Lettter from Burma n.4 Thamanya: a place of Peace and Kindness
is one of a yearlong series of letters, the Japanese translation of
which appears in the Mainichi Shimbun the same day, or the previous day
in some areas.
Letter From Burma (No.4)
By Aung San Suu Kyi
Thamanya: A Place of Peace and Kindness
"At Thamanya (2)"
"Love and truth can move people more than coercion"
our second day at Thamanya we rose at three o'clock in the morning: we
wanted to serve the Hsayadaw his first meal of the day which he takes
at four o'clock. We had expected that we would all be suffering from
the aftereffects of the cavortings of the Pajero but in fact we had all
slept extremely well and suffered from no aches or pains.
we stepped out into the street it was still dark. Going out before dawn
had been a constant feature of the campaign trips I had undertaken
between the autumn of 1988 and the time when I was placed under house
arrest. But I have never ceased to be moved by the sense of the world
lying quiescent and vulnerable, waiting to be awakened by the light of
the new day quivering just beyond the horizon.
Hsayadaw had spent the night at his residence on the hill and when we
went up he came out of his small bedroom, his face clear and his eyes
bright. With a glowing smile he spoke of the importance of looking upon
the world with joy and sweetness. After we had served the Hsayadaw his
breakfast we went to offer lights at the twin pagodas on the summit of
the hill. On the platform around the pagodas were a few people who had
spent the whole night there in prayer. There is a beauty about
candlelight that cannot be equaled by the most subtle electric lamps;
and there is an immense satisfaction about setting the flames dancing
on 50 white candles, creating a blazing patch of brightness in the gray
of early morning. It was an auspicious start to the working day.
had expressed an interest in seeing the two schools within the domain
of Thamanya and after breakfast (another vegetarian banquet) we were
greatly surprised and honored to learn that the Hsayadaw himself would
be taking us to look at the institutions. He is very conscious of the
importance of education and arranges for the pupils to be brought in by
bus from the outlying areas. First we went to the middle school at
Wekayin Village. It is a big rickety wooden building on stilts and the
whole school assembled on the beaten earth floor between the stilts to
pay their respects to the Hsayadaw, who distributed roasted beans to
everybody. Three hundred and seventy five children are taught by 13
teachers struggling with a dearth of equipment. The headmaster is a
young man with an engaging directness of manner who talked, without the
slightest trace of self-pity or discouragement, about the difficulties
of acquiring even such basic materials as textbooks. Of course the
situation of Wekayin middle school is no different from that of schools
all over Burma but it seemed especially deserving of assistance because
of the dedication of the teachers and the happy family atmosphere.
elementary school is in Thayagone village and on our way there we
stopped to pick up some children who sat in our car demurely with
suppressed glee on their faces, clutching their bags and lunch boxes.
When we reached the school they tumbled out merrily and we followed
them along a picturesque lane overhung with flowering climbers. The
school itself is a long, low bungalow, smaller than the middle school,
and there are only three teachers in charge of 230 pupils. As at
Wekayin, roasted beans were distributed and the little ones munched
away in silence while the Hsayadaw told us of his plans to replace both
schools with more solid brick buildings and we discussed ways and means
of providing adequate teaching materials.
too soon it was time for us to leave Thamanya. The Hsayadaw came
halfway with us along the road leading out of his domain. Before he
turned back we queued up beside his car to take our leave and he
blessed each of us individually.
was much for us to think about as we drove away toward Paan. (We were
no longer in the Pajero: It had been sent ahead with the heaviest
members of our party in it in the hope that their combined weight would
help to keep it from plunging too wildly.) The mere contrast between
the miles of carelessly constructed and ill maintained roads we had
traveled from Rangoon and the smoothness of the roads of Thamanya had
shown us that no project could be successfully implemented without the
willing cooperation of those concerned. People will contribute both
hard work and money cheerfully if they are handled with kindness and
care and if they are convinced that their contributions will truly
benefit the public. The works of the Hsayadaw are upheld by the
donations of devotees who know beyond the shadow of a doubt that
everything that is given to him will be used for the good of others.
How fine it would be if such a spirit of service were to spread across
questioned the appropriateness of talking about such matters as metta
(loving kindness) and thissa (truth) in the political context. But
politics is about people and what we had seen in Thamanya proved that
love and truth can move people more strongly than any form of coercion.