U Nu, Premier of Burma, Speaking about Buddhism

U Nu, Premier of Burma, Speaking about Buddhism


the rebirth of Burma is the story of a man and his religion the religion is Buddhism the man is U Nu U Nu says Buddha means Enlightened One Buddhism is the cement that holds Burma together this is the Shwedagon Kipling called it the waking winking wonder because this 326 foot pagoda built before the birth of Christ is annually in quested by thousands of pieces of gold leaf plastered on as offerings by pilgrims but as U Nu told reporter Nevin it is not by this pyramid of guilt that the new Burma will be built U Nu what are those men doing high upon the pagoda this needs a bit of explanation you see as a matter of fact these concerned more with the mundane affairs you see then with these religious affairs because when a man is sick or when a man is demoted or any man is suspended that you see from his job he consults a fortune-teller because he believes you see that he is suffering from ill luck so in in order to counteract that ill luck he offers gold leaf to the Pagoda which he believes will bring some merit which can counteract you see the ill luck but you’re suffering from the person who pours water on an image of the Buddha is doing the same thing it’s being the same thing yes these are only superficial gestures a very superficial very superficial the real thing that matters you see is nothing but the meditation which can deliver one you see from all suffering you tell us a little about that U Nu I must tell you something from my own experience I was born a Buddhist so I became a Buddhist and to tell you the truth I was not a Buddhist in the true sense of the term till very recently I was very much attracted to Buddhism I mean genuinely attracted to Buddhism only after I have learned that the truth of Buddhism can be tested Lord Buddha said quite boldly you must not believe anything which you cannot test yourself and he also said that a person will go through four stages in this very life not in the life hereafter and when a person has gone through one of these stages the mental transformation of that person will be so complete that it will give him enough conviction and faith to make him a genuine Buddhist these words very much attracted me towards Buddhism so I tried it myself and not all of what Lord Buddha had said a portion because due to lack of time as you know I cannot possibly try all but he had said and I have tried some portions of it and I found that to be true and since that time I became a very much confirmed Buddhist how long does it take to achieve that state about a month of more or less constant meditation yes and the only method must be constant yes meditation you didn’t do anything no no I want is not supposed to do anything else meditate in a monastery sir yes in the monastery not necessarily in a monastery you can do it at home so long as it is a quiet home could you describe the state which one reaches at the end of this if the word serenity or confidence or well it is eh it is quite definite you see it is not the vague thing it is very clear, for instance, you see you may be a Buddhist or you may be a Christian or you may be Muslim or you may be anything you see, but if you ask that man whether he believes his own religion completely he is an honest man he must tell you you see, he must admit that sometimes he is assailed by doubts about his own religion generally the religion he professes the Buddhist will tell you the same thing but when he reaches the first stage that doubt is completely eliminated have you found your Buddhist faith that helped to you as leader of your party in this prime minister, U Nu very very much very very much had it not been for my faith, you see eh I would have been finished you see in 1948 49 and 50 when the insurrection was at its height because everybody thought that we were finished and we were not finished because of that faith in his time U Nu has translated Jefferson Lincoln Karl Marx even Dale Carnegie for his fellow Burmese he has also translated Buddhism for a great many Americans the Lord Buddha actually lived some 2,500 years ago he was a prince bond to greatness and glory but when he realized that there was so much suffering and misery in the world he decided to become an ascetic of holy man and seek out a way of life that was free suffering humanity he made a tremendous impression not only on his own followers but also on all his contemporaries and the story of his life was handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation When U Nu was a boy of 10 he received his first formal indoctrination in the concept of Buddhism with the Shin GU ceremony just as this boy and every Burmese male have been doing for centuries U Nu explains that this is not to glorify a god but an ideal the distinguishing feature of Buddhism is to be found in the practice of Buddhist doctrine this involves the exercise of a rigid but now discipline designed to attain a serenity of mind which in turn will lead to a way of escape from suffering and distress in all countries there is a desperate longing for peace but peace like war begins in the mind of man many people throughout the world are beginning to realize this and from one generation to the next the Burmese boys at the age of about 10 spend a week or so as a novice monk emulating the life of Lord Buddha there is no commitment that he will make monkhood his career like Lord Buddha who gave up the luxury of a prince the candidate is led in pomp and pageantry to a ceremony where he gives up his princely garments for the simple saffron robe of the order his family watches as his head is shaved a symbol of Buddhas decision to forego the pleasures of the world the boy will live with the older monks in poverty and simplicity for at least a week and if he chooses later on for the rest of his life for this week his only possessions will be his robe a needle, a string of beads with which he counts while meditating, a razor to shave his head with, a strainer to strain insects from his drinking water lest he inflicts suffering on any living thing and finally his begging bowl monk has no income he arises at dawn and goes out barefoot along his route carrying a lacquered begging bowl from the devout he receives his daily rice Buddhists do not call this an act of begging it is the monks duty to receive the housewives to offer if there is any sense of privilege involved it is on the part of the giver who has helped to perpetuate the monkhood and therefore the teachings of Lord Buddha the late morning meal at the monastery is the last of the day even for our young friend the monk cannot take any sustenance not even tea or coffee after 12:00 noon the rest of his day is spent in studying and above all in meditation which is the only real road to Nirvana or ultimate purification as U Nu said Buddhism is not a doctrine that has to be accepted on hearsay it can be tested by anyone and rejected or if at the age of 20 the young Burmese wishes to go on to ordination as a full-fledged monk he can do so parts of the ceremony are read from lacquered strips of bamboo the language is Pali comparable to Latin in Catholicism he is asked are you a free man have you come with the permission of your parent have you any diseases are your arms bowl and robe complete there are hundreds of thousands of pagodas and shrines all over Burma and it is almost impossible ever to be out of sight of one Americans are so much to inclined to think of Buddhism principally in terms of the ornate temples at Mandalay and Bagan and Mulmejn and the elaborate water procession at Inle lake with its unique and world-famous leg rollers but as U Nu points out I think there is something very romantic about you Americans, Buddhists do not worship any idols the image of the Lord Buddha symbolizes his teachings and his example for which Buddhists have profound reverence in much the same way I think that Cross and for Catholics the image of the Virgin Mary and the images of various Saints symbolizes for Christians the teachings and example of Christ anyone can become a Buddha if he practices the teachings of the Lord Buddha with sufficient diligence we have great reverence for the Lord Buddha because he showed us the way to mental serenity it is this reverence that we show when we need before his image or making offerings of flowers upon incense in the pagodas.

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