Monastic Call for End of Myanmar Violence

Sitagu Sayadaw of Shwe Kyin

Monastic Myanmar Violence
© Fides

A key monastic figure in Myanmar has called for an end to the violence plaguing the country.

Pope Francis called for dialogue leading to peace in Myanmar during his March 3, 2021, General Audience.

Sitagu Sayadaw of Shwe Kyin – the second most important Buddhist monastic order in Myanmar – took a stand alongside other elderly Buddhist monks in the country to call on the military junta to end the indiscriminate use of force against the Civil Disobedience Movement, reported Fides News Agency.

As Irrawaddy explains – one of the few Burmese magazines still active despite the strong censorship that has hit the media since the military coup of February 1 – Sitagu Sayadaw, also known under the name of Ashin Nyanissara, is considered one of Myanmar’s most influential Buddhist monks. He is also known for having represented a key figure in the denunciation of violations committed under previous military regimes since 1988, the year of the student revolt to which many monks adhered and which was bloodily suppressed.

Subsequently, the Buddhist monk in question sided with Thein Sein, who presided over the last civil-military government still influenced by the army before being replaced in 2015 following the victory of the League of Aung San Suu Kyi. His silence during the violent repression in recent weeks had raised much criticism among his followers (as well as the head of the general junta Min Aung Hlaing and his wife Daw Kyu Kyu Hla), among other monks who exposed themselves but also from the many Burmese Buddhists who participate in the protest and the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Now, the 84-year-old monk has joined the call of eight other Buddhist monks in Shwe Kyin to stop the massacres and acts of violence against defenseless citizens. Shwe Kyin is one of the nine orders of the Buddhist monks existing in Myanmar and its members are known for their rigor with which they apply the “Vinaya”, code of conduct for Buddhist monks.

The position taken by the famous monk and his confreres of Shwe Kyin is considered an important step that not only strengthens the mobilization of monks in the streets of Myanmar but also the formal approach of Bhamo Sayadaw Bhaddanta Kumara, the Buddhist monk representing the summit of the Burmese Buddhist community within the “State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee”, the state council made up of monks appointed by the government. In mid-February in fact, the monk in question had publicly re-launched a proposal of negotiation between the military and the politicians ousted from the February 1 coup after he had already written to the junta about it in private.

As for General Min Aung Hlaing, his very close friendship with another monk, U Kovida, considered a rather controversial figure who enjoys high esteem within the military is well known. Indeed the latter does not refer to Theravada Buddhism, the most ancient and most widespread school in Myanmar, but to the practices of Ari Buddhism, linked to animist cults and to that of the Nats, spirits who are the subject of a popular cult and are probably of pre-Buddhist origin. The practices of Ari Buddhism feed on various currents of thought (Tantrism, Chinese influences, indigenous cults) and one of their most important practical and ritual forms is the Yadaya, a ritual that serves to neutralize or prevent bad luck.