September 18, 2007
At the monastery, we usually got up at 4 am in the morning. We washed our faces, brushed our teeth and went around the alms. These were our duty to wake up the novices and lead the alms round. At about six o’clock in the morning, we all were free. I went the nearest bus-stop to go to the Shwedagon Pagoda, which was our target.
It was a very dramatic scene to go to the Shwedagon Pagoda at that time. I thought that young monks of Yangon flowed to the Shwedagon Pagoda in such a way that of flowing water of a river with saffron robes.
From Thingangun township to the Shwedagon Pagoda was not near to go, but it costs 200 Kyats as a bus fare. At that time the cost became double. All the passengers on the bus spoke of their annoyance of dismay.
When I reached the Eastern Gate of the Shwedagon Pagoda, where the Bronze Image existed, I met with five monks, my friends. I was very glad for meeting with them. They said,
‘The government hesitates to apology the monks whom had been oppressed and our four demands. We have nothing but to unite now. We must be involved to do the direct opposition to the government.’
‘Ok, where we do that? Sima, the Buddhist ordination hall, is the most important place to do so for monks. Where can we find one?’
‘It’s easy, my friends,’ they said, ‘We’ve a place in Bahan township not very far from here.’
When I arrived the Bronze Image at the Eastern Gate of the Shwedagon Pagoda, there had been very few monks there at about 9:00 am. But at about ten to eleven, there were lots of monks.
Those monks went there with alms bows from their monasteries. They had broken the rules of their monasteries not to go out to join the monk demonstration, prohibited by their chief monks. But monks came. They neglected for their lunch. They neglected for everything, except for the demonstration.
Pattaneikkuzzana was our destination, which means that monks totally opposed to the government. To do such thing, there needed at least fifteen monks. When we joined at the Bronze Image at the Eastern Gate of the Shwedagon Pagoda, we decided to do so at the nearest monastery.
We entered into an unknown monastery to get a place for dangerous thing- formal opposition of monks towards the government.
In the small monastery, the chief monk was sitting. He asked us, ‘Oh, monks, what’s the matter with you?’
We replied, ‘We would like to make a formal opposition to the government for their assault to us, the monks. Is it possible for us to use the Sima of your monastery to do so?’
The chief monk said nothing but stood up and walked, turning his back. We watched him on his back. He was approaching to a bookshelf. Then he put something out of it. Alas! It was a kamawa, a Pali text used in some ritual performances by monks. ‘Let’s move to the Sima,’ he led us.
Then, in the Sima, we had accomplished our formal opposition of the monks towards the government according to our law of Sanga or, Vinaya, in time of such situation, with the leadership of our unknown chief monk. Then we went back to the Bronze Image.
There were a crowd of people and monks. It was bigger than yesterday. To see that crowd, we were shocked. Then we motivated the crowd to launch a march around Yangon. The problem was that what I wanted to say to the audience, my voice could not go far. When hand speakers were given to us, it was very convenient to communicate with the gathering mass at the foot of the Shwedagon Pagoda. We had a struggle with the government to visit to the platform of the Pagoda, but we could go onto the platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda. On that platform at the ‘victorious place’, we made a solemn wish to overcome the military government. I had a chance to lead the march holding the Buddha Sasana flag.
Near to the Tamwe Junction, some men made an attack to the protestors. Some young monks had some quarrel with them, but we had managed to control our march. We went around the eastern part of Yangon, reciting the Mitta Sutta of our Lord Buddha – not to harm the humans, and not to make danger to the humans.
At last, we went back to the Sule Pagoda, the place was the heart of Yangon, with the hand-clipping sounds of the people and their supports. At the pagoda, Daw Than Myint Aung and Daw Shwe Zee Gwat of FFSS [Free Funeral Services Society] (Yangon) were waiting for us. They offered us drinking water and cold drinks.
We had to decide to stop our demonstration for that day. Before parting, we recited Mitta Sutta again before our withdrawal.
The difficulty was that accepting donation of the Yangon, how could we manage to accept cash donation both alongside of the streets! We had to hesitate to accept the donation as well as the cash notes of donors. We did not accept their money, but appreciated their hopes, wishes and expectations.
My experience then was that we must follow the principle that was to get along with the of recent situation. We had to choose our monk representatives to deal with the government, other organizations and men and women. Everyone accepted to form such a group of representative monks that day. I explained it to those who were involved in the demonstration why we needed it, how it would form and the list of the names of representatives with their responsibilities. The following was the list suggested by the audience. I informed the crowd,
‘Attention, please! With the suggestion of those who are now here in the demonstration, I will announce the list of the names of monk representatives along with their responsibilities.
1. Ashin Kawwida (President)
2. Ashin Htavara (General Secretary)
3. Ashin Naymeinda (Information)
4. Ashin Sandima (Organizing)
5. Ashin Thanwara (Literature)
6. Ashin Eaindaka (Finance)
7. Ashin Zagara (Discipline)
8. Ashin Kaythainda (Member)
9. Ashin Tharthana (Member)
10. Ashin Yattha (Member)
11. Ashin Uttama (Member)
12. Ashin Dammanyanna (Member)
13. Ashin Wizaya (Member)
14. Ashin Latkhana (Member)
15. Ashin Thayrawuntha (Member)’
Everybody said ‘Well done!’ three times at the end of that announcement. Then the sound of hand clapping arose to show the satisfaction.
The representative group formed as a kind of committee so that there were Finance and Literature. In fact, all the monks had decided not to accept money as donation. The main purposes of the representatives were to demonstrate peacefully in discipline and to deal with the government on behalf of the monks.
The most important thing was the discipline. We had to restrict monks to enter the demonstration line as well as investigate the fake monks joining. The discipline group, thus, had responsibility to keep the monks to be in discipline of speech and behavior of monks according to the Vinaya of Lord Buddha. If fake monks were in the crowd of demonstrators, they were requested not to come along with us.
In that way, ‘the monk representative group’ was born out of demonstration with the support of around 5000 students, monks and people at about five o’clock in the evening that day.
18th September 2007 became historic in Myanmar religious chronicle because the monks could unite to protest against the government’s oppressive behaviors.