits a monastic offense. They should make an honest admission: ‘This act and that act were wrong. I ask your forgiveness.’ No matter how great the fault, with this, about half [the people] will be satisfied. They will have mettā (loving-kindness) [for those who confess their wrong].

A hero, a person who is courageous, has the courage to admit one’s mistakes, one’s faults. Such a person also has the courage to do things that are beneficial for society. The most effective way to create peace among the people is for the oppressors to courageously admit their faults and reconcile with the oppressed. That is the best.

AC: Is there any further advice you might offer the oppressors to begin this essential process of national reconciliation and peace-building?

SUP: One should understand: wrongs done because of selfish greed and devoid of mettā and karuṇā, bring only bad results. On the other hand, tasks done without selfishness, and with mettā and karuṇā present, bring only good results. One should understand the nature of good and bad results. Due to extreme lobha and dosa, neither knowing the bad results of lacking mettā and karuṇā nor the good results with mettā and karuṇā at the forefront, there is blind stupidity. There is darkness. And with darkness, one can’t see. As long as this understanding is absent, one lacks moral shame and moral fear.

AC: And the cycle of oppression continues?

SUP: Without hirī and ottappa, there is akusala (unwholesome actions). With hirī and ottappa (moral shame and moral fear)there is pure clean kusala (wholesome actions). That is important.

What should one do to prevent problems from occurring in the world? There should be both control and preservation, so that one’s personal world is not destroyed and the world outside one is protected from harm. And if the number of people were to become great who kept their own individual world from being destroyed (by restraining unwholesome thoughts, speech and actions), the world would become peaceful.

Another way to foster self-restraint is to have consideration for others. When there are thoughts, speech and actions strong enough to cause suffering, reflect: just as I do not wish to suffer, neither do others wish to suffer. As such, one avoids doing harm. Being able to put oneself in another’s place is very important.

AC: What is the word for this?

SUP: Empathy: reflecting on yourself and knowing that just as you like happiness, so too others like happiness. This is important for human beings. Having moral shame and moral fear, if one avoids doing wrong due to not wanting to defile oneself, not only are one’s actions and speech clean, others are not harmed. Alternatively, out of consideration, one protects others so as not to harm them or make them suffer mentally or physically. By protecting others, one keeps oneself from doing wrong. This two-fold protection is essential.

AC: Your country has been ruled for decades by corrupt leaders, and those leaders had support, “cronies”, as you call them here in Myanmar, friends, family members, colleagues, business acquaintances, subordinates – who were corrupted, and in turn, corrupted others. And through this collusion, the country functioned as a cycle of corruption. The entire apparatus of dictatorship, as I understand it, was a lucrative business based upon a culture of corruption. What advice can you offer to transform Myanmar’s corruption?

SUP: Beginning with the Second World War, peoples’ moral character has been broken – for many, irretrievably. Forced to live under a succession of military governments, people have little faith in the Triple Gem – the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. Many no longer keep the five precepts. Accordingly, what they experience is the result of their own actions.

The Buddha spoke of our duties to each other in terms of six pairs of relationships in human society: the relationship between parents and children, between teachers and students, between friends, between husband and wife, between bosses and workers, and between monks and lay devotees.

Parents have the duty to prevent their children from doing what is wrong, show them what is right, provide an education, give them an inheritance, and see that they marry properly. Just like breast-feeding a baby, parents must explain to children in a language easily understood, what actions are bad and bring bad results, and what actions are good and bring good results. With compassion, explain to them what isn’t good, to avoid those, and to do what is good. That is the first priority. After that, they need to enroll their children in school, provide a good education.

For the most part, because parents’ duties to their children have been neglected, children don’t turn out as they should. Their moral character suffers because parents failed in their duties.

AC: Is there a cure for the older generation?

SUP: People who do not have a foundation in Buddhist culture are blind in a way. For them, the best way is to practice the dhamma. This is my experience. There were some officers who came to practice after they were fired [during the U Ne Win period]. When they came to see the nature of the dhamma due to their practice, they came to know that dhamma is the most important thing. They gained firm ground on which to stand. It wasn’t possible to teach them starting from the basics. Therefore, the best thing for them was to come and practice. For those people, that is the best method for becoming a good person.

AC: Perhaps you’re offering insight into accountability and justice? Or, are you suggesting that the former generals should come to the Centre to meditate?

SUP: They came like that, people who were released from prison [under U Ne Win]. In the early days, they practiced – Colonel Kyi Maung and U Tin Oo (who went on to become co-founders of the National League for Democracy with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) and others too.

AC: The meditation cure?

SUP: Firstly, one must gain victory over oneself. One has to gain victory over bad things one is in the habit of doing. More important than victory over external enemies is to first gain internal victory. The Buddha taught how to overcome the internal enemy.

Starting from the age a child can speak, just as one nurses an infant and feeds him or her baby food, parents who know their duties should teach their children well. That is the most basic plan. The children taught according to this plan become cultured and obedient. If they marry a person with the same upbringing, the child they bear will have a good early start. After the child is born, the parents teach the child good habits. Later, before marriage, when the child practices meditation, he or she gains practical experience. Overall, one needs to have a plan to provide children with the initial seed of Buddhism, to develop good habits and gain practical experience of the dhamma.

Because people try to conquer others instead of gaining victory over themselves, there are problems. The Buddha taught that one should simply gain victory over oneself. He taught the method for gaining complete self-victory. If one conquers oneself, the good devas (celestial beings) won’t sit still. They will protect one. If one doesn’t master oneself but gives up and commits immoral deeds, the devas will never come and help.

If one has been born a human being, there are rules. Like driving a car, one should understand the rules of the road. In America, they drive on the right. One should drive the proper speed and be careful. If the light is green, go forward. If it’s red, stop. Life can be likened to driving a car. If one follows the rules then one doesn’t suffer due to mistakes, and one doesn’t hurt others either. But one can still suffer when others are in the wrong. So one must be careful about this too.

Human beings have rules and duties. If one follows the rules and fulfills one’s responsibilities, then one is not at fault. The five precepts (1. not killing. 2. not stealing. 3. refraining from sexual misconduct. 4. refraining from telling lies 5. refraining from the use of intoxicating substances.) are the basic rules of a human being. And to help others when it is beneficial and suitable is a human duty. The five precepts are not only to be kept by Buddhists. All human beings, if they want to be truly human, should keep them. Not knowing this is to be blind and stupid. One’s beliefs go the wrong way, and one commits acts of violence.

AC: Speaking of devas, with the human world fraught with extreme struggles, from famines, to world wars, and far too many genocides, dangers everywhere, inside and outside, why not dedicate one’s everyday dhamma practice to becoming a deva and carrying on in a higher plane of existence, where, I assume, it’s far easier to attain higher stages of awakening?

SUP: Much more important than wishing to become a deva is to practice the dhamma to completion while in the human world. If one goes to a deva world without having developed the dhamma to completion, when one gets there one forgets about kusala (wholesome deeds).

Better than the deva realms or the human realms, is to just have one lifetime. When the Buddha-to-be was born in the deva realms with a very long life span, he wasn’t able to fulfill pāramī (the work of someone who is an excellent person). He performed adhimutti-kāla-kiriyā, or a sort of deva-suicide. Before the end of his life-span, he let go of that existence, because in it he had no opportunity to fulfill the pāramīs.

The human world is the best for fulfilling pāramī (the ten perfections: 1. Dāna pāramī: generosity; 2. Sīla pāramī: virtue, morality; 3. Nikkhama pāramī: renunciation; 4. Paññā pāramī: liberating wisdom, insight; 5. Viriya pāramī: energy, effort; 6. Khanti pāramī: patience, forbearance; 7. Sacca pāramī: truthfulness, honesty; 8. Adhiṭṭhāna pāramī: determination, resolution; 9. Mettā pāramī: loving-kindness; 10. Upekkhā pāramī: equanimity).

The human world is a place where if you can live free of fault, you go up. If you are a stupid fool, you go down. That is the human world.

AC: May I ask what evidence do you have of rebirth?

SUP: I am a disciple of the Buddha, therefore I follow the path of the Buddha. According to the Paticca Sammuppāda [the teaching of Dependent Origination], cause and effect continue.

AC: What is the motivation to become a Buddha?

SUP: Look at the Bodhisattva’s motivation to become the Buddha Gotama. When he met Buddha Dipankara, he had the potential to cut off any further lifetimes. But he also wanted to help beings who were not yet free of the dangers of old age, sickness and death. Without help, they would suffer. With that vision and compassion, he relinquished the opportunity he had at hand to realize the fruition knowledge of an arahant (a fully enlightened being). As such, he had to endure suffering. One must say that the basis for this was reasoning power and compassion.

His reasoning power showed the Bodhisattva the way to start fulfilling the pāramīs in order to become a Buddha. He reflected that if one doesn’t know the true dhamma oneself, it won’t be possible to teach it to others. In order to master the true dhamma one needs to fulfill the paramīs beginning with dāna (generosity). After fulfilling the paramīs, the Buddha practiced satipaṭṭhāna (the four foundations of mindfulness) and put an end to the kilesas (unwholesome states of mind). When the kilesas were dried up, delusion (moha) or ignorance (avijjā) was included. Because avijjā was eliminated, when the Buddha reflected he could know whatever was to be known. For the Buddha to assist others, he knew that it was essential to first be complete with self-knowledge. If one wants to give food and clothing to those who are poor, it is only possible when one has something to give. One has to work to gain that something.

Further, only if one has compassion will one want to help. There are four kinds of people: The person who knows for him or herself but is unable to give that knowledge to others. The one who doesn’t know for himself but tries to teach others. The one who first practices himself and teaches that to others. The one who neither practices nor gives the practice to others. The Buddha was the type of person who first practiced and then gave the method of practice to others. He was that type of person, who worked first to know for himself.

AC: Do you have hope for real change here in Burma?

SUP: Resistance power is important for everyone. People work to develop physical resistance to withstand heat, cold, and fatigue. For the most part, people give priority to developing physical resistance. There’s little concern for developing mental resistance. Of course, mental powers are also important. Nothing can be substituted for them. They can’t be achieved by listening or reflecting alone. One has to work to develop them, to put focused energy into one’s mind. When one has developed mental resistance power, one can withstand the ups and downs one encounters. When one encounters suffering, one can stand it. When one encounters happiness, one can stand it. Every time one experiences something good or bad, one doesn’t get elated nor depressed. There is spiritual resistance, the strength to control one’s mind. This is needed by everyone. It is weak in the world today. With the correct method it can be developed.

There are spiritual faculties which bring self-control, self-mastery. These need to be developed in order to have spiritual resistance. They are called indriya or bala in Pali. For developing these faculties, the path of satipaṭṭhāna (practicing the four foundations of mindfulness) is best. One can’t do this by meditating for just a short time. If one meditates meticulously, with real desire, one can gain these spiritual faculties. These faculties can be called spiritual multi-vitamins – similar to the multi-vitamins we take for physical health. When one develops the mind with satipaṭṭhāna meditation, this is like taking spiritual multi-vitamins. If half the world would possess these spiritual faculties in themselves the world would become peaceful.

AC: May it be so. Thank you, Sir.

The Dhamma Protects those who Protect the Dhamma.”

ALAN CLEMENTS: Let’s talk about extremism and religion in Myanmar. A short introduction to the question: Burma has been in the world’s eye for some years, and especially now with the transfer of power to the new “National Reconciliation” government, as the National League for Democracy (NLD) calls it. The world is watching. They are celebrating, cautiously, as are the people of Burma. But, from all indications, it looks as though there is a miracle going, albeit a hard-earned one and only the first stage of a long and perhaps arduous process of reform.

So that the world will not think little of the Buddha Sāsanā in Myanmar, as an Elder in the Sangha (monastic order), what advice might you give to your fellow Buddhist monks, if they were in the room with us right now?

VENERABLE SAYADAW U PANDITA: What was your objective when you became a monk? The life of a monk is for liberation from the suffering of samsara (the beginning-less cycle of repeated birth, existence and dying again that all beings pass through). Just that. This objective should not be lost. If this objective isn’t lost, you can do your work and carry out your duties. Is that objective being lost?

Self-protection is very important. A monk must make his ability to defend himself sturdy. He must practice to build his defense in advance.

There are two kinds protection: internal protection by means of internal suppression and external protection by means of external suppression.

The first kind of protection – inner protection – is to defend oneself against lobha (desire, selfishness), dosa (anger, cruelty, hatred) and moha (delusion, stupidity). These arise within one’s being. If one gives in to these, under their influence one no longer behaves like a true human being. One cannot keep one’s mentality humane. And although human, one loses one’s basic human intelligence. This happens because one lacks the internal protection needed to overcome lobha, dosa and moha that arise from within. One should give priority to this internal protection.

One must make one’s internal protection strong and sharp. One does this with the (dhamma) trainings of sīla (moral integrity), samādhi (concentration) and paññā (liberating wisdom). When one’s internal protection becomes strong due to repeated (dhamma) practice, one will cherish their morality. The more one values their sīla, the more one will not allow it to weaken. One’s ability to preserve it and make it strong, will increase and become even stronger.

If the number of people who practice sīla, samādhi and paññā becomes large, the dhamma which they protect will protect them in return. In this way, there will be freedom from disturbances. When the practice of dhamma is not maintained, how can the dhamma protect one?

In order to increase the number of people who practice sīla, samādhi and paññā, one must spread knowledge of the correct practice. During the time of the Buddha, people who professed the doctrine of self were the majority. The Buddha became enlightened in that environment. The Buddha understood for himself the doctrine of non-self, that there is no self, and taught the practical method for coming to understand this.

The more people there were like this, although there were disturbances, they didn’t amount to much. And the devas gave their protection. They protect those who are doing good work.

Even our Buddha arose during a period when only one quarter of the people are good. This period is called kali yūga. It is a time when peoples’ behavior is for the most part quite immoral. Now, it has been more than 2,500 years since the passing away of the Buddha and the teachings of the Buddha has become very weak.

AC: You are aware that terrorism is an increasing problem all over the world. In my country of America, pretty much any western country for that matter, there’s a deep and increasing fear of terrorism, whatever its ideological basis may be. My question: What advice might you offer to defeat radical extremism, that, I might add, in most cases considers success not only in the death of those whom they attack but in their own death, as well?

SUP: The best way is avoidance. Don’t go to a place where there is fire. But if you can’t avoid it, be prepared. Reasoning power is important. Reasoning power means there is sātthaka sampajañña and sappāya sampajañña [two of the four kinds of clear comprehension]. The ability to weigh whether something one is about to do or say is beneficial or not is called sātthakasampajañña

. One shouldn’t do what is unbeneficial. Further, one should look to see if it is suitable or not. This is called sappāyasampajañña
. If something is both beneficial and suitable one should do it. Only then will one succeed. When one has reflected [before acting or speaking] many times, this knowledge becomes mature. Then it is easy in practice to avoid doing what is unbeneficial and unsuitable. This mature knowledge is called pariharikapaññā [the wisdom to carry out what is both beneficial and suitable]. One becomes courageous about doing what is beneficial and suitable. When one avoids doing what is unbeneficial and unsuitable, then there is no detriment to oneself. And in doing what is beneficial and suitable, good results come.

For example, people need to consider before eating something, is this good for me or not? Is this suitable for me or not? If it is suitable, when the time is right one should eat it. This is pariharika paññā: avoiding what is unbeneficial or unsuitable, and carrying out what is both beneficial and suitable. This is very important for everyone. It is lacking in the world today.

AC: Where does pariharika paññā fit within satipaṭṭhāna – the practice of the four foundations of mindfulness?

Translator: Pariharika paññā is the combination of two of the four kinds of clear comprehension, clear comprehension of benefit and clear comprehension of suitability [Sātthaka sampajañña and sappaāyasampajañña]. Sampajañña is a noun – clear comprehension – while sampajāno is an adjective to describe someone who is clearly comprehending. Both these terms are found in the Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

AC: Back to the issue of terrorism. I was speaking with the American Ambassador not long ago about his views on the possible spread of violent extremism from abroad into Myanmar, and how disastrous that would be, if it occurred. According to an alarming piece I read in a recent edition of the New Yorker Magazine, such ISIS-inspired activities are going on in neighboring Dhaka. What’s required to raise the quality of governance in Burma to counter such a potential threat?

SUP: There are two programs for the country – a short-term program and a long-term program. The short-term program is to gather together as many elders and young adults as possible who know and have faith in the basic virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha, and are of good moral character. The long-term program is to train the children in basic Buddhist culture so that they will have good moral character as well as a good education. That is the long-term program for the country to become good again.

The long-term program is something like the example set by King Ashoka who ruled India in the 3rd century BC. At first he was violent and cruel. He ruled by the sword. He was hated by the people because he oppressed them. After meeting Buddhist monks who corrected him, he put down the sword and his cruelty and ruled by the dhamma.

He studied the Buddhist texts. He understood the precepts of a king, how to have mettā (loving-kindness) for the people and to handle things with foresight. Having studied the texts, he understood how to govern the people and how to support the teachings. Acting according to his understanding, during his reign the country became peaceful and the teachings flourished. He used the term dhamma vijaya, or “one who has gained personal victory with the Dhamma and the discipline.”

He drew the conclusion that when the number of people who gain victory over themselves with the dhamma becomes large, it is easy to govern. That is the Asoka program. Later, so there would continue to be generations of good people, he built monasteries for learning the Buddhist scriptures and for practicing meditation. That is creating new generations.

Dhamma vijaya’ is the way to conquer oneself. If you conquer yourself, will you break your sīla? Or harm others?

The children who have been learning basic Buddhist culture at the centre are taught both theoretically and practically about the teachings of the Buddha. They also try to gain practical experience by meditating. The young people who have finished this program have formed a group called the Dhamma Vijaya youth group. These young people are using the method of King Asoka, even though they don’t have his abilities yet. In the future they will be capable of good governance. This is the plan established for the long-term.

AC: Playing the devil’s advocate, it’s no longer just protecting ourselves from our inner enemies. In the world today there are real and lethal external dangers. So my question: do you see something required here to protect both the people and thesāsana, other than just mindfulness of one’s own mind and one’s protection against one’s inner enemies?

SUP: There should be protection prepared in advance. It must be established. Combining theory and practice, one has to work to develop a large population with a firm commitment to the dhamma. Further, unity and harmony are very important.

One has to work to make oneself and one’s group good. When one’s group or community is good there will not be injustice towards others. When that attitude becomes mature, as it is said, Dhammo have rakkhati dhammacārī – the dhamma protects one who protects the dhamma, so as not to encounter danger nor to fall down.

And if, due to conditions, extremists were to come and endanger the people of the country and the teachings, the government would need to use worldly means to take measures to defend and protect the people.

In our monks’ literature there are two kinds of national government – rule by law and rule by order. Rule by law means government according to the laws established for the many. Rule by order means that when the laws have been broken, the law-breakers should be suppressed in an appropriate way.

Further, in the vinaya (code of monastic discipline), as well as in law, a person has the right to self-defense. According to the vinaya, if a monk is facing someone he knows to be an enemy, he has the right to defend himself. He can warn the attacker, “Don’t come any closer! Don’t come any closer!” And if the person continues to approach, the monk can do whatever is needed to remain free of the attacker. Not with the intention to harm the attacker but simply trying to free himself. He can even strike the attacker to stop him, and if the attacker dies, he dies. The right to self-defense is the teaching of the Buddha. But a monk must not set up an armed guard for protection.

The teaching of the Buddha encourages self-protection by making SQ [spiritual intelligence or one’s capacity for moral integrity,
concentration, and wisdom] strong. If one can control oneself and gain self-victory, one will not feel troubled by others.

Which is more important, protection against external enemies or protection against internal enemies? Is it more important to conquer the external enemy, or the internal enemy?

AC: Well, it would depend on the circumstances. But I would say, the internal enemy. Even so, are you concerned that people of other religions will overwhelm Burma?

SUP: It can happen. People of other religions overwhelmed India, the place where Buddhism arose. Looking at the present situation here in Myanmar, people of other religions are sure to overrun the country. Across the nation, everyone should be alert to this.

AC: In America, a pluralistic nation, there are many religions and spiritual faiths, as in Europe, Canada, Australia, and other democratic countries around the world. And the same here in Burma – all the major religions and faiths co-exist, albeit with stress and occasional bursts of violence. But what you’re saying is that you think Burma will go the way of ancient India and lose its Buddhist culture?

SUP: If there is protection from the government, if parents fulfill their duties, if teachers fulfill their duties and especially if we monks fulfill our duties, and if those who carry out their duties become strong, then people of other religions would not be able to overwhelm this country.

A plan needs to be established and carried out. If not, then within 50 years, at the very most 100 or 150 years, the teachings of the Buddha will leave the country of Myanmar.

AC: Some people have criticized Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for not defending Buddhism sufficiently enough here in Burma. When I have been asked about this in the media, I have, at times, pointed out that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi actively defends Buddhism, first, by being a nonviolent, sila-endowed practicing Buddhist who spent nearly 17 years under detention for her beliefs, both spiritual and political. But more to the point, when you look at the persecution of people here in Burma, the majority have been Buddhists. Of the thousands of people said to have been killed during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the vast majority were Buddhists. Of the additional 10,000 or more political prisoners that suffered in Burma’s prisons, all but a few are Buddhists. Those tens-of-thousands forced into labor and portering for the military were mostly Buddhist. At the time of the Saffron Revolution here back in 2007, the military regime primarily focused on attacking Buddhist monks and monasteries, and subsequently imprisoning and torturing many members of the Sangha. Overall, the Buddhists in Burma were the ones under siege by the former regime, by fellow Buddhists, at least, that’s what they claim to be. And of course, the Karen and Kachin Christians have also been under attack for many years.

SUP: Although they are nominally Buddhists, their understanding of the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha is vague, weak, deformed, without substance and totally uninformed. People who know nothingdon’t understand how to keep morality and the benefits of doing so. They don’t understand the drawbacks incurred by immoral behavior. Thus they are not afraid to be immoral, commit misdeeds and be cruel. The good they do – making donations – has nothing to do with moral behavior.

AC: Few people know that you are Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s dhamma teacher. She looks to you for dhamma advice and guidance. If I am not mistaken, she learned meditation under house arrest from your book, In This Very Life. You receive her regularly. Her office often posts photographs on Facebook of your meetings; she’s been here to Panditarama too many times to count. She’s practiced meditation here. As such, you’ve paid a price for the association; from interrogation by MI (military intelligence); having the monastery’s internet and electricity cut at times; being denied building permits and land use permits for branch monasteries; and many other ways as well. Throughout it, you have remained unscathed and steadfast – loyal in your association. You even have a large photograph of Daw Suu on the wall here in your meeting room. With that said, would you care to comment about the criticisms leveled at her?

SUP: I can’t be everywhere, going after all those people. “What you do is the work at hand, where you get to [at night] is where you make camp.” When planting rice or beans, farmers choose a place with fertile soil. Only then will their work be worthwhile. If one ignores the workable land one has and goes and plants on untilled, virgin land, what good will it do? One should do what works.

I ask you. To whom would you give priority, if both were to approach you at the same time: a person with good potential or a person with little potential?

AC: The first person.

SUP: Right. Choosing is important. The Buddha said to practice like a fire. Fire consumes everything burnable. It doesn’t consider what is worthless, what has some value and what is most valuable. Without mercy, fire burns everything burnable.

The mental defilements of selfishness, hatred, cruelty and stupidity which mercilessly trouble people, are internal enemies. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi behaves like a fire towards internal enemies. Without leniency, she follows the Buddha’s method and mercilessly burns them up. She shows no mercy to the defilements.

It is no good to try to become a hero by means that don’t pacify enmity but only make enemies grow. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has become a heroine by pacifying quarrels according to the way of the Buddha. She didn’t try to become a heroine, but she has become one naturally.

There is a Burmese saying, follow the example of Asoka. We spoke about him earlier. King Asoka ruled in India more than 2,000 years ago. Wielding the power of the sword, he ruled with cruelty so that people had no room to move. They had no freedom. And the people hated him. He was known as “Cruel Asoka.” Later, when he put down the sword and ruled according to the dhamma, he became successful. Government can only work after one has gained victory over oneself by means of the dhamma. King Asoka was the first to use the term, ‘dhamma vijaya,’ or ‘victory by means of the dhamma.’

In particular, the people at all levels of government, if their administration is to be effective, should conquer themselves by means of the dhamma, not just superficially but with right practice. Asoka also worked to enable the people to gain dhamma victory for themselves. He became very successful. H. G. Wells said much in praise of Asoka, saying there had never been anyone like him before. (“… the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star.” The Outline of History, 1920).

When he ruled by the sword, he was known as ‘Cruel Asoka,’ but after he put down the sword and began to rule by the dhamma, he became very successful and was known as ‘Righteous Asoka [Dhammasoka].’ Those who govern should always look back at history.

If you can’t overcome the internal enemies, they not only give you trouble but give others trouble too. And in future lives they also give trouble. An ordinary, external enemy can’t debase you. If he or she kills you, it’s only in one lifetime. The internal enemies kill a being lifetime after lifetime. They also degrade one. They are quite frightening.

AC: Thank you Sir.

The Dhamma of Reconciliation and the SQ Revolution

ALAN CLEMENTS: I would like to follow up with the issue of “National Reconciliation” – the centerpiece of (Myanmar State Counsellor) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her new government’s vision of a peaceful and prosperous Burma. Obviously, this is an epic challenge. Would you share your thoughts on overcoming those forces within oneself – those defilements – that prevent genuine reconciliation with those who have harmed us? Your guidance would not only be a gift to the people of your country but the world over. As we know, conflicts are everywhere, and if we expect to overcome them, we need urgent wise leadership. We need both a moral compass and the ethical courage, and the “spiritual intelligence,” to make real on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s hope of a healed nation. What happens here may serve as a model for peace everywhere.

What is the dhamma of reconciliation?

VENERABLE SAYADAW U PANDITA: As far as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s side goes, they are ready. The previous government abused our country and abused the people. They are at fault, and if they admit those acts, everything will work out. As I said before, just as monks do when they commit a monastic offense, if they admit honestly and bravely, ‘We simply acted according to how we saw things, but, as everyone knows, this is what came about; we take full responsibility, these acts are our fault,’ then everything will work out.

Human beings should have the courage to avoid doing what is wrong and the courage to do and to say what is beneficial. If one does something wrong, whether deliberately or out of carelessness, one needs to have the courage to admit one’s mistake.

The Pali word vīriya means the courage to avoid doing things that are wrong, the courage to do what is right, and if one errs, the courage to admit it. That is called vīriya. When taking such a moral risk, one must bear the suffering encountered. Such courage must be nurtured. It does not come quickly. You must develop it gradually.

When the courage to refrain from doing wrong becomes strong, one will understand that they are free of fault. One will also have the courage to do things that are good. When one does good things, good results will come. When one knows what is free of fault and beneficial, one will value the ability to take risks. When the attitude of valuing courage arises in the mind, one won’t allow one’s courage to decline.

Firstly, there must be honesty. The difficulty is that few people are honest. Because of dishonesty, there’s much deceit.

You were formerly a monk. When you commit an offense, what must you do?

AC: Admit it openly in front of the Sangha.

SUP: Right, you have to admit it. First of all, you have to avoid committing an offense, but if you know you have committed one, you must confess it.

In the realm of dhamma, whether one is a monk, nun, or a lay person, there are rules and responsibilities. Lay people have their rules and responsibilities, monks have their rules and duties, and nuns have theirs. When one knows these rules and duties and acts accordingly, it’s like keeping to your lane when travelling. One automatically goes in the right direction.

It won’t do to learn these duties and responsibilities only when one becomes an adult. They need to be learned from a young age. Just as one must try to make one’s IQ good, at the same time one must also try to make one’s SQ (spiritual intelligence) good. It won’t do to make SQ good only after one’s IQ has become good. It’s just like feeding a child appropriately. You must first nurse the baby and then all along the way, gradually, feed the child appropriately, taking into account the child’s age, size, growth, and of course, both the quantity and quality of the food. Good health has many considerations. But you must feed the child appropriately starting from a young age.

Parents have the first duty to teach the child, and after them, teachers have their duty to teach them. In the world there are many parents and many teachers who do not fulfill their duties. This is, in large part, why the world is in such conflict and being destroyed. Have you thought about it?

AC: I have, especially as a parent.

SUP: For the world to be peaceful, parents are crucial, because they are a child’s first teachers. Even in Myanmar, where Buddhism flourishes, because there are so many people who are ill-equipped to be parents, the dhamma has declined. Since the days of Mahasi Yeiktha, because I knew that many parents were not fulfilling their responsibilities, I’ve tried to teach children about Buddhist culture both in theory and practice, so that a new generation could emerge. This was a priority and remains so.

AC: Can you say more about nurturing courage?

SUP: Parents have to explain this to their children so that they develop the courage to avoid doing what is wrong. An analogy is that parents should explain the bad results of eating what is unsuitable for them. To avoid eating food which is not suitable requires courage. When one courageously avoids unsuitable food, one doesn’t suffer.

Similarly, parents should explain the benefits of eating suitable and appropriate food. Eating suitable food also requires courage. If one has courage, one gains benefits such as good digestion, physical energy, healthiness, and so on.

Parents should explain the value of having courage to avoid doing wrong and to do what is right by using comparisons like this that children can understand. This will only come about through establishing a specific plan. It can’t be done without one.

In America, a country where science and technology flourish, education or IQ has been given great emphasis, whereas moral behavior and emotional intelligence or EQ have been ignored. Proceeding in this way, children gain a worldly education but there are many teenagers who have become immoral. Searching for the cause, one can draw the conclusion that it is because moral behavior is being ignored.

In a research study it was found that a person’s success was due to IQ in only 25% of the people studied, while EQ was crucial to success in 75% of those studied. Afterwards, EQ became the first priority and IQ the second.

Because our country is doing the same as America – emphasizing IQ over moral behavior – teenagers are becoming immoral. Therefore, in our (dhamma) courses for children I emphasize SQ (spiritual intelligence) in order to strengthen it in them. I use the term SQ in place of IQ and EQ. SQ (spiritual intelligence) stands for sīla (ethical intelligence) and sikkhā for training (the three-fold training in higher virtue (adhisīla-sikkhā), higher mind (adhicitta-sikkhā), and higher wisdom (adhipaññā-sikkhā). And the highest is satipaṭṭhāna (cultivating the four foundations of mindfulness). All three words begin with ‘S.’

When Daniel Goleman, who popularized the term EQ (emotional intelligence), came to speak with me, I told him I prefer to use the term ‘SQ’ (spiritual intelligence). He agreed and concluded that people with good SQ are able to skillfully assess themselves. They know what sort of person they are. That’s the first quality. They are able to control their impulses.

In America, there is a lot of tension, stress, and depression. People with good SQ are able to control these feelings. They are able to maintain their discipline. In SQ, this refers to the five precepts. Further, they have compassion for others. They also feel gladdened by others’ good characteristics. They aren’t jealous or envious. With respect to something to be done, they have the intelligence to evaluate whether it is beneficial or not and whether it is suitable or not.

We should give priority to SQ and de-emphasize IQ. This is in keeping with the teaching of the Buddha, to teach children right from wrong, then provide a dhamma education.

It’s been more than 50 years that I have been teaching this program to the children, since my days at Mahasi Yeiktha. This program is the basic Buddhist culture course for children. It’s a training in SQ. In essence, the children are taught, “Those things are bad and they bring bad results.” Knowing that something is wrong, one shouldn’t fail in one’s duty to avoid it. “Those things are good.” Knowing what is good, one shouldn’t fail in one’s duty to undertake them. Not neglecting to avoid what should be avoided and to do what should be done. That is called appamāda, or heedfulness.

AC: Then the question arises, how to get parents to wake up and bring their children to Panditarama, and or to understand the value of SQ?

SUP: Parents have woken up – they know and they accept that their own children know more than they do about the teachings of the Buddha. They are alert to this. Over the last 50 years (in Myanmar), most parents failed in their duties to their children. Teachers, for the most part, failed in their duties to their students. They have come to realize their failure. But it’s just a small oasis in a vast, burning desert. And in comparison with the whole world, it’s a tiny spot.

AC: To actualize reconciliation and abide in clear conscience, you speak of the necessity of having the courage to honestly admit one’s mistakes. But as a former monk, before ordination, I was aware of the rules expected of me and agreed to follow them. And if I failed to keep any one of them, I also agreed – out of self-honor and respect for the Sangha, as well as the lay people who supported us – to openly admit my failings.

In Myanmar and her quest for National Reconciliation, we have people – the oppressors, the old guard – who have made no such commitment to a moral code of conduct or rule of law. To the contrary, the majority of them, perhaps all of them, so it seems, think they’ve done the right thing for the country. So the idea of admitting a mistake when they in fact think their actions were not only justified but were for the betterment of the people, blind as that may be, is essentially asking one to admit to something they do not see in themselves. Or do they, and they are pretending? Of course, only they know.

Regardless, if courage is required to admit one’s wrongdoing, how to get someone, who doesn’t see that what they did was wrong, to actually admit that what they did violated others? In other words, how to overcome self-deception?

SUP: Just look back on your own life and the things you do every day, whether doing something for yourself or for others. It’s never perfect. There are times when something is missing, when something is lacking or especially when something is wrong. The Buddha talked about these three things: the gaps, the things that are needed, and the things that are off, incorrect. He also talked about how to fill in the gaps, how to complete the parts that are incomplete, and how to make things correct. It’s very important to be able to look back and see that. When you look at your own life and then you see, “Oh! This is missing,” that’s admitting your error. You ask, ‘Is there something lacking here, in this task?’ When you recognize that something is lacking, that’s admitting your fault. I did these things incorrectly, they’re not right – I missed the mark. One has to understand that. If there is an error, one has to look for the reason and correct it.

A person’s life is like driving a car. When driving one must stay in one’s lane, right? If one starts to swerve out of one’s lane, one has to correct this and straighten out. To be able to steer is essential. This ability to steer is called yoniso manasikāra (wise consideration).

The same can be said with a boat, you always have to control the rudder. And in order to steer well, you must learn it. But for the most part, people cannot control their own lives. They’re without the ability to steer. Although they have a rudder, they can’t steer. Do you think that’s true?

AC: Sure, there’s chaos everywhere. It’s rather maddening, frankly. But this madness has become normalized, in many ways. And often, those who point out this madness – those who can’t steer, as you know from having lived under totalitarian regimes for over fifty years, are often considered mad and scapegoated, vilified, even imprisoned. As was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and many of her NLD colleagues, and for decades. What was lacking in their oppressors, besides being unable to properly steer their lives?

SUP: When they were young, their parents didn’t teach them properly.

AC: Bad parenting?

SUP: That’s right. Because the parents were lacking, because they did not fulfill their responsibilities. Look at the Singālovāda Sutta, in the Pātika Vagga of the Dīgha Nikāya. This explains six sets of human relationships in society and shows what responsibilities or duties people have to each other, how they should relate to each other.

AC: You mentioned, ‘when one takes risks, one must be able to bear the suffering encountered.’ Would you shed light on how to ignite one’s conscience to say something as radical as, ‘I ordered the killing of your brother, I ordered the torture of your daughter, I steered our country down a road of ruin and created a totalitarian terror state. And in so doing, I amassed an enormous amount of wealth and at your expense. And I did it because I was driven by fear and extreme selfish greed. Now, I humbly stand before you with shame. How can I make my wrongs right?’

SUP: First of all, there has to be the courage to avoid doing wrong. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has this. If she does something wrong, she knows it. A person who always has mindfulness knows, ‘I’ve made a mistake,’ when he or she has erred. When he or she is correct, he or she knows that too. When in error, he or she corrects the mistake. When corrected, he or she simply keeps on going straight ahead. Like driving a car.

AC: That’s for oneself, but what about for others?

SUP: If one can control oneself, others are automatically preserved, because one doesn’t do harm. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi understands that too. Self-control is not just for one’s own benefit. It’s not just for one’s own physical, verbal and mental behavior. To the extent one controls oneself, one no longer harms others, and one protects others so that they aren’t harmed. There are two methods for this. There is self-control because one has moral shame and moral fear of doing wrong, and self-control because one understands how others would feel if harmed. However, it may be, both sides benefit. The difficulty is that most people do not have these qualities.

AC: For decades, the previous regimes did not see their errors. When people don’t see their faults how can there be National Reconciliation and a peaceful, united country?

SUP: They’re like a boat, the bow of which is broken and can’t be maneuvered. So instead of trying to fix them, the only thing to do is gather people together who are in agreement and work to make yourself and the country good. If one pays attention to those people, how will anything be accomplished?

AC: Unify like minds?

SUP: It’s very important to get the work done.

AC: How would you define the ‘work’ to be done?

SUP: Human beings have what are called moral behavior and duty. First and most important is moral behavior, and after that, duty or responsibility. It’s very important to fulfill these two. If one has been born a human being, then one should have the courage to ask, ‘What morals do I need to be a true human being?’ If one investigates, one will come to understand morality. Next, you must put it into practice. If one doesn’t know one’s duties, one needs to learn them and fulfill them. When those two things are fulfilled – good moral behavior and our human responsibilities – one becomes a true human being.

It’s also important to keep your mind humane, to keep your mind like a human’s mind should be. You can’t just look at what benefits you. You’ve got to look at what’s good for others, too. You have to do what is good for others as much as possible, and do it with an attitude of goodwill.

One should also have compassion, the feeling of wanting to respond to the needs of others. When there is a basic attitude of mettā (goodwill) and karunā (compassion) there won’t be envy for others’ good circumstances. Rather, there will be the desire for others to enjoy the good circumstances one has for oneself; muditā, or sympathetic joy, will arise. These are basic mental attitudes of a true human being.

Further, human beings encounter two kinds of things – good and bad. We experience good things and bad things. We encounter things that we like and we encounter things that we do not like. Things which are depressing and things to be happy about. In the face of these things, we shouldn’t react. We should nurture equanimity, or balance of mind. The more we nurture this attitude, every time we encounter something good or bad, we won’t respond with liking or rejection, but will remain balanced, in equanimity.

For this, sātthaka sampajañña and sappāya sampajañña, or reasoning power which is able to consider whether something is beneficial or unbeneficial, and suitable or unsuitable, is very important.

In particular, when one practices the dhamma consistently and knows the true dhamma to a large extent, the mind matures. When the mind matures, it has resistance power. Physical stamina is the ability to withstand the punishment of heat, cold, fatigue, and so on. When the mind gains knowledge, it becomes mature. Due to being mature, although the mind encounters something good, it doesn’t feel elated. Similarly, when encountering something bad, it doesn’t get depressed. It is able to stay balanced in between elation and depression. This is called equanimity. It’s important to gain this ability.

Look at your own life. Before you practiced meditation, before you gained knowledge of the dhamma, what was your life like? And after practicing, what was your life like then? Do you see the changes before and after practicing?

AC: Yes, I’ve seen dramatic changes; nothing short of miraculous.

SUP: This is like being reborn in this very life.

AC: Beautiful!

SUP: This is the only way to be reborn without dying. One’s life changes for the better due to the practice, not for the worse. This change is found only in the teachings of the Buddha.

AC: Yes, meditation changed my life.

SUP: When something is this valuable, why do so few people pursue it?

AC: Well, you have to be smart. You have to see life and death and the limitations of sense pleasure and the emptiness of desire. You must become weary of the ego and tired of the kilesas, attachment, addictions, and fear. And even if you have wealth or success, you have to be smart enough to see them as a house of cards or a sand castle; conditions beyond your control and changing all the time. And further, it takes a lot of effort to turn inward, to seek a higher inner refuge, a higher freedom born from insight into dhamma.

SUP: When you want something valuable, you have to pay the price. Faith, effort, mindfulness and concentration, or Saddhā, viriya, sati, and samādhi, are the price.

AC: Earlier, you encouraged reconciliation through cultivating the compassion practice of putting oneself into another person’s place and feeling how they might be feeling. Would you share more on this process? I think most good people would like to be more compassionate; abandon egoism, discrimination, any hint of apartheid.

SUP: Has it ever happened that someone yelled at you, cursed you?

AC: Yes. I’ve encountered my fair share of abusive people.

SUP: Can you bear it? And do you like it?

AC: I did not like it. I found it revolting.

SUP: What you don’t like, others wouldn’t like either.The ability to put ourselves in another person’s place is based upon the ability to reason. It’s called empathy, or consideration for others. People who are selfish do not have that ability to reason, to reflect like that.

AC: What is this state of consciousness, the ability to reflect?

SUP: Reasoning power, or what is called clear comprehension of benefit and suitability (sātthaka sampajañña and sappāya sampajañña). It’s what we discussed earlier. People do not have the ability to think about what is beneficial and suitable for others if they are only thinking about themselves.

AC: Consideration for others, the requisite of a great leader?

SUP: Yes, it’s important for a leader to have that quality.

AC: What is the importance of SQ for genuine reconciliation and harmony?

SUP: When there is a difference of viewpoints, SQ is important for bringing about unity. People with good SQ are automatically straightforward, they automatically go the right way.

AC: How can spiritual intelligence be integrated into the military?

SUP: In India, at the time of the Buddha, King Bimbisāra ruled the country after becoming a sotāpanna (the first stage of enlightenment). And, while continuing his dhamma practice under the Buddha’s guidance, he also continued to fulfill the duties of his office. But there is one thing: if there was a need to put down a rebellion, he didn’t say, ‘There are bad people, go and conquer them,’ or ‘Go, kill them, put an end to them.’ Rather, wherever people were suffering he would say, ‘Go there and make it united and peaceful.’ And those who were in charge of the operation, when they got there, if they had to capture people, they would do that, of course. And if crimes had been committed, they would give out the punishment required by law. If someone had done something punishable by death, they carried out the law. The king was not guilty of wrong-doing. He didn’t tell others to kill.

AC: This is the enlightened, military version of SQ?

SUP: There should never be unjust killing or oppression. But a person who leads the country needs to be precise in following the laws. That is the ruler’s duty. The king didn’t tell the generals, ‘Oppress these bad people.’ He said, ‘There are bad people, good people are suffering because of these bad people, so you’ve got to go and put an end to this problem. You’ve got to make the region peaceful.’ In the generals’ going out and acting according to their duties, how was the king responsible? Was he at fault?

AC: Well, I think it would come down to his motivation. But as you explain it, it sounds like he was fulfilling his responsibility to his people and acting according to the rule of law.

SUP: Yes, his responsibility. That’s all. When the generals arrived, they captured and killed people. This was not the king’s responsibility. Say a doctor is treating a patient with a disease caused by parasites. Does he give you medicine to kill the parasites? Or, does he give you medicine that cures you – to get rid of the disease? His purpose is not to kill the parasites. His purpose is to save the life of the patient. It’s that sort of thing. Do you understand?

AC: Higher-order action. Sayadaw-gyi, I appreciate your reasoning power, your discerning wisdom, your warrior-expression of spiritual intelligence. And I pray that your dhamma advice serves to facilitate reconciliation and peace-building both here in Myanmar and around the world. I am honored that you share it. Thank you.

SUP: This is just the way the Buddha taught.

‘Looking for the Dhamma You Find it in Yourself.’

ALAN CLEMENTS: I would like to thank you once again for taking the time to share your wisdom, both for the people of your country and others around the world. Tonight, I would like to follow up with issues raised in our previous conversations. You have shared quite a lot on the reconciling process. You’ve also touched upon SQ (spiritual intelligence) as a foundational wisdom for enacting that process. We’ve talked about healing the wounds between the oppressed and the oppressors as a means of fostering peace and harmony among the people. We’ve also talked about good parenting – the importance of parents knowing their duties to their children and doing them well.

My question: Burma is the newest born democracy on earth. We have several hundred new Members of Parliament, Cabinet Members, Ministers, a new President and Vice Presidents, and most of them have never before been in positions of high-leadership. In fact, many of them spent the majority of the past two decades as prisoners of conscience, here in their own country.

Would you speak about the dhamma qualities of good leadership?

VENERABLE SAYADAW U PANDITA: In order to understand what qualities a good leader needs to have in terms of the dhamma, first of all, we have to look at the qualities of a good friend, a kalyāṇa mitta. There are six qualities this person should have:

  • Piya – to have good personal behavior, not just pretending. When one has good personal behavior, one is loved by those around one. This is the first quality that needs to be mentioned.
  • Not only does the person have good personal behavior, they have a good mental attitude and are able to help others. Due to this, the person receives the respect of others. There must also be this quality of being respected, called garu.
  • These two qualities combined lead to bhāvaniya, which means to be the recipient of others’ mettā (loving kindness).
  • The next quality is vattā, which means when there is something to be said that is beneficial and true, the person can speak frankly.
  • Further, when they receive criticism from others, they can accept it. This is called vacanakkhama.
  • And the last quality is that they do not use those who depend on them inappropriately – no c’āṭṭhāne niyujjako. This means not urging people who depend on you to do things for your benefit that aren’t good for them to do; not to use people for your own selfish means.

A person who possesses these six qualities is a good friend, or kalyāṇa mitta. One has to start by understanding this. That is what the Buddha taught. If a person possesses these qualities, one could choose that person as a friend, mentor or a teacher.

AC: These six qualities of a kalyāṇa mitta also apply to good leadership?

SUP: Yes. It’s important to possess the qualities of a good friend.

AC: How can one know and trust that a person has these attributes?

SUP: In human society, if someone has good morality, or good personal behavior, those around that person will come to perceive this. Associate and you’ll know. Throughout time, one comes to know through association with another whether they have a bad character or a good character. But, one can’t find this out in a short time. One must take time to choose a good person.

There are six other qualities of a good leader. First of all, leaders must be patient (khamā), in all ways. They must be able to bear heat, cold, suffering, and blame from others. That’s important. Second, jāgariya: they must be watchful, vigilant and prompt to act. And utthāna, they must be active. Fourth, samvibhāga: they should share what they have with friends and associates, and not just keep things for themselves. Five, they should have compassion for others (karuṇā). Six, ikkhana or foresight: they should be able to assess a situation accurately. If a person has these six qualities, one could choose that person as a good friend, a teacher or a leader. Here, the text refers to a leader of the Saṅgha, but anyone who is a leader of an organization or association should have these qualities.

AC: What is another word for foresight?

SUP: Foresight can also be called reasoning power: when there is something to be done, the ability to consider whether that task is beneficial or not. If it is beneficial, then to consider further whether it is suitable or not. And whether or not the time is right to do it. What is important is that one’s actions should not be detrimental for oneself or for others. Even though you may not be able to help, you can control yourself so that you don’t bother others. There is a Burmese proverb, “If you can’t help, let it be, but don’t make trouble.”

AC: In reference to having consideration for another and then through reasoning power determining what would be beneficial or harmful to that person, and from there, acting appropriately, what if “the other” is not yet born – we are going forward here a generation or two; can you speak to that type of future-reaching foresight, or multi-generational compassion, that exchanges self for others not yet born?

This question is more relevant today than ever, as many leaders in our world have not had the foresight nor the compassion to see the effects of what looked to be a wise decision in their day, but as it turned out, was detrimental to future generations. For example, nuclear power and nuclear weapons have placed life in jeopardy; they hold all life hostage. In addition, we have a “homicidal economy” fueled by obsessive consumption and the blind burning of fossil fuels, that has led to global warming, runaway climate change, and with it, the melting of the polar caps and the release of toxic methane, and the acidification of the oceans, habitat loss and disruption of food supplies, and the possibility of extinction, perhaps much sooner than we think. All based on human ignorance – the absence of reasoning and the obsession with “self, progress, and stuff.” And all done, for the most part, by so-called educated leaders trying their best to do what was right for the people. But, it’s been the very opposite of foresight and far-reaching compassion. Few people were able to think that far ahead; few people were able to put themselves in the shoes of the unborn and determine what was best for them.

The question: how to really know what it means to put oneself in the mind of Life not yet conceived? What does it mean to embody future generations and have the foresight to care for those life-forms, the animals, the birds, the trees, the water, the people, all Life, known and unknown? This is an essential question, in part, because Burma is the latest birth of democracy on the planet and the learning that has gone on in older democracies could be made here with good intentions, yet without the foresight to sustain in the long term.

Translator: Alan is saying that because some of the present leaders of the world don’t have visionorforesight, for example, the destruction of species, the destruction of forests, the natural disasters that are now occurring, the disruption of the order of things, cutting down forests to an extreme, extreme use of petroleum, are things that were done because of a lack of reasoning and foresight. Due to this, there are all kinds of problems in the world now. The extinction of species, about 200 a day, for example. At present, they are even trying to find types of fuel other than petroleum, ways to avoid global warming and pollution. Because of a lack of vision, all over the world people are encountering all sorts of problems. If the leaders of the future were to have this type of vision regarding future generations, how would you advise them, in terms of dhamma?

SUP: That would be difficult. When there is selfishness, when people are self-centered, and all that matters is getting what they want, or what their group wants, when people are oppressed by greed, then mettā and karunā have dried up. One no longer cares for the welfare of others. One no longer knows how to have love and compassion for others, whether they are presently alive or future generations. As a result, their duties as humans are left unfulfilled.

In the world today, selfishness – a lack of mettā and a lack of karuṇā – are thick. People are human in form, but not truly human. And there is no truth, no foresight, no compassion, no ability to truly see what is beneficial for others and have the courage to do what is right and refrain from what is wrong. People no longer know there is truth, and that they should stand by what is true.

AC: Standing by the truth?

SUP: What this means is that there is a correct, straight path – ‘That’s right.’ If one approaches a kalyāṇa mitta and has the ability to weigh whether something is beneficial or not, whether something is suitable or not, the quality of being upright and pure, uju, arises. Because one comes to know what is beneficial and correct, the quality of being upright, or uju, comes to be. Then people are able to keep their own discipline – keep their sīla. People should be moral and fulfill their duties. This is important. If one doesn’t keep basic morality and doesn’t perform the duties and responsibilities that one should perform, because of no longer understanding the benefits of doing this, then the upright, pure mind will not arise. Therefore, one must explain to others the importance of morality as well encourage an understanding of their social responsibilities. Then one must be watchful to see if they do as explained. Do they keep their morality or not? Do they fulfill their duties or not?

As one waits and sees, if they do things sincerely, is there benefit or not? When people can see that they are gaining benefit, then restraint will follow. People will feel, ‘Because we respect this path, things are peaceful and beneficial. When our morality is good and we fulfill our duties and responsibilities, good things come.’ Because they understand the benefits, they are sure to follow straight along this path.

There are people who kill others, who steal, who commit adultery or other sexual offenses, who lie, who take drugs and intoxicants and go wild because of them. One realizes that it is good to avoid these actions. One realizes, ‘If I avoid doing these things, my behavior becomes clean, my morality is intact and other people are not harmed because of what I do.’ This is an upright mental attitude. When one really looks at this, one comes to realize that it’s peaceful. One’s morality is intact, and it’s good for others too. When one sees this, one doesn’t want to lose the benefits one has developed. One is sure to walk along this straight path.

When people who initially don’t know anything about the dhamma practice and come to know the nature of the dhamma, what happens? Is their mind the same after they practice, as it was before? It’s not the same any more, it changes, doesn’t it? It’s like that.

If one hasn’t yet made oneself upright with correct means, then one does not have any confidence in doing it because the results haven’t yet appeared. In that case, one will just keep going along one’s way. One’s path won’t be straight. But when one realizes the benefits, one will go straight.

In essence, one has to first learn the method for developing self-control so one doesn’t follow the wrong path, so that one can keep from doing things that are wrong. When one has a reliable method, one simply follows that correct path. Following the correct path, one reaches a safe place. Because one has learned the method for self-control and one knows the benefits of gaining self-control, as well as the faults of not gaining self-control, one will surely control oneself. And being free of fault, one experiences good results. When one can restrain oneself, problems are sure to be solved.

For solving these problems, in order to get the best answer, now and for the future, practice satipaṭṭhāna to a satisfactory level. Before practicing satipaṭṭhāna and after practicing satipaṭṭhāna, how did your life change?

AC: In every way.

SUP: Was it a good change? Did you gain self-mastery?

AC: I certainly improved, nothing short of miraculous.

SUP: So, you have the answer.

AC: On the subject of satipaṭṭhāna, this next question is universal, in that it applies to everyone and has the potential to benefit all beings in this world, now and in the future. I think it was Burma’s first Prime Minister, U Nu, who was, as you know, one of the founders of Mahasi Yeiktha here in Yangon – where the worldwide mass lay mindfulness movement began – who said, over fifty or so years ago, that Burma’s number one export was mindfulness.

Prophetically, he was right. Mindfulness is now a global phenomenon and a lucrative one as well. Fortune Magazine recently reported it to be a $1-billion-dollar industry. And I’m sure you are aware that mindfulness training is being applied in numerous multi-billion dollar corporations; Ford, Google, American Express, to name just a few.

Pro-athletes espouse it as the basis of their expertise. We see it being taught in prisons. In hospitals. Colleges. Highs schools. Even children, as in Burma, are seeing its tremendous benefits; increasing their ability to focus, reduce their stress and anxiety, and better able to manage negative emotions.

We also see mindfulness being used in the military. I’m not sure how deep into the military it’s applied, but when we use the word military, we generally mean both defense and offense. So it’s probably being used anywhere from combat, to stress management in highly volatile areas, and I wouldn’t be surprised it’s used by those who pilot drones from a safe distance that strike thousands of miles away and either kill their intended targets and or kill innocent civilians.

At 95 years old you are perhaps the most Elder Buddhist monk in Myanmar. Having ordained at age of 12, with a tremendous knowledge, both theoretically and experientially, of the satipaṭṭhāna dhamma, you are perhaps the senior-most teacher of mindfulness in the world, with tens of thousands of students both in Myanmar and worldwide.

I think it is fair to say, that the majority of people who currently practice it and guide others in it, have little idea that its origins are rooted in Buddhism and dhamma, or, perhaps, that there’s an entire culture here in Myanmar that has been practicing sati (mindfulness) for centuries.

My question: would you care to offer a few points of guidance to anyone interested in pursuing the practice of mindfulness or more specifically the practice of satipaṭṭhāna, especially as it becomes more embedded worldwide?

SUP: What’s most important is to find a good spiritual friend, a kalyāṇa mitta and practice meditation. There are seven qualities that a good spiritual friend must have as explained in the Visuddhimagga, which quotes what the Buddha taught. The seven qualities are: being loved (piya), being respected (garu), being the object of others’ mettā (bhāvaniya), being able to say frankly to the students what they need to hear (vattā), being able to take it when others criticize them (vacanakkhama), being able to speak about the deep dhamma because of both practice and understanding the theory (gambhirañca kathaṃ kattā), and not using one’s students in inappropriate ways, for one’s own benefit (no c’āṭṭhāne niyujjako).

The qualities of piya, garu, bhāvaniya and so on are resultant qualities. In order to possess them, one must possess the causal qualities: faith, morality, learning, generosity, vīriya, sati, samādhi and paññā. When a person has these causal qualities, they don’t have to say, ‘May others love me.’ It automatically happens that people love such people, and that they’re also worthy of respect. People have the feeling of wanting such a person to be well and happy. A person with such qualities is brave enough to speak when there’s something that needs to be said, and when other people criticize them, they can forbear and be patient. Because one has practiced the dhamma of satipaṭṭhāna to a satisfactory level one is able to speak about the profound dhamma. And possessing the courage to avoid doing what is wrong and to undertake what is correct, one doesn’t use one’s students inappropriately.

This is how to look at a teacher, in terms of those qualities. You should examine if a person is a true kalyāṇa mitta, a good spiritual friend possessed of these qualities. This is what the Buddha taught. Why? Because one has to choose a good guide in order to take the right path. Only then will one go the right way.

The Buddha said that sati (mindfulness) is needed everywhere. He acknowledged this in the word sabbatthika – sati is needed everywhere, like fresh air. We need air every second, don’t we? If we breathe polluted air, immediately we feel tight and tense, and if we breathe air that contains poison we can die immediately. Sati is needed everywhere. It’s like fresh air. Think about it.

People usually don’t think breathing fresh air is important. Or it’s not a big deal. But if you think about it, it’s not only important, it’s essential. And it’s something we must do immediately, right now. If we don’t breathe we die.

You have to do it right now; you have to do it repeatedly; you have to do it in time; and you need to breathe fresh air. That is why people may not necessarily think that breathing fresh air is important, or don’t even think about breathing as something that’s important because it’s happening all the time. But you have to do it yourself. You have to do it right away, right now. You have to do it regularly. And if you do that, the results are good for you. These four aspects are important.

In the same way one applies mindfulness. You need to do it yourself; you have to do it right now; you have to do it regularly; and the results will be beneficial. Every important thing that a person does has these four characteristics. You can look at anything in terms of those four points, and if it has those four characteristics, you know it is one of the most important things you can do: that you cannot not do it, you have to do it yourself, you have to do it regularly and in time, and it is very beneficial.

AC: What are your thoughts about teaching sati (mindfulness) removed from satipaṭṭhāna? Is it still effective? Can you be deluded about thinking it’s effective? And are there dangers in teaching from that separation?

What I mean by ‘separation’, is removing the Buddhist context from sati, removing the ontological eco-system from the root concept of mindfulness. In other words, teaching mindfulness without reference to dhamma, Buddhism, nāma-rūpa, the five aggregates, the progress of insight, awareness of anicca, anatta and dukkha, or the four foundations of mindfulness, or the eight-fold path, or the four noble truths, or the seven factors of enlightenment or nibbāna; purposely removing the key transformational constructs of the dhamma, the Buddha’s teaching, from it. So by removing the dhamma from sati, I’m assuming one is removing satipaṭṭhāna from it and teaching mindfulness as a stand-alone state of mind.

Further, there’s a tremendous debate in the West and perhaps the world, on what the “mindful” state of mind really is. There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on the true nature of mindfulness.

SUP: As the Buddha said, ‘sati is needed everywhere.’ In the olden days, there was a monk who was given the instruction to rub a small piece of cloth – just to keep on rubbing it with awareness. While rubbing the cloth, vīriya (energy), sati (mindfulness), and samādhi (concentration) arose, and he became enlightened.

If we look at this from a modern-day perspective, it seems laughable – not something an adult would do. But as the monk was rubbing, his mind became concentrated. At first, insight-knowledge didn’t arise. But later, he came to know ‘touching.’ He rubbed, and knew the ‘rubbing.’ Samādhi arose, then there was touching, and knowing the touching. These moments of touching and knowing arose and then disappeared. He came to know the arising and passing away (of the mental and physical phenomena). Vipassanā (insight) knowledge arose. None of the teachings of the Buddha were mentioned, just to rub the cloth – the ‘doctrine’ of rubbing.

AC: So, mindfulness is sufficient in itself to free the mind? That when practiced rightly, mindfulness reveals reality, and as such, awakens insight into the arising and passing of phenomena, and freedom follows?

SUP: Not ‘when mindfulness is practiced rightly.’ This happens when there is focus on the object, sati becomes steadfast and doesn’t separate from the object but always stays with it.

AC: And what stays with the object is mindfulness? What is the object – seeing, hearing, smelling and so on?

SUP: It could be any of these, as long as one is observing real mental and physical qualities as they arise.

A person learning to shoot at a target must aim. There’s a target with a bull’s eye. One has to aim and then shoot. So that mental defilements, kilesas, won’t arise, we aim at the arising object. When sati is established on the object it doesn’t give kilesas the chance to arise. When I am sitting in a chair that is big enough for only one person, no one else can sit here. It’s the same when sati is established on the object.

If kilesas do arise, then what to do? Note them accurately and in a focused way.

This is like prevention and cure. One protects against the enemy, but if the enemy comes one notes it immediately. So, when the object arises we need effort and aiming, or vīriya and vitakka. Aiming is like placing the object in our sight and effort is like pulling the trigger.

We note the main object of the rising and falling of the abdomen, don’t we? We put our mind on the abdomen, like waiting to greet a visitor. As soon as the abdomen rises, the observing mind must be there. We must have ardent effort – ātāpa – as well as accurate aim. These, first of all, are the most important things. Because when they are present sati and samādhi are sure to follow. There’s no need to do anything. Later, when one gets good at practice one doesn’t need to aim any longer. One can just look at the target and shoot.

AC: In other words, mindfulness isn’t the lead quality? Other qualities lead it?

SUP: When we practice satipaṭṭhāna meditation, only when vīriya, vitakka and vicāra are developed does sati arise. So vīriya or ardent energy, the application of effort, and vitakka, aiming or focusing must be there in order for sati to arise in practice. This is what happens when we practice satipaṭṭhāna.

Nor is this ordinary vīriya. This is called ātāpa – ardent energy which is not cool, not sluggish, but always wakeful, alert, active. When I was young, I played marbles, and when learning how to shoot I found that when there was too much effort, when I used too much energy, the marble would go off, go past the marble I wanted to hit. And when there was too little energy it wouldn’t be effective either. So the effort had to be just right. This is what the quality of aiming does: it makes our quality of effort just right.

When there’s ardent effort and application of aiming, then the marble connects with the marble you’re trying to hit. There’s vicāra, the quality of rubbing that occurs when it connects just right with the marble, and then joy arises, pīti. This is what happens in satipaṭṭhāna practice.

The sati that arises in practice behaves the way a stone does when dropped into water. When dropped in water, the stone sinks on the spot. The characteristic of sati is that it doesn’t skim the surface of an object. It goes right into the object, like a stone dropped in water. Think of it like that.

The function of sati is to not lose sight of the object. It keeps the object in sight at all times. It also penetrates the object. Sati is non-superficiality. Nor does it allow the object go out of sight. It brings the observing mind face to face with the arising object. When the mind is face to face with the object, then kilesas (greed, anger, and ignorance) have no opportunity to enter the mind. This is how sati manifests – as protecting the mind, guarding it from kilesas.

When sati is steadfast, the mind stays present, right there. It doesn’t scatter. This is samādhi, when the mind is collected on the object. Sati brings with it samādhi. So when one applies ardent effort to observe the arising object again and again and again, along with the jhānic factor of aiming, then sati becomes steadfast and samādhi arises. When this happens, in fact, if you look at the amount of energy that is involved in one moment like that, it’s nothing much, but if you have one moment of consciousness after another without a gap, so that they are contiguous, one occurring right after the other, then amazing energy is generated. This is because this clean mind has the same nature, one following another, the things are of the same nature, that’s how the energy can be built. The mind with viriya, vitakka, sati and samādhi is pure and clean; this occurs again and again and again without a gap, so that they are contiguous.

AC: In other words, when right effort is made in this way, knowledge naturally follows?

SUP: The nature of energy is that when the clear mind occurs just once, it’s not strong. But when that clear clean mind – which in itself is not strong – arises continuously, then it automatically becomes very strong because each occurrence has the same nature and there is no gap between them.

Present at the same time is vitakka – the mind accurately placed on the object, and momentary concentration, the mind falling collectedly on the object. What happens is that when the mind observes the rising of the abdomen (when one breathes in) and knows the qualities such as stiffness or tension – the mind sees true nature. And the same with the falling sensation of the abdomen (when one exhales) – one perceives movement and possibly other objects as well, and as such, one knows the true nature that is present at that moment. This is paññā (wisdom or insight knowledge). This is knowing correctly. And it’s knowing completely and for oneself.

Here we are talking about Sampajañña. This knowing, the way one knows, is not confused, not mixed up; one thing and another are not mixed up. One sees clearly. There’s stiffness and knowing of it. There’s tension and knowing of it. So one sees the different phenomena as being distinct, not mixed up, one and the other.

This type of knowledge is far better than the type of knowledge gained from reading or from thinking about things. For this type of knowledge, the Buddha used the word Sampajañña. We touched upon this earlier. The Buddha used the word Sampajāno to mean ‘one who knows in this way’, one who ‘clearly comprehends.’ The noun, knowledge, is sampajañña. So when we study Satipatthana we know this; and when we practice Satipatthana we understand it.

The Buddha talked about how what we come to know in practice is like what we know when we eat food – when we chew the food we know what it tastes like and we know very clearly what that taste is. And the characteristics that make up what we could call true nature, sabhāva. They are also called sarasa, because they are like the flavors that we find in food. And when we practice, as when we eat food, we know the flavors for ourselves. This is knowing for oneself.

Mind and matter, nāma and rūpa, each have their own individual characteristics. One is not the same as the other. When we start to practice, this is the first thing we come to know, that mind is one thing and matter is another. When we continue to observe true nature, when we continue to practice and our knowledge of the true nature becomes mature, when we are able to see it more deeply, then we come to see what things have in common.

So we come to see that hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, hot, cold and so on, all these things appear and disappear, they arise and then pass away, and in arising and passing away, all the things we experience are the same. This is called vipassana knowledge. So whatever it is, if we want to know true nature, if we want to know how things truly are, you must observe what is there when it happens. You have to observe what happens when it happens. This is known as anupassanā, repeated observation.

Anupassanā is a word found in the Satipatthāna Sutta. It is something you have to work to develop. You have to practice to develop the skill to observe. The way the word anupassī is explained in the Commentary is that first one practices, tries again and again to develop the ability to observe with mindfulness. Second, by continually developing the ability, one gains the skill to dwell seeing, dwell observing with mindfulness. That observation is called anupassanā.

To re-cap, anupassī is explained in two ways: anupassanā-sīlo, developing the ability to observe, and anupassamāno, meaning one can just do it, one can keep on dwelling with mindfulness.

The process of coming to know true nature or developing this ability to observe with mindfulness is like looking at something from a distance and then coming closer and closer to it. Like a line of ants seen from a distance appear to be a rope or stick – we mistake reality. We see something but we see it wrongly, as a rope or stick. And as we move closer and closer, finally we see it rightly as a procession of ants. Coming even closer, we see that each ant is moving in a different way.

First of all, you have to practice to develop this skill, and then when you practice enough you gain the skill. Practice makes perfect. This is what’s involved in meditation. If you don’t practice, without working to develop the skill, you’re never going to know. Knowledge without practice is merely reflection. Practice brings experiential knowledge.

For example, someone puts a bowl of sugar in front of you and says ‘sugar is sweet.’ You see the sugar cubes and hear ‘sugar is sweet.’ That’s one way of knowing that sugar is sweet. But when you take the sugar cube and place it on your tongue, you come to know the true nature of sugar as sweet. So how are these two different?

AC: One is direct experience of course, and one is imagination.

SUP: Sūta-maya-ñāṇa is what you read or hear, cinta-maya-ñāṇa is what you know by reflecting, and bhāvanā-maya-ñāṇa is knowledge born of meditation.

Take for example, while sitting there: when you clench your fist what do you find? There are three levels on which you can see: the form, the manner, and the true nature. The form: the shape of the hand. Manner or position is how it’s clenched: in a fist. But these aren’t true nature. At the start of practice, one’s mind goes to the form or the manner, the way its clenched. These aren’t true nature, but because the mind isn’t going anywhere else it’s still good. Later, when one continues to observe, one’s mind becomes collected, and one starts to know. When the mind is mindful of stiffness, it knows the stiffness. If the mind falls on tightness, one knows the tightness. One can also know the uncomfortable feeling. All these things are true nature.

At the start, we see things mixed up with either the manner or the form, but as we keep going we come to see just the true nature, only the true nature and nothing else. When it becomes hot, when it happens, don’t you want to open your hand again? That’s because it’s uncomfortable. Because there is the intention to open the hand, you release the hand. By releasing it … opening it feels comfortable. And the fingers have to be released one by one. You have to move them slowly, very, very slowly, bit by bit, observing one moment after another. Slowly! Very slowly!

So how do you feel right now?

AC: I feel relieved, as I imagine everyone in this country will feel through the process of reconciliation, by mindfully opening their hearts and minds, and releasing the clenched fist of anger.

SUP: Looking for the dhamma you find it in yourself, that’s all. You come to see how change takes place, the old being replaced by the new.

AC: Sayadaw-gyi, as a monk who has trained for many decades in the Buddhist scriptures as well as in practice, you have explained, combining theory and practice, how sati – mindfulness – develops. Mindfulness is everywhere today, and in some circles among those who guide others in mindfulness, they are somewhat proud that they are not teaching it through the lens of Buddhism. In fact, some feel they are doing a service to humanity to have removed the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha – all those so called “cultural and religious trappings” from the essence, pure mindfulness. And in so doing, mindfulness is often taught as a tool for effectiveness, productivity, efficiency, mind-state management, and so on. I’m not saying this in a negative sense, but the argument goes: when mindfulness is so powerful on its own, why bring religion and culture into it?

SUP: Such work is not grounded. That means, it has no foundation. One has to start with the basics. The basics are to know the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. After that, one should continue with morality and the duties of a human being, going hand in hand. These basics are missing.

AC: What about the argument that sīla – Right Speech; Right Thought; refraining from stealing, slander and intoxicants and so on, are universal ethics and not owned by Buddhism. Why can’t one practice mindfulness with basic ethical intelligence as the basis and still proceed wisely and confidently along the journey of life? Why does one have to be a Buddhist?

SUP: Inherently, the teaching of the Buddha is not a religion. Religion has faith as its base and is accomplished only through faith. If one wants to know the dhamma experientially, the best way is to practice.

“If one does good, one will get a good result. If one does bad, there will be a bad result.” This is like understanding that when one eats nutritious food, one can digest it and gain strength; the knowledge that eating what is poisonous or unsuitable for one brings harm. This basic intelligence is needed. There are pure and clean actions, speech, and mentality, and unwholesome actions, speech, and mentality. Pure and clean actions, speech and thought bring good results. Unwholesome actions, speech and thought bring bad results. If one has that basic knowledge, one can meditate.

AC: That’s basic dhamma intelligence?

SUP: That knowledge as a base is enough to be able to practice. The base is very important. When constructing a building, only if the foundation is firm will the building last long. Some kinds of earth, one needs to place pilings to make a good foundation. If the fundamental practice is missing, it’s not possible to go on to the higher practice.

AC: Is sati – mindfulness – always a wholesome state? Always? It’s never wrong? Or are there instances when you can practice wrong mindfulness? In other words, we are familiar with the terms Right Speech and Wrong Speech; Right View and Wrong View; and so on. Then we come to Right Sati, or Right Mindfulness. Is there such a thing as Wrong Sati? Wrong mindfulness? Or is sati always Right?

SUP: More important than having sati is yoniso manasikāra. Manasikāra means aim or objective. Whatever one is doing, one should aim to make errors minimal and makes things correct. Like when driving, steering correctly to get to our desired destination. One must follow the road. It’s like that. More than sati, one’s aim or objective is important.

AC: Will you please give an example of a wrong objective – steering in the right and the wrong way?

SUP: For example, if you go to a dangerous place, you should prepare whatever is needed to remain free of trouble. That sort of thing. So that danger doesn’t occur, on your side, you need good protection. You make preparations so that you won’t err. This is steering in the right way. You have to drive within your lane, according to the rules of the road. You can’t straddle the line, driving in between the lanes.

AC: Allow me to ask the question another way: What if I were a president, a cabinet minister, the speaker of the house, an MP here in Myanmar, or even a general and I trained my military in mindfulness. I trained them to exercise mindfully, speaking and eating mindfully, and I even had them undergo mindful target training.

In addition, as King Bimbisara did, I had them believing that the enemy was out to kill us and that they wanted to disturb our peace and tranquility, harm our families and take our land. Worse yet, convert us to their religion. And as ‘loyal soldiers, mindful soldiers,’ we believed that we were defending our homeland, our peace and values. But it turned out to be a lie, a hoax. It was a manipulation by the top leaders to accumulate more wealth and power. Call this basic dictatorship. It may even be basic democracy in the Western world. Regardless, is that the wrong application of sati? Wrong mindfulness? Because the goal is wrong?

SUP: One’s objective is important. There are two kinds of sati: sammāsati and micchāsati. Sammāsati is involved in work that is pure and clean. Micchāsati is involved in akusala, unwholesome deeds. That is called micchāsati or wrong sati.

Sammāsati follows a clean objective. Micchāsati arises when one has an impure objective. When harming others or causing them pain, the awareness involved is not right sati. It is wrong mindfulness. One has to develop awareness in a blameless way.

AC: A final question for today, if I may: It seems that much of what you share – your dhamma advice – is about recognizing that ‘we are all in this together’, that no one lives in isolation, no one is an island. In other words, we need each other to survive, to learn from, and grow – children with parents, students with teachers, citizens and leaders, so many essential relationships to wisely consider. In the South African culture, they have the concept of ubuntu – which means, “I cannot be who I am without you.”

Translator: We have it here in Burma too.

AC: How interesting. Because, the issue you speak of, that ‘of exchanging ourselves for others,’ seems to be closely linked or essentially the same as ubuntu. And if we could truly learn how to ‘ubuntify’ ourselves, so to speak, the qualities of metta, karuna and mudita, along with most every other beautiful state of mind, would develop, naturally. And if we could merge foresight – our future-oriented compassionate open eyes – into ubuntu, we may well preserve life, survive as a species, and prevent a sixth extinction; maybe.

My question: Is there a Pali Buddhist word for this ubuntification of being? Again, the meaning of ubuntu, as I understand it, is that ‘I am who I am because of you.’ Or, ‘I become human through my relationships.’ In other words, ‘no one can become free in a vacuum.’ Is there a Pali word for this idea, for the idea of how we become free and human through each other?

SUP: There is a worldly saying, not a Pali one. It goes like this, “If he’s not part of it, it can’t be done. But he alone can’t do it. If you aren’t part of it, it can’t be done, but you alone can’t do it. Without me, it can’t be done. But I alone can’t do it. Only when he, you, and I are part of it can everything be done.” This is a Burmese saying.

AC: Beautiful. This points to our inherent mutuality, our inter-relatedness with all things. Do you use this concept in your dhamma teachings? And does this concept have significance or have a corollary concept for a Bodhisattva (one who has made a vow to become a Buddha)? Because, as I understand it, a Bodhisattva cannot accomplish the development of pāramī without others. Is this essentially the same concept?

SUP: It is not possible to fulfill pāramīs by oneself, alone.

Pāramī can be fulfilled in a constructive way. Things to one’s liking. And they can also be fulfilled in a destructive way, by having to endure something done against one. Either way, pāramī is fulfilled.

In the case of Devadatta (the Buddha’s nemesis), in his previous lives he helped the Buddha to fulfill pāramī in a destructive way. But the Buddha-to-be endured all these destructive actions, knowing that it is only through the encounter with people who oppose one that the pāramī of khanti, or patient forbearance, can be accomplished. Because of his forbearance in the face of destructive actions, starting from his first life as a Bodhisattva, up until his last existence when he had become the Buddha, Devas and humans understood how great his patience was and revered him.

AC: It strikes me that this concept could have great importance within the development of SQ, in leadership.

SUP: When there is a difference of viewpoints, SQ is important for people to be reunited. People who have good SQ are straightforward, they automatically go the right way.

AC: Would you illuminate the meaning of the word pāramī more fully? In addition, how can pāramī be embraced by leaders as the basis of ubuntu and compassion, and therefore, develop high-quality SQ-based leadership?

SUP: I rarely use the word pāramī, but in my dhamma teachings, my encouragement amounts to developing pāramī.

The word pāramī means, with a basic good mental attitude, doing things for others and at the same time making oneself great. Only a high-level person, an excellent person, can do that type of work. Therefore, the literal meaning of pāramī is that which makes a person excellent. It is how they become excellent.

When a person does not think of his or her own benefit but works for the benefit of others, how will people feel when they see this? They will feel that person is really good, truly superior – this idea arises in their minds. That is how the word pārama arises. Pārama in Pali means superior, excellent. What makes you perceive that person as excellent, or pārama, is pāramī, the cause for that person to be perceived as excellent.

This word pāramī does not refer to the work done by people who only think of themselves and lack mettā and karuṇā. Only what is done with great mettā and karuṇā for the welfare and benefit of others is true pāramī. That is why the word pāramī is explained as “the work of someone who is an excellent person.” It is the cause for a person to be called ‘good.’ Or, it is what an excellent person does. That is called pāramī.

When we speak about the dhamma, although we don’t use the word pāramī, we are talking about how excellent people behave, what things they carry out: “If you follow this path, your status in life becomes excellent.” That’s what we say. Although the word pāramī is not used, it is the work of pāramī, every day.

With no mettā, no karuṇā, doing things solely for one’s own benefit – that is not pāramī. For example, if you give somebody something, you shouldn’t have any expectations, such as, ‘He’ll be indebted to me, he’ll love me, he’ll be friendly to me.’ That is not pāramī. Your personal benefit is involved. But when you give something and think, “May this person be happy because they have this thing to use,” you are giving so that the other person will be happy. Or thinking, “May what they lack be fulfilled.” One is working in order to solve the problem of not having enough, to make the other person feel happy. This is pāramī.

When one puts one’s own interest at the forefront and does things to help others, that is not pāramī. When one puts others’ interest at the forefront, instead of self-interest, whatever one does for the benefit of others is pāramī. People think that this word pāramī means something very great.

And itis a great word. It means the work of excellent people. This work in itself is great. It isn’t the work of ordinary people.

AC: What is the relationship of practicing Satipaṭṭhāna and the development of pāramī?

SUP: When you practice Satipaṭṭhāna, sīla is involved, as well as samādhi and paññā. One’s physical, verbal, and mental behavior all become purified. One doesn’t make trouble for anybody else. Although one is doing this for oneself, because one doesn’t cause trouble for anyone, it is pāramī.

Letting go of your own personal benefit and working for the benefit of others without expectation of return is pāramī. When one keeps sīla purely for the benefit of one’s own liberation from the suffering of existence, when one practices to develop good samādhi, when one works to develop knowledge, when one practices Satipaṭṭhāna meditation, this is pāramī for one’s own benefit. One doesn’t trouble anyone else, and one works for one’s own benefit.

The word pāramī has two meanings: the cause for people to be excellent (pāramānaṃ bhāvo pāramī in Pali) and the work of excellent people (pāramānaṃ kammaṃ pāramī). When one carries out work for others’ benefit in an honest way, that causes others to see that person as excellent, superior, or pārama in Pali. Therefore, it is said, pāramānaṃ bhāvo pāramī. The work they are doing is the cause for the knowledge to arise in the viewer’s mind that ‘this person is really excellent (pārama).’ Therefore, the work that they are doing is called pāramī. A person who is excellent like that will only do things that are blameless and pure. That blameless, pure work is the work of excellent people. That is why the word pāramī is also defined as pāramānaṃ kammaṃ – the work of excellent people.

AC: Thank you Sir. And may the good leaders of your country and those in other countries as well, embrace the consciousness of ubuntu and the action of striving for excellence through pāramī.

It’s Important To Be a True Human Being

ALAN CLEMENTS: This will be the conclusion of our series of conversations titled, ‘Dhamma Advice to A Nation’ to be published in the forthcoming book “Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma’s Voices of Freedom in Conversation with Alan Clements.”

Tonight I would like to ask you for your dhamma advice to the people outside of Myanmar, those foreigners who will visit your country in the years to come, as well as all others worldwide with their eyes on Myanmar, watching the developments, with the birth of democracy, respect for human rights, and a vision of national reconciliation.

My question: What advice would you care to offer the good people who will either visit your country or those who are attentive, looking for ways to understand and possibly help the people of Myanmar? I might add, there are close to a million foreigners in Burma right now. The hotels are filled, often months in advance. Temples are packed with visitors. And millions more are on their way. I would not be surprised that your meditation center and Mahasi Yeitkha as well, become filled with eager foreigners wanting to practice Satipaṭṭhāna at the epicenter of where the worldwide mass lay mindfulness movement began some 70 years ago. And each one of these visitors will bring a little piece of their own democracy here, their own unique experience of freedom.

It’s an exciting time for Daw Aung San Kyi and the people of your country. It has been a 27-year long nonviolent “revolution of the spirit,” and now the next phase of that revolution has begun; call it “the reconciliation revolution” through mettā and karuṇā or, in your language, “the SQ revolution.”

What might you wish to share with these good people?

VENERABLE SAYADAW U PANDITA: It’s natural for people to help each other, and this should be done without self-interest. One shouldn’t want to get something out of it, and one should help with mettā and karuṇā. This is correct, to help in this way, to discard selfish interest and to help with loving kindness and compassion. When you give to another, whether it’s giving to an individual or giving to a group, whether you give a material thing or whether you give advice or whatever it is that’s needed, it should be done with the attitude ‘may the person receiving this be happy to have it.’ One should not have an expectation of return for oneself. If one wants to profit from it for oneself, that’s not truly helping. One must not boast to the world, ‘My country, my people, can help.’ Only when help is pure and true does it truly help. It should be help offered without lobha, without greed, without selfish interest.

Further, when you help people who are limited or lacking in some way, giving them what they need, fulfilling what is missing or lacking for them, then you should do so with the wish, ‘May they be well, may they be happy,’ and this attitude should permeate your mind so that the mind is fresh and moist with this feeling. Just as one should have this wish for the welfare of those one is helping – this attitude of pure mettā – so too, when one sees that people are lacking what they need, one should cultivate the attitude, ‘May they not suffer,’ and then go about trying to remove their suffering, relieving them from their struggle. The attitude of compassion, karuṇā, is very important.

When we give, when we help others while free of self-interest and with a basis of loving kindness and compassion, then we’ll be happy with the results. One won’t have envy for the recipients in seeing their good situation. One will be joyous to see their good situation. And because one has helped with an attitude of wanting their welfare, selflessly, then one doesn’t feel jealous, one doesn’t feel that they wish they hadn’t given. The quality of happiness for another’s good situation is muditā. This is based on mettā and karunā. Without a basis of true loving kindness and compassion, this muditā will not arise.

Further, both the giver and the receiver, although separated by different countries, should have the attitude they are related; one should have the attitude that one is helping one’s relatives. Asia is one of the continents of the world and Asians are related to each other as relatives on the Asian continent. And the people of the world are all the same in being human. So we’re related as world relatives.

People from other continents are related to each other although their continent is different; they’re not related as continental relatives but as world relatives. And according to the Buddha, the people of the world have lived countless lifetimes before this one. We’ve all been related in one way or another, as father and son, or brother and sister, and so on. In countless ways we’ve been related to everyone. This is what is said in the texts, and one should try to have this attitude.

In addition to this way of being – related on two or three levels – the Buddha taught so that people can become related by the way of dhamma, related by dhamma blood. The dhamma is that which bears the dhamma bearer, the one who knows the correct method and puts it into practice. It lifts one up so that one doesn’t go down into the four lower realms of Apāya, and so that one doesn’t wander a long time in saṃsāra.

This dhamma is what the Buddha searched for and found. People who have faith in the dhamma – relatives – practice it, and through this practice are able to live happily in this very life as well as become free of existential suffering. People who reach this level of developing the dhamma blood within themselves become related by dhamma blood. Between them there is mutual understanding, trust and friendliness.

So, think about your own life, as you ask this question. Before the practice, how was it? And after practice, learning about the dhamma, how was it?

The Buddha taught the dhamma so that people who were related in worldly ways automatically would become related by dhamma. And those who practice and develop the dhamma blood don’t make distinctions about nationality. They don’t have this attitude that ‘I am this,’ or ‘I am this or that.’ We’re all the same.

For us monks, whatever foreigner comes here to practice, if he or she practices the dhamma with respect and care, they become close, a dhamma relative. So think about that – when you practiced, did this type of feeling arise in you? Did you feel connected?

AC: Deeply, Sir, like family.

SUP: People of the world are related in three worldly ways, but this is not enough to solve the complex problems that exist in society now. They will continue to exist. Only if people become related through dhamma blood will social problems gradually become weaker and weaker until finally people can gain peace.

AC: The people of your country have suffered, greatly. Equally, they have inspired many of us in the world to become more courageous in transforming our own sufferings and, moreover, putting ourselves in the mind and body of others, to feel, and to act compassionately. What would you like to leave us as a final statement, to your people, and to everyone in the world?

SUP: If one is born a human, it’s important to be a true human being, and it’s important to have a humane mentality. And one should also search for a way to come to know what is true, to know the true dhamma, and to walk the path of dhamma. One should walk this straight path because if one walks it one will reach a safe destination. This is what’s really important, these three things.

In this regard, in the time of the Buddha there was a deva (a celestial being) who came to see the Buddha, and he said that the beings of the world are tangled up in a tangle, both inside and outside; who is it that can untangle this tangle?

The Buddha’s reply was very simple. With sīla or morality as a basis, if one works to develop samādhi and paññā, or concentration and wisdom, to completion, then social problems will be resolved. That’s the essence.

Many people lack basic morality, and no longer fulfill their duties as humans in society. Without morality and not performing their duties, their minds are no longer upright. Such people are crooked, and because of that social problems have arisen which are nearly impossible to solve. But if people learn to keep basic sīla and fulfill their human duties, when they start to get the benefits from this, and they recognize these benefits, then they will follow this path, realizing it is good. They will follow this path honestly. They will no longer want to get the better of others. They won’t want to make a profit at the expense of others.

When people keep morality, fulfill their human duties and understand the benefits, they become honest and upright. Then our existence in society becomes one of interdependence, like the Burmese saying, ‘The island depends on the grass and the grass depends on the island.’ When there is grass growing on the shore, the island can withstand the water striking it. When a wave comes in, what happens? It doesn’t erode the shore. The grass protects the shore. And the shore holds the grasses so they can grow. If there were this kind of mutual preservation in society, the world would become fresh and peaceful again. This is called in Pali aññoññanitthita, or ‘each relying on the other’ – interdependence. Without morality, without fulfilling social duties and without honesty, then interdependence or mutual preservation cannot occur. Only with these as a basis can these occur.

When people don’t have basic morality and don’t fulfill their duties or responsibilities in society, what happens between people? There is immorality and people’s character is not upright. But if both self and others keep morality and fulfill their responsibilities, then their character is sure to become upright. If that thrives within society then there will be mindful interdependence. If that happens, the world will become a happy place.

AC: Sādhu, sādhu, sādhu. Thank you, from my heart.

SUP: Thank the Buddha, they are the Buddha’s teachings.

AC: Sādhu to the Buddha. Sādhu to the Dhamma. Sādhu to the Sangha. Sādhu to you, Sir. Sādhu to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, and all the courageous people of your country too. Sādhu to the people who sacrificed their lives for this birth of freedom. Sādhu to everyone on having the moral courage to admit their mistakes, reconciling with each other, and bringing peace and harmony to your beloved Myanmar. And beyond, to the people around the world. May we all take greater risks to put ourselves into the shoes of each other, and the unborn, and to act compassionately, now and forever.

With good will for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart:
Above, below, & all around, unobstructed, without hostility or hate.
Sutta Nipā-tā

Author Page

ALAN CLEMENTS, read his bio here.

FERGUS HARLOW has worked closely with Alan Clements since early 2013. A keen student of the Dhamma, he has lived and worked in various spiritual and retreat centers in the UK. As writer, editor and researcher, he played a significant role in bringing these materials to light. He currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Read the press release for Wisdom for the World

Wisdom for the World is one set of conversations (22,000 words) within a four volume 1,500 page (600,000 word) set of books titled, “Burma’s Voices of Freedom – An Ongoing Nonviolent Struggle for Democracy.”

“Burma’s Voices of Freedom,” co-authored with Alan Clements’ colleague and personal assistant, Fergus Harlow, will feature numerous conversations with former political prisoners, religious and spiritual leaders, activists, poets, writers, performers, satirists, teachers, and government leaders.
Seven years in the making, “Burma’s Voices of Freedom” not only illuminates the wisdom of nonviolent revolution and the power of forgiveness and reconciliation, it inspires the value of safeguarding universal human rights as the best means of preventing violence, war and genocide.
The four volume set will be self-published in early 2020.⁣ It is 95% completed.

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— Alan Clements in Conversation with the late Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita of Burma.

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