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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 93 Heroes REVIEWS TWO ASIAN LIBERATION MOVEMENTS captured the world’s all-too-brief attention over the last year. In September and Oc- tober of 2007, the monks of Burma responded to decades of oppression, and a precipitous rise in government-controlled commodity prices, by leading the first nonviolent mass move- ment against the ruling junta since the violent suppression of a similar movement in 1988. The monks’ main message was metta—loving-kindness—but within days the Burmese military and its civilian partners struck back fiercely. Thousands were beaten and imprisoned, hundreds probably killed, and monas- teries emptied and shuttered. And so it remains today. In Tibet, public demonstrations began on March 10 of this year, the forty-ninth anniversary of the 1959 revolt against Chi- nese occupation. Mostly (but not entirely) nonviolent protests quickly spread across the country, with monks, nuns, and ac- tivists leading demonstrations calling for the release of political prisoners, the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and an end to China’s systematic destruction of Tibetan culture and society. As in Burma, Tibetan demonstrators were put down with guns and clubs. Chinese security forces killed and wounded hundreds of Tibetans and closed many of the country’s main monasteries. Then Burma made the headlines again in May. Cyclone Nargis cut through the Irrawaddy Delta, killing at least 138,000 people and leaving another two million in desperate need of food and shelter. With its xenophobia and customary unconcern for its own people, Burma’s generals held the world’s best intentions at arm’s length and allowed tens of thousands to perish needlessly. Two compelling figures represent these nations’ liberation movements. While conventional, self-serving political leaders trade in blandishments and threats, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma and His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet advocate politi- cal change rooted in nonviolence, dialogue, and a deep faith in principles of morality that are both Buddhist and universal. The world clearly recognizes their gifts: the Dalai Lama was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989; Aung San Suu Kyi received the Peace Prize in 1991. Yet each in their own way suffers an exile that cuts them off from the daily life of their people. Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burma’s patriotic hero, Gen. Aung San (1915-47), returned to Burma from England in 1988 to care for her ailing mother. But she quickly found her voice as the leader of Burma’s democracy movement. Her party, the National League for Democracy, won eighty percent of the seats in Burma’s 1990 general election, but the junta simply refused to recognize the result. Aung San Suu Kyi has lived under house arrest in Ran- goon, largely incommunicado, for much of the last twenty years. The Dalai Lama’s exile began after Chinese troops suppressed the 1959 Tibetan uprising. The Dalai Lama escaped to India, where he established the Tibetan government-in-exile, and he has not been allowed to set foot in his own country for nearly fifty years. HOZAN ALAN SENAUKE is vice-abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center and founder of the Clear View Project, offering Buddhist-based resources for relief and social change. He also serves as an advisor to The Buddhist Peace Fellowship, where he has worked since 1991. ILLUSTRATIONBYESTHERBUNNING(PHOTOOFMONKSBYSTEVEEDWARDS,PHOTOOFTHEDALAILAMABYLUCAGALUZZI) PERFECT HOSTAGE A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s Prisoner of Conscience By Justin Wintle Skyhorse Publishing, 2007; 480 pp., $27.95 WHY THE DALAI LAMA MATTERS His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World By Robert Thurman Atria Books, 2008; 256 pp., $24 REVIEWED BY ALAN SENAUKE NOV 84-105.indd 93 NOV 84-105.indd 93 9/1/08 12:24:51 PM 9/1/08 12:24:51 PM