The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Suu Kyi Visits Senior Monk
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi paid tribute on Tuesday to the Venerable Buddhist Abbot Ashin Nyanissara, known as Thidagu Sayadaw, amid the news that the senior monk will deliver an address about the importance of unity in the country at the opening ceremony on Thursday of the new Sitagu International Buddhist Academy (Yangon), which is located in the outskirts of Rangoon.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi paid tribute to the Thidagu Sayadaw at 3 pm yesterday [Tuesday] and listened to the Sayadaw's talk on dhamma for about two hours,” said Ohn Kyaing, a spokesperson for the National League for Democracy. “She arranged the trip by herself and went there alone without any party leaders accompanying her.”

Allegations emerged recently that the government had interfered in the issuing to political parties of invitations to the opening ceremony of the Buddhist academy.

Asked whether Suu Kyi will attend the ceremony on Thursday, Ohn Kyaing said he did not yet know her schedule.

Sayadaw [Abbot] Ashin Nyanissara arranged to hold a five-day opening ceremony from June 16 to 20, and invited senior abbots from the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, which is the only authorized Buddhist organization in Burma, and is responsible for the management of all the Buddhist monasteries across the country.

Also invited are government officials and diplomats, representatives of political parties, religious and social organizations, and those private donors to the academy, as well as novices monks who will soon begin learning Buddhist teachings at the academy.

Asked about the government's rejection of the abbot's invitation to the political parties in general, a Buddhist monk who assists Sitagu Sayadaw said, “I heard about the issue, but I was not directly involved. The Sayadaw's office staff took care of the invitation arrangements.”

However, several political parties who were invited by the Sitagu Sayadaw said that they first received an invitation letter to the party in general—later the plan was changed and individual representatives were invited instead.

“At first, the party received a letter of invitation informing us that the Sitagu Sayadaw was planning to deliver a speech to various political parties that day,” said Thu Wai, the chairman of the Democratic Party–Myanmar. “The venerable Sayadaw invited government officials alongside members of political parties and other social organizations, so we thought that he was intending to give a speech about national reconciliation and its benefits to the country.

“But when the government found out that the Sayadaw had invited certain political parties, he had to change the letter to only specify the invitee's name.”

Sitagu Sayadaw Ashin Nyanissara became well known among pro-democracy activists after the 1988 popular uprising in the country due to his famous dhamma talk about the 10 rules that rulers must abide by. The senior monk actively tried to mobilize humanitarian assistance both inside and outside the country to help the survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which hit the Irrawaddy delta region in May 2008.

According to the itinerary for the Buddhist academy's opening ceremony, the first day includes the attendance of only members of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee. Government officials and diplomats from the foreign embassies are invited on the second day. Religious, political and social organizations are invited to the ceremony on the third day.

On the fourth day of the ceremony, Sitagu Sayadaw will present certificates of gratitude to all donors who contributed to the construction of the academy.

The Rangoon monastery is the second Sitagu International Buddhist Academy built by Sayadaw Ashin Nyanissara. The other was built on Sagaing Hill in Upper Burma in 1994.

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