Burma (or Myanmar as its military dictators renamed it) is a wondrous place, undisturbed by hordes of tourists since ousting British colonizers who opened up its riches and mysteries to the outside world. It is the Land of Golden Buddhas, achingly poor due to political corruption on a scale only the old UK could be proud of.
Aung San at home in an old British colonial in Rangoon (voiceseducation.org)
Although the hordes are gone, there have always been a few intrepid visitors careful not to enrich General Than Shwe's Chinese-backed totalitarian regime by their travels. Now Hillary Clinton hopes to bring them by by opening up one of the world's oldest Southeast Asian Buddhist countries and is finding help from a starring figure inside the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi poster (guardian.co.uk)
Avalokiteshvara is the "Bodhisattva of Compassion," who apparently comes in many guises beginning as the Indian "lord who looks down from on high" introduced to most Buddhists in the Heart Sutra (a later Mahayana creation). He is transformed into a central figure of the divine feminine as Kwan Yin. And in this form seems to currently be embodied in peace activist and national heroine Aung San Suu Kyi.
Totalitarian forces could not suppress the love the people feel for Daw ("the Lady"), daughter of one of Burma's founding fathers. They denied her her democratic election by imprisoning her after a coup. She has been on and off house arrest ever since, refusing to leave the country to be with her British husband, now deceased, or her family. Now Daw is running for office, and the people are loving it. Her role would be relatively minor compared to president or prime minister. But it is a start the Burmese are ecstatic to contemplate.
- Avalokiteshvara: Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
- A True Union of Hearts and Mind (Tutu Foundation)
- When awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was called “One of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades.” She has said that one of her inspirations was South Africa’s successful struggle to end apartheid [racial segregation imposed by a ruling minority] led by peacemakers like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and others who never stopped working to make South Africans free from oppression.