I’ve had a long time curiosity with Burma, political name now changed to Myanmar. This has been reawakened more recently, finding out more of the current political situation through classmates from both the Mon and Karen minorities. A few years ago I spent a hugely fulfilling year as caretaker of the Wangapeka Retreat Centre in New Zealand, and the Burmese teacher U. Thila Wunta Sayadaw was one of the root teachers at the centre’s inception.
As well as the country’s remarkably influential spiritual tradition there is also the intrigue of its image from colonial days, its inaccessibility until recently and the slowness to adopt consumerist values.
Burma has been under military control since a coup d’etat in 1962. In recent years there has been an increased easing of human rights abuses and repression of ethnic minorities such as the Karen, Mon and Kachin. With the Nobel Peace prize awarded last year to Aung San Suu Kyi and visits by world leaders, greater international attention has been focused on the country. Burmese friends report a rapid changes in its transition to democracy. My hope is Myanmar/Burma learns from the mistakes of the western world’s unsustainable and unethical path of totally embracing the values of the market place.