02 Nov 2006 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 2 Comments.
I met a great man yesterday. My old friends from my Paris days, founders of the France-Burma Aid Association, invited me to breakfast at the Harvard Faculty Club, to meet their mentor Sulak Sivaraksa, one of the grand old men of Buddhism. This brilliant and accomplished activist — an original disciple of the highly esteemed late Thai master Ajaan Buddhadasa — is still, at the age of 73, traveling the world, promoting peace, nonviolence, and universal values, while based with his wife in the old wooden house he grew up in. He is the epitome of Engaged Buddhism. He never gives up or gives in to weariness or discouragement. At this moment he is again, for the third or fourth time, accused by the Thai king of lese majeste charge for criticizing the monarchy and may be prevented from reentering his country.
Author of memoirs, Loyalty Demands Dissent, among other books, Sulak is initiator of a number of social, humanitarian, ecological and spiritual movements and organizations in Thailand. He believes government has grown far too large, remote, and corrupted with partisan self-interest, and doesn’t seem to care for people anymore. Sulak visited the United States five times last year, and he noted that although America is exporting violence, it does appear that attitudes are changing. He feels that there seems to be a cultural awakening, away from injustice and systemic violence and inequality toward a search for nonviolence and harmony — which goes for the most part unreported by the mainstream media. He points out that somehow it seems in our modern society, we have come to think of “liberty” as freedom to be more aggressive in accomplishing our personal, egocentric aims — a sad departure from freedom as we think of it from the Buddhist view.
Renowned as a mediator of border conflicts, Sulak is currently in conversation with top Chinese officials to help ease the stalemates in talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. I asked Sulak how to talk with people who don’t want to talk with you and don’t believe in dialogue, such as Islam extremists; he said he felt that we really have to start listening more deeply, have genuine patience – “the main Buddhist virtue” — and talk to those who will and can talk to those who won’t talk with you. He has learned this through his many decades of committed nonviolent political, social and spiritual activism. Sulak just keeps on going. “In one way we have to be patient and at the same time I’m busy!” he said. He is an exemplar of patience, tolerance and the power of listening. I can see in him a profound integration of energy and acceptance that we could all learn from, protecting us from the extremes of reactive hyper-activism on one hand and mere passivity on the other.
The most important thing is the air you breathe in. Without that you’re dead. With it you’re connected with all sentient beings. If you breathe properly then you don’t rely solely on your intellect. Your heart and head become better linked. The ego becomes less and less important. You get things done more effectively, more humbly.