Myanmar Spring Chronicle – August 03 Scenes
MoeMaKa, August 04, 2023
Kyaukme Sayadaw’s sermon in essence; Religion & Politics
The consecration ceremony of the Maravijaya Buddha statue, built by the military council leader Min Aung Hlaing, was held on the last full moon day, Fullmoon Day of Waso. The sermon in essence of Kyaukme Sayadaw at the ceremony, who is the vice chairperson of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, became the most talked-about topic among Myanmar social media users. Sayadaw is the abbot of the Sihuii Pariyatti Monastery in Kyaukme, and rather than the title, Sayadaw is well known as Kyaukme Sayadaw after the name of the city where Sayadaw stayed instead of his title. Sayadaw preached in 1 or 2 minutes the essence of Buddhist teachings to not do bad things, to do good deeds, and to keep the mind pure. Most people interpret the word “do not do bad things” as referring to what the military leader is doing; killings, tortures, burning of houses, arrests, and imprisonments that are currently happening in the country.
As the military council leader, being reprimanded by a religious leader in front of a public audience at this ceremony is significantly different from the kind of flattering sermons preached by some Sayadaws. Though Sayadaw did not directly refer to the country’s ruler in front of the public for any action, the general public applauded the religious leader who reprimanded him not to do bad things.
This incident is reminiscent of the 10 Obligations of a King preached in the 1990s by the Sitagu Sayadaw, who used to flatter the current military leader. At that time, the internet and social media had not yet emerged, and the sermons were distributed on cassette tapes. After the military coup in 1988, during the period of military rule, when fear prevailed and no one dared to speak openly to the ruler, the 10 Obligations of a King preached now was a sermon that received applause from the public audience.
It can be seen that Sitagu Sayadaw, who used to reprimand the military dictators at that time, has now turned into a supporter of the military leaders and one of their most trusted monks.
Due to being one of the monks leading the Mabhata (Patriotic Association of Myanmar) that emerged after 2010, pointing the finger at the threat posed to Buddhism by other religions, especially Islam, and inciting radical racism and religious discrimination, Sitagu Sayadaw was objected to and criticized by the NLD supporters.
At this time of military rule and brutal oppression, the statement of the Kyaukme Sayadaw was not to be compared to the activities of a political party or an armed organization, but for the public, it was considered an encouraging event, assuming Sayadaw was speaking up for them.
When freedom of expression is silenced, it is natural for the public to support religious leaders who speak out on their behalf. Regarding the sermon, no one can confirm whether Sayadaw actually referred to the actions of the military leader or whether he was speaking in general terms. If Sayadaw did not refer to the military leader’s actions or the military dictator’s actions, and the public interpreted it according to their own wishes, there are some who are worried that the military council leader will take action against Sayadaw.
If we consider this incident, when a leader from any area of the community or from the religious area, separated from the worldly area, speaks on behalf of the public’s displeasure and opposition to injustice, they want to show their overwhelming support.