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Daw Suu's Letter from Burma

Letter From Burma (No.4)

By Aung San Suu Kyi

At Thamanya (2)

Love and truth can move people more than coercion

On 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.

When 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.

The 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.

I 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.

The 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.

All 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

There 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 the land.
Some have 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.

This 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.