We Are Compassionate. Why Are You Killing Us?
When I first started studying Buddhism over twenty-five years ago, I deeply connected with a number of Buddhist monks from Burma. They were of the "Therevadan" tradition, which is the "way of the elders," the most ancient Buddhist lineage. They were "forest monks" who lived in the forest and followed as completely as possible the way of the Buddha. They only ate one meal each day by noon and they only ate what was offered to them. The only possessions they owned were a robe and a begging bowl. They could literally sit in meditation all day, moment by moment just watching their mind. They didn't sleep lying down but sat up all night in meditation position. They were some of the most amazing and kind human beings I have ever encountered. These Buddhist monks were "awake" in a way I had never experienced before. They seemed totally unselfconscious, very happy, and incredibly joyful. It seemed like all they wanted to do was to help people. Simply being in their presence was literally mind-blowing. It was as if they were all connected through the heart with each other, as if they existed in a higher, more expansive, and freer dimension of our being. I had never before experienced being around other human beings who had a palpable spiritual vibration that was effortlessly radiating through their hearts. These Burmese Buddhist monks were tapped into and embodying nothing other than love. It was one of the most profound blessings of my life to have spent some time with these monks. It felt like they were teaching me in everything they did: the way they walked, the way they ate, the way they did anything.
What is currently happening in Burma is a crystallization of a collective psychosis that is ravaging our planet. This psychic epidemic, what I call "malignant egophrenia" (see my article Diagnosis: Psychic Epidemic) pervades the entire field of consciousness, which is to say it is not localized in one place or limited in time, in that it exists everywhere in potential at any moment. What is happening in Burma is a localized, acute outbreak of a nonlocal, virulent, pathogen that has infected the global body politic. The situation in Burma is an out-picturing on the world stage of a deeper, archetypal process that exists enfolded within the collective unconscious of our species. What is being played out in Burma is a living "symbol" of a deeper, mythic process which is currently en-acting itself in a variety of scenarios around the world. Being a timeless, archetypal process that has materialized into our time-bound reality, it can be recognized to be an amplified version of what can happen or what actually is currently happening in the U. S., as our country becomes more and more a military, police state, which oppresses the freedom of its citizenry.
What is happening in Burma is the latest manifestation of the underlying psychic epidemic into which our species has fallen prey, simultaneously revealing the collective psychosis in bold relief for all who have eyes to see. Something is being revealed to us through what is materializing in Burma: the underlying world process, which is also incarnating itself in the Middle East, in the U. S. and all over the world, is crystallizing itself into a fully clarified symbol. The situation in Burma is only the latest iteration of an archetypal process that has played itself out throughout human history.
On the one hand are the Buddhist monks, who are truly revered by the people of Burma, and who genuinely represent the will of the people. The monks are devout followers of the Buddha, "the awakened one," who taught: "Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love, this is the eternal rule." The monks are holding up signs saying things like "Stop Violence" and "We are compassionate. Why are you killing us?" What clearer expression do we need to reflect the insanity that pervades our planet? As if actors in a cosmic play, the Buddhist monks are re-presenting the role of loving-kindness, of compassion. They are even carrying a victory banner which reads, "Love and kindness must win over everything." While nonviolently protesting the abuse of power, they are chanting the "Metta Thoke," the "loving-kindness sutra," which sends out and shares loving-kindness and its merit to all living beings, including the militarized government who are oppressing them. They are literally embodying the very teachings of both Buddha and Christ.
On the other hand is the militaristic government, which represents the will of the elite few. They rule by force, by "might makes right." Whereas the monks embody love, the generals and their minions re-present the ultimate abuse and perversion of power. Seen symbolically, the militarized government re-presents the very opposite of both love and of life itself, which is to say they represent, in full-bodied form, the archetypal quality of "evil." An archetypal, timeless drama is being played out in Burma between the monks and the military, freedom and oppression, and good and evil. But like Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate says, "There will be change because all the military have are guns." People, groups, or nations who abuse their power over others invariably self-destruct; it is merely a question of time.
When what is happening in Burma is viewed symbolically and seen as a dreaming process – as an externalized reflection of something going on deep inside the collective unconscious of humanity – it is recognized that the opposites of archetypal good and evil, embodied in the figures of the monks and the military junta, are completely polarized and split, encountering each other in living, breathing, form through the Burmese theater. The very opposites, which animate the extreme tension in the world psyche, are being played out on the world stage for all to see.
Recognizing what the situation in Burma is "symbolically" revealing to us is to have an expansion of consciousness. When recognized as a symbol of the deeper process that is incarnating throughout the collective body politic, including within ourselves, the horror that is playing out in Burma can activate our lucidity and help wake us up. We can only recognize what is symbolically being revealed to us if we realize that the people in Burma, both the monks and the military thugs, are not separate from ourselves. To see symbolically is to recognize that, just like a dream, all characters in the situation in Burma are interconnected aspects of ourselves. The energetic expression of our realization is loving-kindness and compassion for all these various and multiple parts of ourselves.
Having loving-kindness and compassion, however, does not mean doing nothing. It does not mean that we let abuse happen when we are in a position to stop it. We should not forget to take what is happening in Burma "literally" too, which means we should listen to what the people in Burma, these parts of ourselves are saying: "Help!" In their cry is a part of ourselves calling for help. Let us hear their cries, which are none other than our own, and answer.
To show your solidarity with the Burmese people, and support the movement for peace and democracy in Burma, please sign this emergency petition from Avaaz:
Image by racoles used under a Creative Commons license.