Pre-saffron revolution period experiences (Part 3)

by Ko Maw
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 00:00

After this debate, the monks from middle-Burma sat together again to discuss the establishing of a monks group called the ‘Young Monks Union’ in keeping with the instruction given by U Gambira. After the meeting, we could successfully establish a regional group called ‘Young Monks Union’ (Middle-Burma) with the consent given by the majority of the monks in our region.

In this organization, the following monks were given positions as is mentioned against their names:

1. U Eithiriya (Jaung Jaung) – General In-charge (currently being held in prison)
2. U Wayamathara – Joint-In-charge (writer of this article)
3. U Thilananda – Organization Work In-charge
4. U Wimala – Organization Work In-charge
5. U Than Wara – Organization Work In-charge
6. U Einda Sara – Finance In-charge
7. U Khay Mika – Communication In-charge
8. Shin Way Lu Riya – Yenanchaung and three other monks from Taungdwingyi and Nyaug Oo totaling 11 monks could successfully establish this regional monk union on 11 February 2007 at about 7 p.m. But we could not include some monks from Pakokku and Salin Townships in the regional monk union as we could not establish contact with them and hold discussion with them yet. So we could nominate some of them only for future expansion of our regional body.

After establishing the regional monk body, U Eithririya suggested the launch of reciting Metta Sutra and Metta Bawana campaign as our first movement at pagodas in our respective townships on every full moon day and full waning day. I agreed with him and said to him, “OK, go ahead”.
On 12 February, we discussed choosing a topic for further discussions. But some monks were eager to return to their mother units of respective monasteries as our religious exams were drawing very close. But some of us including me wanted to stay a few more days for further discussions and meetings. And then we let those who wished to return to their monasteries to go back and the rest who wished to stay a few more days to stay.

We urged the donor devotees, who were offering alms food and other essentials to offer cash, travel expenses and other offerings to those who were returning to their monasteries and keep on offering alms food to those who would remain here.

Then members of our regional monk union and some monks from Mandalay including Sangha Duta Sayadaw chose ‘Political Defiance’ as the topic for our next discussion. In this discussion meeting, we explored ways on reducing submission to the junta by using political defiance tactics and methods. This discussion meeting lasted until the end of the second week of February and we returned to Rangoon in the third week of February. We stayed in Rangoon and went sight seeing with the hospitality provided by U Gambira and discussed practical and long term political plans with him again. After that, we returned to our respective monasteries in middle-Burma.

I got phone got into contact again with U Eithiriya just a few days before the full moon day of Tabaung. U Eithiriya urged us over the hand phone of U Gambira to hold regular recital meetings of Metta Sutra at every full moon day and full waning day, starting from the Tabaung full moon day. And then he urged us too expand this movement to bigger and broader ones depending on the participation of other monks in this movement. He told us to take photographic records of all these movements.

I replied to him, “Yes, it’s good. At least it will create unity and cooperation among us and establish esprit de corps spirit for the sake of people and our country”. I assured him I would do my best in fulfilling my obligation in doing this campaign. Then I urged all of the members in our middle-Burma monks group to implement the recital meetings in their areas and to take photograph for our records.

Then we started our recital of Metta Sutra with about 30 monks under the slogan of ‘For Peace on Earth and Peace in Burma’ at Lawkahmankin, Kyauksayone and Sanaynan pagodas in Yenanchaung on Tabaung full moon day.

At very short notice, only in the morning of this Tabaung full moon day, I requested other monks staying at the learning monasteries in Yenanchaung who had connection with us to come and join our prayer recital meetings on that day to be held on the platforms of these pagodas. At the same time, I organized donors to come and offer us cold drinks among others at these prayer meetings.

I led right monks in one of these prayer meetings held on Taboung full moon day at about 5 p.m. at Lawkahmankin pagoda. And also U Thanwara led eight monks at Kyauksayone pagoda and U Khay Mika led six monks at Sanaynan pagoda respectively. Other leading monks in our group led other prayer meetings at other places and pagodas too. We organized these prayer meetings regularly on weekly basis every Sabbath day. I learnt that other leading monks in other townships organized similar prayer meetings at their respective places weekly.

U Gambira once told me that he had many political books for our study during our meeting with him in Rangoon. As a book worm and energetic and active political activist at that time, I told him I would like to study these books. U Gambira replied me that he would arrange for my study only after our religious examinations. Based on this promise, I contacted U Gambira who was residing in Salay on 27 March, informing him I was ready to come to Rangoon and requested him to arrange for my study. He made an excuse to me to wait about a week as he had to go to some places which would take about a week. After that, he assured me that he would certainly arrange for me to study all the books. And then I myself visited some places in Minbu and Salay Townships too.

Then I came back to Rangoon on 8 April from Salin township trip via Chauk when I heard U Gambira had arrived back. I got into phone contact with U Gambira only on 11 April at about 3 p.m. U Gambira requested me to wait just half an hour as his meeting was in progress and he had already arranged for my study and everything was ready when I reported my arrival to him. He gave me a rendezvous at Lawkanat teashop near Myenigon bus stop. He arrived there about an hour later. Then he caught my hands and rushed to Tamwe market for his important appointment there.

I moved to another table while he was meeting with an editor at the teashop near Tamwe mosque. After that, we reached Shwepyitha Township at about 11 p.m. and met some youth labour activists at a place near Htanchaukpin road winding. U Gambira lent some money to them for their activities as they badly needed financial assistance. Then we arrived back at the residence of his donor devotee in Shwepyitha Township at about midnight.

Then I stayed with U Gambira at a residence of his donor devotee situated at Sayasan Ward, Shwepyitha Township. Another young monk from Thaton town was also living with us together and working in political organizational work together too. Later I learned from sound file records and what U Gambira told me that he was discussing to establish ‘Ponenyakara’ Young Monks Union when I called him over telephone after reaching Rangoon. I was satisfied to see the A 4 size 4-page-long statement on forming this union prepared by a noted writer.

The aims of this ‘Ponenyakara’ Young Monks Union is to protect the monk rights in accordance with Buddhist disciplinary code, playing a mediating and negotiating role in economic, social and political crises being faced by the lay people (donor devotees) by using non-violent means to overcome all these crises smoothly.

At that time, U Gambira had intimate friendship with many politicians and also had wide networking with monks in political affairs. And also he was seriously working on organizational matters and agitation work among the monks in cooperation with them living elsewhere. Moreover he could organize many youths and met them frequently to cooperate with them in many activities from behind the scene.

During that period, we left our house in Shwepyitha at about 9 a.m. and roamed many places in Rangoon. In these visits, sometimes we had discussions with monks and youths in our network and sometimes we wandered here and there in Rangoon to study the lives of common people. We used to go back home at about 10 p.m. After arriving home, we discussed on the current situation of the monks and people whom we met on that day in a whole day tour besides our own experiences in our hometown and region along with talks among ourselves by munching betel nut and betel leaves before going to bed. We three monks used to go to bed late at about 1a.m.

Soon after my arrival in Rangoon, the monk coming from Thaton left our house so that I and U Gambira remained at the house together. His donor devotees took all the responsibilities for offering alms food and other essential provisions. Within one week, with the arrangement of U Gambira, a monk from Mawlamyine came to our house and joined us in our political movement. During this time, I learnt of some movements of the Rangoon Young Monks Union led by U Gambira.

Young Monks Union (Rangoon) was established by nine young monks hailing from Pa-an in Karen State and Sanchaung, Ahlone and Htaukyant townships from Rangoon Division on 15 October 2006 at Thadahma Wunthayone monastery in Ahlone Township, Rangoon Division. After forming the union, the Announcement No. 1/2006 was issued. In this announcement, the union demanded to free five student leaders including Ko Min Ko Naing, to free all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi unconditionally, to engage in dialogue as soon as possible for national reconciliation and resolving the general crisis being faced by the people.

The Young Monk Union (Rangoon) gave an ultimatum to the military regime (SPDC) by saying they would stage Ex-Communicative boycott unless their demands were met. This announcement was distributed among the monks and people. Moreover the copies of this announcement were sent to 25 influential abbots in learning monasteries, State Sangha body, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Ministry of Religion, Home Ministry and many other government departments.

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