No time in history of our nation has furnished with our popular interest in politics than today. Nevertheless, it reminds me of excellent writings of Winston Churchill, who characterized the descent of his British during the time of Adolf Hitler’s ascension, as “fecklessness and fatuity” of both his government and opposition. When our national leader, Aung San, met with the elder British Cabinet members in his negotiation for our independence, he was awed at how limited his and his young compatriot Burmese politicians’ scope of vision, political and moral knowledge was compared with the broad experience of these senior and wise people of England. Unbelievably, as the smart prime minister who survived his British from the disaster of the Second World War confessed, the whole British cabinet and parliament had been lacking of intellectuals, fathomed with sentiments, and flinched with platitudes mostly busy for enchanting the popular opinion during that fatal period of world history. As in a famous Confucian sad warning to our irreparably proud human beings, “people think they are smart and wise. When they really get into a trap, nobody knows how to get out of it”.
Great Britain, full of her greatest vigor in leading her Scottish enlightenment into modern democratic history, had been crowned with her another name United Kingdom as early as the 9th century. Just sixty five years ago, we Burmese first came to know the concept of “union” when the British asked Aung San “what do you mean by that you want the independence of ‘Burma’? “. Perhaps, this Great War had coached reprehensible lessons to those leading British (so-called) intellectual liberals in real understanding of how they were too inapt at digesting abstract ideas to be understood themselves. To our people of neonatal democracy which scarcely has passed its physiologic jaundice state, when we think we master all those abstract ideas of “nation, race, unity and rationality “to ultimate truth and will like to bring all the real best things on earth to our imagined utopia, we must learn from the eternal acknowledgement these old men Confucius and Churchill that the smartest of all don’t know about these words much. In fact, there is only one problem badly in need to be solved by we Burmans, that is we think to believe we know too much of the Truth (with Big T). Democracy is a lot more sexy and promiscuous than authoritarianism. To be straight to the point, the risk of fatal HIV infection for these dancing peacocks with our exposed butts is far greater.
To me, we don’t have any important particular national character to be retained but we have to eliminate our specifically pathetic national characters which are badly in need for not to be repeated any more. As John Stuart Mill confessed in his erudite On Liberty, I have no new discovery for my dear fellows and I will repeat the same message what all ancient sages have discovered again and again, “ human knowledge is so limited that we must always convince first we are so poor in our sentiments and knowledge“. Not so many of our Buddhist monks get to know into what Buddha wanted to say by Dukkha (suffering) is. We suffer from our restless seek for sentiments. We are ALWAYS unsatisfactory and apprehensive in fixing to gain some “better” sense. There is no rational being in Siddhartha Gautama’s eyes, only the futurists and slaves of their passion. There is no sane person free from his sentiments as this great sage admonished. If we really like to take initiative in solving our prevailing problems in this Buddhist country today, it is nothing less than first convincing our arrogant minds on repeatedly reminding how limited is our knowledge and how careless are our sentiments as Buddha warned us.
I saw from these sentiments the big shadow of social Darwinism and Nazism is now wrapping up Burma. Unless some moral force can intervene, the fate of the nation will be in jeopardy than any can be imagined. If we come to understand that all those problems of Germany in the last century that raised Hitler’s Chancellorship and why Nazism had triumphed in Germany to endanger all humanity, it was not because Hitler was mad and Nazis were inborn sociopathic but simply because they did not aware that they were being mad. Nazis and Hitler were just normal people as the majority of Burmese civilians are today. Many were educated, intellectuals and nationalistic politicians who were enthusiastic to save their nation that on their presumption was being robbed by foreign migrants. We have the similar foundation of Nazism here since moral relativism, which is the psychological Darwinian root to justify Nazism, is already a chronic pestilence in our nation. The difference is that Germans’ moral relativism in the past was human normal physiological response to economic trauma and humiliation from defeat of war but ours is rooted on a false religious perception which gives rise to our falsely justified cultural world view aggravated by chronically sick economic conditions, and aided by our lack of real moral education.
Let us be clearly speaking: in this human world, there is no moral education that gives liberty so that somebody can think it apart from one’s humaneness. If you ever think nation, people, race, unity, spirit, courage, persistence, rationality and prophylaxis of terrorism, and such endless etc. are the foundations of moral education, the Burmese Hitler in near future can plug all kinds of his arbitrary wishes in these illusive variables. Some the brilliant of our unborn shaggy children will blame us how their ancestors were such unwise salvages to leave them in brutalized society. To treat human being is to stand up yourself to treat as a fellow human being, not to imagine enthroning yourself as the Buddha or nation. There is no nation that precedes human existence. There is no single national law that can rule above the Universal Laws of Humanity.
We can consider why we should not prevent ourselves at least for self-defense against the growing power of those invading people. I can understand being angry with who have done wrong with some of your compatriots and maybe these contentious strangers trying to walk in your life to crush your whole race and your noble religion, but what is about the sense of being against a man just simply because of his birth? Could you be able to decide before which womb you are to be conceived? Which DNA molecules should be assembled in your genome to determine yourself to be born as a Burmese or to be born in the dust and worms of Maungtaw as an unhealthy starving Rohingya child to a deprived Rohingya family? Both Northern and Southern Abidharma Buddhist theories of death and transmigration warn us that no sentient being is free from this unthinkable random nature of reincarnation. John Rawls, who was greatly influenced by Immanuel Kant, who in turn had unbelievably similar affinity for his moral theories to Buddhism, developed his greatly influential “Theory of Justice” based on this concept of random reincarnation of human beings. When people in original position gather for determining what rules were to be predefined for living up together a society, nobody knows what will happen to him and his fellows in numerous random futures. Therefore, every rational human being in the original position has to promise each other when somebody comes to be in the underprivileged position, the ones who obtained the advantageous position must not ignore them and will voluntarily offer help to them. This theory called the veil of ignorance greatly influential on modern liberalism and international order lucidly re-speaks what Buddha had simply acknowledged to the young man Suba as Karma in ancient time. The central thesis of both the Buddhist Cannon and Rawls’ theory is nobody knows he will be (unavoidably) disadvantageous (Dukkha) at some time in countlessly numerous random incidences. If you sometimes think we are such incomparably valuable polite and rational Buddhists in this life, keep in mind that for your one noble Buddhist life, you have not less than a million helpless disadvantageous lives in your infinite series of suffering and coming million lives to be suffered in misery.
Let us be humble. As described by Buddha, our incurious minds of Burmese are like a cattle watcher who just knows counting the cows in the herd and who never progresses to become the owners of the herd. As clearly observed in Rawls’ theory, the great cattle owners who get insight into Dharma have been in many parts of the world and Dharma has been all together in the West remarkably since the British enlightenment even though people who developed Dharma in the West don’t think themselves as Buddhists (knowers). Either to Buddha or Socrates, a knower is the one who knows he doesn’t know anything except that he does doesn’t know. Socrates' words to Athenians for his final departure and the great Buddha's Lotus Sutra revealed this unbelievably identical message to humanity.While Socrates admired knowledge and virtue, Buddha was more cautious and even looking anti-meritocratic. In Dharmapada, Buddha described about lusty monks compared to the potentially enlightened fools in this way:
A fool who knows himself that he is ignorant gradually learns to improve to be clever. On contrary, the monk desires “let both laymen and monks think that it was done by me. In every work, great and small, let them follow me" — such is the ambition of the foolish monk ; thus his desire and pride increase.
An earlier research work, that was even done before Ne Win subjugated Burmese society into military dictatorship, reported a very interesting point.
“Even though democracy is astonishingly flourishing here, this society will find it very difficult to have improvement in modern sciences. The problem of these Buddhist people is to identify themselves with the end. They think everything has been set up for them and think themselves they were with the ultimate supreme end (Loka Nibban)”
One of my friends, who has been greatly beneficial to me in my further improvement in Buddhist knowledge, was an admirer of Great Nagajuna, prestigious as the Second Buddha in Northern Buddhist history. In his profound love for this great sage, he introduced to us what seemed to be the most mind-boggling among all Buddhist teachings by saying “ Samsara and Nirvana are the same. Samsara is nirvana, and Nirvana is Samsara”. I urged him to stop with a clear reason in my mind that such message if understood wrongly would drill our society into anarchy since even before hearing such message, our people have already identified themselves with the end. As I came to learn from Dr David Loy, one of the leading Western Buddhist scholars, I realized what actually Nagajuna wanted to say was “ Nirvana and samsara are not different” meaning it all depends on your serene or hellish mind. Nirvana and samsara are not the real different places as intended by the ‘same’ message. Instead, they are the same illusive mind as intended by the ‘ not different’ message.
I appreciate somebody is motivated to protect Buddhism and want it be sustainable in history. But let me ask you which Buddhism are you willing to protect ? Is Buddhism the Shwedagon pagoda? Is Buddhism the Buddhist fine arts? Is Buddhism, the Rakhine people or modern Burma or Mr President, U Thein Sein, who apparently wears to be a Burmese Buddhist ? Where is Buddhism apart from your mind (there is nothing in reality except for your consciousness to think there Buddhism is)? Is there any Buddhist Dharma that justifies you should be angry to others and compassionate to some? Can there any Buddhist Dharma be existent when you are despising Muslims to death and compassionate to Buddhists as the most spiritually advantageous in the world? If you really want to protect Buddhism, there is but one and unbelievably simple way to do it. DON’T treat others in the way as you DON’T want to be treated. This is the central theme of Buddhist Law of Karma that every candidate who wants to be a Buddhist must first believe in. This particular and the most important theme of Buddhism contrasts Gods’ religions which ascertains to annul one’s responsible behaviors in their collective great end. If somebody understands the responsibility of his moral conduct in inexistent terms of nation, people or Buddhism, what leads him would be not different from the despotic king of Great Britain, who identified himself as the Divine Representative, that Scottish enlightenment of liberals overthrew to found modern America.
The most influential liberal theorists of modern age , Karl Popper and Frederick Hayek, developed their understanding of liberalism from their deeply conscientious knowledge that they really didn’t understand anything. If some of our Burmese fellows think their rational minds will lead Burmese democracy to overcome all sorts of miseries in this nation and its people, let me remind us the classical description of Hayek, “ the limited authoritarian government is far better than an unlimited democratic government”. Popper’s denial of nationalism looks more straightforward, “nationalist feelings infiltrate liberal strongholds and sabotage liberalism. Also, and more importantly, being psychological, feelings are irrelevant unless group-cohesion is achieved through psychology alone. This idea of tribalism is a dangerous myth”. If somebody comes to believe that nationalism can be a special case for Burmese to be compatible with liberalism, it is the same irrational belief to think you can have your best lunch and dinner with a dagger put ready to cut over your throat. Nationalism is the manifest of fear from human group ego, and is built upon greed for a particular group’s interest. Liberalism based on the rule of Law is strictly egalitarian to be impartial and to be impassioned. Let us clarify: there is no space for the role of nationalism in an open society. There will be no open society without the inalienable full respect for egalitarianism.
We should ask that when people of different merits and different tastes can never be equal, how can such egalitarianism be practiced? In fact, the question itself has the answer: egalitarianism is not the aim, it is a way of practice. That practice is not to treat any other as you don’t want to be treated. The egalitarian society is a free society not because people enjoy the equal merit but because people receive equal treatment that is not to be coerced by any special group or the majority. Let us keep in mind that the democratic enlightenment of the West has arisen from the need of every human to enjoy the freedom from the abuse of the arbitrary power of an authoritarian government. That arbitrary power is not to be replaced with the arbitrary world view of the majority or the tempest of nationalism or Buddhist Nazism of the popular government.
There is no sub-human and no useless in liberal democratic society. It is no surprise that thinking of leading liberal theoreticians, Popper and Hayek have such close affinity with the simple ancient Buddhist metaphysics, which is completely different from Fascist interpretations of prevailing modern Burmese Buddhism, which are in part shaped by bad illusions dominated by the rise of Germany’s Nazism during the Second World War. There are important points we need to be aware that. Even though only few modern Burmese know how Germans’ Nazism and Japanese Fascism had been threatening the whole world, their emormous influence has been extant in the consciousness of our people throughout these ages even though we are completely unaware of it. As I have described earlier about Burmese communists in one of my Why your country has two names, “even the most ardent Burmese communists don’t know for what purpose they are fighting in this egalitarian society ”, this ignorant Burmese history of sentiments has repeated again to our fellow people who appear that they really don’t know for what purpose they are fighting. If you like to think you are fighting for history, let us understand first that history you are fighting for is merely a low burglar history of power struggles. History, as known to us, is for recording accolades of most brutal minds of the triumphed, not for recording the fine arts, the suffering of the underprivileged, the miseries of people, and best moral intelligence of the modest, or perhaps most forgiving losers.
So before any of our fellows appears to claim that they have rational sentiments in fighting for history, please ask yourself for what kind of history you will be fighting for. Let us keep in mind repetitively that in fact there is only one single purpose for democratic enlightenment of modern societies: that is to let people able to overthrow any becoming tyrannical government by people’s power without bloodshed. That reserved purpose of people’s power is not for legitimizing a habit of discriminating against one’s own fellow human beings from his or her unleashed Darwinian instincts. Here I will regress a little as I think such relatively unknown knowledge can be useful. Those great psychological theories of the Darwinian instinct, the lust for power or sadomasochism as pointed out by Sigmund Freud are just rediscoveries of our ancient Buddhist metaphysics by humble and great Western minds, especially described in Abidharmakosa, surprisingly a historical Theravada doctrine learned by Northern Buddhist scholars. Not only this wonderful doctrine described about human fundamental lust for sex and power as consistent with modern leading psychological theories, it dived into even unimaginable quantum principles and a very clear description of Zeno’s paradox which ever has led mathematical history to modern calculus. No matter how deep are the abstracts of such comprehensive metaphysical doctrine, all it conveys in brief is the same message all churches of Buddhism alert us , “all conditioned processes are illusions and dreams”.
If some of our fellows think, these abstracts are to be useful only for the metaphysical dimension and not applicable to complex political affairs, let me inform them that modern political sciences highlight to propose the progress of a nation depends on how the public administrators of the nation are well-understanding the abstract areas and synthesize them to the best of moral knowledge applicable to the people of their nation. If we carefully examine how can someone be eligible to be entitled as a competent public officer to manage those endlessly complex public affairs, the first essential character is humaneness and the second essential character is his learning wisdom for infinite progress. That kind of unhindered wisdom enjoyed by the humane public officer on his infinite scientific progress of political, social and moral knowledge is inevitably built upon an ancient Buddhist metaphysical concept called Reductio ad absurdum, that means as much as you know, all that you know are meaningless things. The first developer of Reductio ad absurdum is that great monk Nagasena who debated with King Milanda of Parkinstan in 150 BCE followed by a cozy explanation of Nagajuna, and comprehensive study of Candrakirti of the Madhyamika Buddhism, which is the most influential Buddhist philosophical method on many contemporary Western natural and social scientists. If we think our modernized political assumptions (that you just developed yourself in a few seconds out of your passion) for reforming our nation are more fundamentally true and systematic than those great human learning for thousands of years, we must first realize that it is nothing other than arrogant illusion of such rational fools. The Great Buddha, we want to protect in our haughty sentiments of rational nationalism, would be smiling at us.
(to be cont.)