Myanmar, Lanka will protect Buddhism in its PRISTINE GLORY – Ven Ashin Wirathu Thera
Myanmar and Sri Lanka are ancient and prominent Theravada Buddhists countries. The Buddha preached ‘Eva Balawa’, anybody can come and ascertain for themselves, what Buddhism is.
Ven Ashin Wirathu Thera, emerged from Myanmar as a protector of Buddhist rights in that country. Most Ven Ashin Wirathu Thera the founder of the ‘969’ and the leader of that organization, and was in Sri Lanka recently on an invitation of the Bodu Bala Sena, to address the Maha Sangha Samuluwa held at the Sugathadasa Stadium on September 28.
According to Wirathu Thera, he dedicates his services to eradicate inhumanity, cruelty and all bad influences against Buddhists and Buddhism. Buddhists countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia face problems based on cultural and religious.
Q: What is the meaning of ‘969’?
A: ‘969’ are the virtuous qualities of the Triple Gem. It includes the 24 virtuous qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. It enlists the first nine of the Buddha’s virtuous qualities for being the Buddha, six Dhamma’s virtuous qualities for the Dhamma and nine Sangha’s virtuous qualities for the Sangha.
Q: Why did you found ‘969’?
A: I was determined to unite Buddhists. Actually, my target was the progress of the Buddhasasana. It is directly linked with the protection of pristine levels of my Buddhist country and our innocent Buddhists.
Q: What are the obstacles you faced when you launched your work through the ‘969’?
A: Yes, we had to face a number of difficulties in the past. I know those problems have not been eliminated. In the future too, we will have to face many difficulties from outsiders. Whatever it may be, we have to dedicate ourselves to protecting the purity of the Buddhasasana.
Even though Muslims try to create some unnecessary problems in our country, we feel that they have some fear and doubts about ‘969’. The other important thing is we have understood that outside forces who have not developed kindness, love and compassion fear the people who have developed such noble qualities.
Actually, this organization has been expanded to all corners of Myanmar. I need to emphasize that this is not a terrorist organization. During the period 2002-2003, Myanmese Buddhists had to face a number of problems. I understood that establishing a systematic organization is an important requirement to face such big issues. If not, terrorism would have invaded the whole country.
On the other hand, the ‘969’ organization has done yeomen service to improve Myanmar’s Buddhist back ground.
Q: What plans does the Bodu Bala Sena and your organization have for the future?
A: The action we have taken to protect Buddhism will be carried out continuously. We are not going to introduce or implement new ideas or plans. However, the actions we have taken in this regard will be expanded further.
Q: Some parties wanted to stop you from coming to Sri Lanka?
A: It is true that some Muslim parties had taken steps to prevent me from coming to Sri Lanka. I received an invitation from the BBS. Under the normal procedure, I applied for a visa to visit Sri Lanka for a few days. I received a visa sans any obstacles.
Q: So then why did you thank President Mahinda Rajapaksa in this regard?
A: Some extremist Muslim groups had requested President Mahinda Rajapaksa not to issue a visa to me. They had requested that I be barred from entering the country.
But, President Rajapaksa argued that allowing me to come to Sri Lanka is not a wrong thing. Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country.
Kirama Wimalajothi Thera – Ven Wirathu Thera is not a terrorist. Preventing his arrival is not good for Sri Lanka. It would have been a disgrace to Myanmar Buddhists. (The Muslim Council had written to the President that this monk is a butcher of Muslims.) But the monk had not even thrown a stone at them. The Muslim Council’s stand is that he is a murderer of Muslims.
Two letters had been sent to the President and Defence and Urban Development Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa requesting to put a halt to Ven Wirathu’s visit to Sri Lanka.
Q: What is your perception of Sri Lanka and Buddhism?
Ven. Wiranthu: I thought Myanmar is the only country which faces problems. But after all these discussions I understood that Sri Lanka is also now an object of fundamentalism.
But since my visit to Sri Lanka, I see both our organizations can cooperate in our fight against terrorism. I always dedicate myself to such causes, which is one of the main duties of a monk.
We are monks who practice the Dhamma and Vinaya. Meditation and preaching the Dhamma are our main activities. It was the monks that protected the Dhamma over the past 2,600 years. Monks had to endure numerous difficulties in their quest to protect the Dhamma in the past and it will be the same in the future as well. No matter who the adversary is, the voices of the monks will not be silenced.
We respect everybody. Likewise we shall also work to protect our dignity. We have not resorted to violence, nor have we hurt anyone. We were ordained to protect the Buddhasasana while serving our fellow man. We are committed to serving people while protecting the Dhamma even at the expense of our lives.
Q: Can extremism or any Muslim theory destroy Buddhism?
A: Every Muslim is not a terrorist. Only a very few people are connected to terrorism and extremist activities. The Buddha taught the Dhamma, just through the path of the truth.
Our intention is not to attack anybody, nor hurt anybody’s religious feelings by accusing anybody. So then what do we want to do? We need to emphasize the truth. To bring such people back to the correct path or prevent those who have lost their way. Some people are trying to stifle the freedom of others through force which is a very inhuman activity.
(Ven Kiramaa Wimalajothi Thera – During the past 2,600 years, did you hear about any incident or any kind of conflict had been created between Buddhists countries or among Buddhists to introduce Buddhism. Buddhists did not shed one drop of blood to spread Buddhism. We are not violent. We are non-violent. We want peace and harmony. We have to be united. But we were separated by Western powers which governed us for a long time.)
Q: Why were you jailed for a long time?
Ven. Wiranthu: It was not because of the Muslim problem. As a result of criticizing the mechanism of the Army Junta at that time, I was convicted and imprisoned. Not only me. One of our eminent monks Ven Ghanissara Thera (he is an expert in Dhamma) was also jailed. Hence, you cannot connect this incident with other issues.
Q: What were the problems which aroused Muslims in Myanmar?
A: Muslims in Myanmar were aroused. One of the major incidents was the killing of two Buddhist monks inside a temple. Likewise, Myanmese Buddhist girls have been raped. Due to such incidents, Buddhists monks discussed the importance of creating an organization against such cruelty. However, this organization never organised or started any conflicts with the Muslims or any other ethnic group. We hate discrimination. We need to prevent such tragedies. But unfortunately some people identify and introduce me as a Buddhist monk involved in terror.
Q: Yes, Time magazine, has described you as a Buddhist extremist. Did you initiate legal action against the Time magazine for describing you as a terrorist in one of their articles?
A: No, I didn’t take legal action against the Time magazine and the journalist Ms Hannah Beech. After the Time magazine article, the journalist concerned visited Yangon for a media conference last month.
But, I did not want to stop her from visiting Myanmar and allowed her to visit again. I treat her with loving-kindness, and I hope that she will realise the mistake she had done. However, I never expected her to report such incorrect news about me.
Q: Myanmar is a country which has had a large Theravada Buddhist population for a long time. It might be 89 percent of the total population. How has extremism and violence impacted the country?
A: Myanmar has a number of states called Rakayia Pinoya, Yangon Pinoya, Yakayin Pinoya, Molomian Pinoya, Kachen Pinoya Kayen Pinoya. Among them Kayen Pinoya is located in close proximity to Bangladesh. As in Myanmar, the highest Muslim population lives in this state. Across the border many Muslims have used to cross from Bangladesh to Myanmar. Meanwhile, they created many unnecessary problems. Up to now, a large number of Muslims have arrived in Myanmar which shows that they consider Myanmar to be the country of their own. Nevertheless, Myanmar is a Theravada Buddhist country. However, they try to invade the country little by little.
Q: What is the message you have to give the Buddhists of the world?
A: “Let us work in peace. Nobody can bring us down” because of our dedication to protect the threats to Buddhism in countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and every other Buddhist country. We have to face a number of problems. But nobody can stop our attempt. This might be the way to declare a terrorism free zone and spread the message of peace.
(Translated by Ven Maligavila Assaji Thera. Ven Kirama Wimalajothi was associated in the discussion)