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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Freedom from Fear

A few days ago as I was enjoying Teaching Company CDs on my car radio during my commute to work, 24 lectures on Buddhism (having already finished a course on Comparative Religion), I was taken by the lecturer's reference to Aung San Suu Kyi as an example of the connection between religious (particularly Theravada Buddhist) and political values. There was talk in the media just that day about her possible release after so long from detention in her home in Yangon, Myanmar (or Rangoon, Burma, if you are an old fart, wherever, it is the same place no matter what we call it). So it happened today, but I doubt it is permanent and wonder if it will matter in the long run. (And I suspect not a lot of people care, as her name is not among those "Trending" in Yahoo searches. "Trending Now" are Pat Sajak, Katy Perry, Hulk Hogan, Eating Disorders and Type 2 Diabetes. Which says something. Disturbing. Who is Katy Perry?)

I'm not much interested in or involved with politics in my own local world...condo associations, neighborhood boards, the strange redundant tensions among the governor, mayors and congressional delegations in Hawaii (home state, more or less, like Indonesia, of the president). Like so many of us, I tend to take my freedom for granted, and its exercise in the voting booth sometimes seems like a futile silly thing. On the larger scale, freedom isn't much of an issue, unless we are trying to justify our war efforts and defense budgets. Or civil rights. Or free enterprise. Well, I guess freedom IS a big deal. I just don't think of it much in my day-to-day activities. Because we have it. Well, except for freedom to do what I want in the face of oppression of employers. We are all wage slaves.

Back to the righteous Buddhist democrat Aung San Suu Kyi, (the lectures taught me to pronounce her name with grace) who I first heard about in Amnesty International pleas in maybe 1990. The TC lecturer points out that she is a classic Buddhist example of the values of a righteous leader, like King Asoka and King Mongkut. What lineage! (If you don't think Buddhism is politically activist, remember those self-immolated Vietnamese monks, the Dalai Lama, and ...I was going to say Gandhi, but of course he was Hindu. Like the Abrahamic traditions in their pot, Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism all are ingredients in a unified simmering soup.) The point in the lecture was that fearlessness, along with other traditional Buddhist values of courage, patience, tolerance and nonviolence, is what the world needs to be released from suffering.

The lecturer cited Aung San Suu Kyi's famous speech which perhaps we all might do well to read, if we haven't already. (Who IS Katy Perry?) "It is not power that corrupts, but fear," she says. Ripping off FDR just a little?

Such pretty words. Who among us puts them into action? I know this is a Buddhist reference, and I'm more intrigued by Taoism, but really, sometimes, it is hard to tease these things apart. The Tao Te Ching has much to say about leadership. Although my Tao teacher said it is 90 percent meditation manual (in the same curious way Chinese say Mao was 70 percent right, 30 percent wrong, or my Chinese painting teacher will tell us to do something when the ink is 80 percent dry) , the TTC also promotes the righteous leader. You can argue over what "righteous" means, but ultimately those same values that Aung San Suu Kyi talks about are Taoist as well.


sybil law said...

I have truly been educated tonight.
My favorite post of yours, by far.
The speech- and the lady (um, Kyi)- are both remarkable.

baroness radon said...

Thank you! And I highly recommend the Teaching Company! You can learn a lot while driving around. I'm glad I got my radio/CD-player installed.

Kyi is pronounced CHEE. (Ong Sahn Soo...Chee). After a few times, it rolls off the tongue easily. Like a mantra.