Winter 2014 Fundraising


6 December 2014

Dear Friends,

 I am running late with this year’s fundraising letter, having just returned from four weeks in Asia. It was a rich trip—though not always easy—with visits to Tamil Nadu, Nagpur, and Mumbai in India and to Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, and Northern Shan State in Burma. I have much to report and I’ll post about my travels on the Clear View website and blog in the coming days. But I will be brief here.

 As always, we need your help to sustain and expand our giving in Burma, India, and elsewhere. During 2014 Clear View has been able to donate nearly $15,000 to a variety of projects in Asia and in the U.S. In modest ways we have been supporting schools, training programs, meditation centers, and clinics for the last seven years. Some of these are small one-time projects. Some are larger, more ambitious efforts in which our support is pooled with others.

 Clear View is intentionally personal and small in scale. My effort is to build friendship, to encourage, and connect friends to other friends with deeper pockets. Throughout my life and work this has been my networking strategy. For 2015 I am highlighting three Buddhist-based projects I just visited in Asia.

 • Nagaloka/Nagarjuna Training Institute in Nagpur, India: Clear View has been supporting Nagaloka for the last five years. Nagaloka/NTI is a kind of second home for me. It is joyful to practice with, learn from, and teach the young NTI students, Dalit Buddhists from poor rural areas across India hewing to the radical social vision of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Please see their website:

 • Sakya Hostels in Chennai, India: These hostels were organized for displaced or orphaned Dalit children after 2004’s devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami. Ten years on they are going strong, with separate facilities for young boys and girls, offering room, board, and love as students attend local schools. They are loosely in the same network as Nagaloka, with independent funding and structure.

 • Sasana Hitakari nunnery and school in Lashio, Burma:  Just now emerging from fifty years of dictatorship, Burma’s education and social welfare systems depend on the monastic and community resources of nuns and monks. With more than 400 students Sasana Hitakari, in northern Shan state where armed hostilities are ongoing, uses a progressive “child-centered learning” model to educate children for a new world while preserving Buddhist values of service and cooperation. Walking through the bright, open schoolrooms, I found myself thinking, “I’d like to have gone to a school like this.”

There is much more I could say, more I would like to share. But for now, simply: please put a check to us in the mail today: CVP, 1933 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA 94703.  Or donate at “Give to Clear View”  We deeply appreciate your friendship and support. And we welcome your thoughts and comments.

Warmly, in peace, 



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And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of dukkha: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.
                                                                                                 —Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Earlier this year Buddhist Peace Fellowship invited several teachers to offer engaged Buddhist commentaries on the Four Noble Truths. These Truths, the Buddha’s great discovery, can be characterized in this way:

1. What is the Nature of Suffering?
2. What is the Cause of Suffering?
3. What is the End of Suffering?
4. What is the Path to the End of Suffering?

But they can also serve as a broader tool for social analysis:

1. What is the problem?
2. What is its source or cause?
3. What is its purpose? Or, what would its end look like?
4. How do we get there?

For this series I chose to draw on my experience with India’s new Buddhists. This movement grows from the work of the visionary 20th Century leader B. R. Ambedkar, and continues as a modern and transformative force among India’s former “untouchables.” In this fourth essay in the series, I would like to consider the Path, and propose an as yet un-named element of the path: Right Anger.

This notion — Right Anger — will leave some Buddhist shaking their heads in disbelief, but consider recent news from India. The October 15 Times of India reported the following from India’s northern Bihar state.

In a barbaric incident, a group of four upper caste men on Wednesday burned alive a Mahadalit boy just because the latter’s goat had entered the agricultural field of one of the assailants.

The incident occurred at village Mohanpur under Karakat police station in Rohtas district on Wednesday afternoon when a village strongman, Kumkum Singh, and his three associates forcibly entered the house of one Jiut Ram and set the latter’s 15-year old son, Sai Ram, afire after pouring kerosene oil on him from a can. The boy’s only crime was that his goat entered the farm of Singh a few hours earlier. The boy was earlier thrashed black and blue by Singh and his associates. The boy somehow managed to run away to his home, but the assailants followed him.
                Bikramganj SDPO Ashok Kumar Das said the victim had sustained 90% burn injuries. He was rushed to Bikramganj for treatment, but died soon after being admitted to a government hospital.

Three days later, India’s Business Standard provided further context for a wave of caste-based atrocities in Bihar, which is among the poorest states in India. The atrocities include arson gang-rape and murder, crimes which often go uncharged and unpunished.

Mahadalits, the poorest of the socially marginalised in Bihar, have been targeted by powerful feudal forces which have the full support of opposition BJP to defame and destabilize the government led by Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Mahadalit himself, the head of the organisation meant for the community’s welfare has said.
“It is unfortunate but true that suddenly there are reports of a rise in atrocities against Mahadalits in Bihar. Mahadalits have become soft target of powerful feudal forces with the backing of BJP to defame and embarrass the state’s first Mahadalit chief minister,” Bihar Mahadalit Commission chairman Uday Kumar told IANS in an interview.
“The powerful feudal forces are not ready to digest the fact that a Mahadalit is the chief minister,” he added.

You can read such stories every day on the back pages of India’s newspapers. Anger is a completely understandable response. The anger of those directly victimized by caste violence, and the anger of those who care about the rights and well-being of all people. But such stories are nothing new. A June 2014 op-ed in the New York Times speaks to the vulnerability of Dalit women.

For much of India’s history the lower castes, especially the Dalits (once known as untouchables), have been routinely raped by the landowning upper castes…An analysis of Uttar Pradesh’s crime statistics for 2007 by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties showed that 90 percent of rape victims in 2007 were Dalit women.

Though women are targeted on the basis of gender and caste, for more than two thousand years men, women, and children have been victimized as the lowest of the low within a rigid and violent hierarchical system that, despite constitutional and legal protections, still sees a quarter of India’s population as less than human.

India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) documents crimes against Dalits and Tribal Peoples — those most grievously oppressed — in their own category. These crimes are vastly under-reported, “but even so the figures for 2012 are revealing: 651 cases of murder, 3,855 cases where people were hurt, 1,576 cases of rape, 490 cases of kidnapping and abduction, and 214 cases of arson.”

Again, anger simply arises and it calls out for further examination. Is anger by definition a “defilement,” a manifestation of delusion? Or might it be at once the cause and the fruit of other aspects of the Eightfold Path? In Pali, each step on the Path — samma ditthi or right view, samma sankappa or right intention, samma vaca or right speech, and so on — is characterized by the word samma, which is conventionally translated as “right” (though never as “righteous”). Samma has a rich range of meanings including: proper, complete, thorough, full. In this case we might have this newly compounded term samma kodha, which means something like proper or appropriate anger. That is, anger at violence, oppression, and injustice which suffering beings impose on other beings. For Dr. Ambedkar and for the movement that has emerged from his work, anger may very well serve to point the way to refuge in the Buddha’s way, and to all the other steps along the path.

In Healing Anger, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s commentary on the 8th Century India sage Shantideva’s teachings of patience, anger is contrasted with hatred.

…“anger” as it is understood in English, can be positive in very special circumstances. These occur when anger is motivated by compassion or when it acts as an impetus or catalyst for positive action. In such rare circumstances anger can be positive whereas hatred can never be positive.

In the accounts above, in what we see taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, in the Bay Area killing of Oscar Grant, in the caste, race, and religious violence that thousands and thousands face every day, what is the right response, the liberative impulse? We must have a moral response, one that provides refuge all beings, low and high. In his essay “Buddha and the Future of His Religion,” Dr. Ambedkar writes:

It is not enough for religion to consist of a moral code, but its moral code must recognize the fundamental tenets of liberty, equality and fraternity. Unless a religion recognizes these three fundamental principles of social life, religion will be doomed.

A striking example, which turns on the very notion of patience, is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Written by Dr. King to Birmingham’s “moderate” clergy in April of 1963, in the midst of a bitterly contested campaign of nonviolent protest against segregation, I can think of no clearer expression of Right Anger. In the passage below, Dr. King succinctly lays out his method.*

Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In accounts from India, in what we see taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, in the Bay Area killing of Oscar Grant, in the caste, race, and religious violence that thousands and thousands face every day, what is the right response, the liberative impulse? We must have a moral response, one that provides refuge all beings. In his essay “Buddha and the Future of His Religion,” Dr. Ambedkar writes:

It is not enough for religion to consist of a moral code, but its moral code must recognize the fundamental tenets of liberty, equality and fraternity. Unless a religion recognizes these three fundamental principles of social life, religion will be doomed.

The Buddhist precepts speak our moral code, flowing from and leading to liberty, equality, and fraternity. The precepts’ instruction regarding anger is not to suppress it or pretend that our anger doesn’t come up. The instruction is not to “harbor” anger and ill-will. Our awareness of anger allows us to turn and put it to use. This is the transformative power of the Buddha’s precepts. When we see violence, harm, and evil, then anger readily rises. This is where the rest of the Eightfold Path comes in. Instead of retaliating in anger, returning violence for violence, we practice Right Anger, using the Path’s tools for understanding and inquiry — right view, right resolve, right mindfulness, and right concentration — in order to engage in the liberative work of right effort, right action, right speech, and right livelihood. The path is complete. May all beings be free.

**I encourage you to read the whole text of King’s letter and browse through his collected writing at: 
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In Memory of Nancy Jo McClellan / Seiu Shinshu 1942 – 2014


Our good friend Nancy McClellan—Seiu Shinshu/Gentle Rain Deep Resolve—passed away peacefully early on the morning of October 8 at Elmwood Care Center in Berkeley. A small circle of friends and teachers were at her bedside shortly after she passed. We set up a simple altar and chanted the Heart Sutra as we circumambulated Nancy’s body. We also had an opportunity to speak to her on this occasion of transition and closed with the Pali refuges. In the zendo that morning we sounded the densho bell 108 times to support Nancy on her journey into the unknown.

On Friday afternoon, September 19, after helping on the grounds following a wedding at BZC, Nancy was assaulted as she went to her car, which was parked on Russell Street at the corner of Otis, right across from the Zen center. What appears to have been an unsuccessful carjacking escalated quickly in violence. Despite the rapid response of Berkeley police and an emergency medical team, Nancy did not regain consciousness after the incident. She received wonderful care at Highland Hospital, and was visited by many friends over the two weeks there. Her assailant was apprehended by the police shortly after the attack and awaits trial on murder charges in Alameda County court in Oakland.

Anyone coming to BZC was likely to know Nancy. She was funny and deeply creative individual, able to catch any of us, or herself, off balance at a given moment and then be able to laugh. Whether or not one knew her personally—I find it very hard to write in the past tense—all of us around BZC enjoyed the fruits of her ceaseless work in our gardens over many years. She poured her practice and passion into our grounds—planting, weeding, pruning, watering, nurturing. It was not unusual to see Nancy mowing the lawns as the dark of evening fell.

She was also a painter (with an MFA from SF Art Institute), writer and actor, involved with improvisational theater over many years. She had a great photographic eye as well. See Nancy’s Flickr site.

A memorial ceremony, open to all of Nancy’s friends and family, will be scheduled in the near future. Meanwhile, all of us at BZC mourn Nancy’s passing, and we struggle to understand what we might learn from this moment even as we mourn.

Gate, Gate
Bodhi Svaha!

—Hozan Alan Senauke


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Alan’s New Book — Heirs To Ambedkar: The Rebirth of Engaged Buddhism in India



While many people know of Buddhism as part of India’s past, it may well be India’s future. The Buddhist movement inspired by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the 1950s has taken root as an “engaged Buddhist” uprising among millions in the 21st century. Heirs To Ambedkar draws from Alan Senauke’s experience with and commitment to this movement. Since young people are the future of our world, the focus here is on the students of Nagaloka/Nagarjuna Training Institute, creating a generation of gifted Buddhist activists.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Buddhist revolution, which Alan Senauke so perceptively describes as “hidden in plain sight”, is now transforming the lives of millions of Dalits, and at the same time strengthening the ethical foundations of Indian democracy.    It also has implications for all Buddhists and social activists throughout the world.

                                                                                                                          — Dh. Lokamitra

Available for $15 postpaid in the U.S. from Clear View Press, 1933 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA 94703 U.S.A   And, along with other Clear View books, music, and video from  <>                                                                                                           If you have questions or difficulty with the website, please email me directly at:



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The Fire This Time: Religious Violence in Burma

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by non-hatred only is hatred appeased.  This is an unending truth.

— Dhammapada, 5


On February 27, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was ordered to close all its long-established clinics in Myanmar/Burma. They were accused of giving preferential treatment to Muslin Rohingya people. This was in response to statements by MSF about what they saw as ongoing and systematic attacks on Rohingyas in vulnerable communities of Burma’s western Rakhine state. According to U.N. documents the latest of these attacks — in Du Chee Yar Tan village this January — left forty-eight Rohingya dead, mostly women and children, at the hands of Buddhist-based rioters and state security forces. MSF, with numerous clinics in the area, publicly reported that they had treated at least twenty-two victims.  The government of Myanmar has denied claims of these abuses, asserting that the U.N. and MSF’s facts and figures were “totally wrong.”

After negotiations the government stepped back a little, allowing MSF to continue its HIV/AIDS work and other activities in Kachin and Shan states, as well as in the Yangon region. Rakhine state remains off limits to MSF, despite the pressing needs of thousands from all religions and ethnicities who depend on their clinics.

Before going much further I should say that nothing I write can convey the complexity of issues or the passion and fear that fires both sides. From my distant vantage point in the U.S., I know that I can’t see the whole picture, which includes colonial history, geopolitics, along with regional and ethnic tensions within modern Myanmar.


Seven years ago the junta’s harsh economic measures brought a daring movement into the streets of Burma’s towns and cities. That movement came to be called the “Saffron Revolution.” Many thousands of Burmese joined the tide of protest, led by monks and nuns who stood up to the armed troops of an entrenched military dictatorship. The vision of a river of robed monastics and stark images of courageous confrontations of activists and soldiers are still clear in my mind. It was inspiring to see Buddhist monks and nuns take the lead and bear great risk for the sake of their nation.

Inspiring as it was, the Saffron Revolution was crushed by the junta’s armed forces in the late days of September 2007.  Monasteries were emptied, with police cordons set up at their gates. Thousands of monks, nuns, and supporters were thrown into prisons or disappeared.  An unknown number were killed. According to some reports, crematoriums on the outskirts of Yangon were operating night and day. When I visited Yangon with a small witness delegation in December of that year, we saw for ourselves the silent streets, empty monasteries, and the look of fear on people’s faces.

The Buddhist-led Saffron Revolution opened the world’s eyes to the plight of Burma. Images of brutality, violence, and murder — smuggled out at great risk — raised the stakes between the junta and citizenry. The whole nation — citizens and junta alike — was shamed by these images.  That shame deepened the following year when Cyclone Nargis tore across southern Burma, leaving more than 150,000 dead, and large areas of population and agricultural devastated.  The junta’s sluggish response and resistance to outside humanitarian relief drove the death toll higher. Once again, Burma was shamed before itself and the world.

In the spring of 2011 a flawed but nonetheless significant election seemed to set the course for a period of liberalization after fifty years of direct oppression. Many of us were heartened by this change and by the return of Nobel-laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to active political life.  In time almost all of the thousands of known political prisoners, many of them monks and nuns, were released, rededicating themselves to the building of a free society.

These changes, tentative as they seemed, were hopeful signs, acknowledged by the wide community of nations and by international non-governmental organizations ready to help with resources and training. On my visits to Burma I could feel a burden of fear lifting and the sense that a future was possible. Although there was still active fighting between government troops and rebel forces in Shan and Kachin states, it was possible to imagine an end to internal violence after so many years.

But in May of 2012 the rape and murder of a woman in Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh, touched off violence between groups of ethnically Buddhist Rakhine people and local communities of Muslim Rohingyas. Hundreds were killed, dozens of villages looted and burned, many Rohingyas fled to hastily-constructed camps. The population of these camps is now approaching 200,000, out of an estimated population of 750,000 Muslims in Rakhine State.


Over the last two years voices and acts of intolerance in Burma have been regularly in the news.  As have the government’s denials of discrimination or responsibility.  Burma’s minister of religious affairs Sann Sint, a lieutenant general in the former junta, justified a boycott of Muslim businesses led by monks. “We are now practicing market economics,” he said. “Nobody can stop that. It is up to the consumers.”

In May of 2013 authorities in Rakhine state announced a policy imposing a two-child limit on Muslim Rohingya families in two western townships, reinforcing the perception of ethnic cleansing in Burma. This alarming policy is the only known legal restriction of its kind today against a specific religious group.

According to the June 14, 2013 edition of The Irrawaddy, “About 200 senior Buddhist monks convening in Rangoon on Thursday have begun drafting a religious law that would put restrictions on marriages between Buddhist women and Muslim men.”

In July the international edition of Time magazine added fuel to the fire with a cover photo of the fundamentalist Burmese monk Wirathu, calling him “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”  President Thein Sein’s office released a statement about Wirathu and his fundamentalist 969 movement, saying 969 “is just a symbol of peace” and Wirathu is “a son of Lord Buddha.”

Anti-Islamic violence has spread to other areas of the country. March 2013 riots in Meikitla, in central Burma south of Mandalay, left forty-four people dead and thousands of homes consumed by flames. Later, two days of violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Lashio — the largest town in Burma’s Shan State, near the Chinese border — left a mosque, an orphanage, and many shops destroyed by Buddhist-identified mobs roaming the streets on motorcycles.

Undoubtedly there has been violence on both sides. But in each of these instances the preponderance of organized reaction seems to be Buddhist-identified, often with leadership from monks, and with minimal response from the government and the Burmese army only after damage has been done. Local people describe the military as standing by and watching as the destruction unfolds.

This conflict has tangled roots going back decades to the British colonial occupation and years before. But the current tensions also speak to contention over scarce agricultural land and economic resources that manifests as communal hostility. Rakhine State, an independent kingdom for several thousand years, was only absorbed into a greater Burma at the end of the 18th Century, then ceded to the British only forty years later. Under the military dictatorship, the Rakhine State was exploited by the generals for its rich natural resources and labor. In the north it was pressed by an ever-expanding “Bengali” population of Muslim-majority Bangladesh. It is no surprise that Rakhine fear of “Bengalis” and suspicion of outsiders is evident. 

One wonders, too, whether we are seeing garden-variety religio-or ethno-centrism, a disease of group identity and privilege that is sadly endemic among humans? Is there also a perverse political motivation, in which the former military junta is “allowing” the violence so they can intervene and reassert their position as the preservers of social order in Burma?

Rohingyas have lived in Burma in Rakhine state for generations, and very likely for several hundred years, although the facts are hotly contested. The former military regime’s 1982 law excluded them from among the nation’s 135 recognized ethnicities, denying the Rohingyas citizenship and basic rights on the basis that they were in fact “Bengali,” having infiltrated Burma from the eastern region of the Indian Empire. Yet present day neighbor Bangladesh denies citizenship to Rohingyas living within its own borders.  In the background, of course, is a fear rooted in the historical sweep of Islam across Buddhist and Hindu India, and on across large portions of Southeast Asia.

The Rakhine State region, with natural gas reserves and a long shoreline on the Indian Ocean, is also at play in geopolitical tensions between China and India, each with its eye on Burma’s wealth and strategic location.  It is not surprising that the United Nations views the Rohingyas as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.”

Myanmar/Burma is still in a delicate transition to democracy after fifty years of military dictatorship. The 2008 constitution reserves one quarter of the seats in both legislative bodies to delegates from the tatmadaw/military. It is hard to imagine Burma going back to its dark ages, yet within recent memory we can recall the dissolution Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia into oppositional ethnic and religious enclaves when Soviet-style dictatorship ended.  One hopes against hope for better in Burma.  We look to the government of Burma, including President Thien Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to play an active and nonviolent role in resolving conflicts between Buddhists, Muslims, and all ethnic groups. Central to this resolution is a guarantee of citizenship, human, and religious rights to all Burma’s diverse inhabitants. So far their response has been evasive.  

At a press conference with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in early March of this year, Jim Brooke, editor of The Cambodia Daily asked her to address the plight of Burma’s Rohingya People.  Suu Kyi’s response was indirect to say the least. She said:

 In any society, when there are tensions between different communities, you have to first of all ensure security. People who are insecure will not be ready to sit down to talk to one another to sort out their problems. So if you ask me what the solution is to the problem in the Rakhine, I would say simply ‘I don’t know what the solution is completely, but one essential part of it is the establishment of the rule of law.’

 It seems to me that when the house is burning down, it’s not the time to discuss the fire department’s management policy. At the same time, one can understand Daw Suu’s vulnerable political position as parliamentary elections approach in 2015. Fundamentalist Buddhists have already begun to form alliances with the former junta generals to block Aung San Suu Kyi’s eligibility to stand for the Myanmar’s presidency.

 The views of many “progressive” Buddhists are defensive and locked down with regard to Muslims. This can also be seen as an artifact of a military dictatorship that dismantled an excellent education system in a successful effort to replace knowledge with fear, mistrust, and superstition. A friend recently returned from Myanmar, where she was evaluating a residential program in peacebuilding for Buddhist activists, reports that even voices of moderation, reflection, and dialogue are now being effectively silenced. 

 A monk in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, told my friend:

 … Rakhine (people) do not like the talk of foreigners on human rights, and their suggestions to accept Muslims. The Rakhine           have too much fear and lack trust…. They fear Muslims will take over their land, and feel betrayed by foreigners who come to help Muslims and not them.

I don’t assume that the concerns of Rakhine Buddhist have no factual basis. Violence by individual Muslims is also part of the picture. But it might be that the fears and acts of Buddhists, the demonization of Rohingyas and of Muslims throughout Burma, are creating the very conditions they fear most, with an increasing internationalization of an organized and potentially violent Islamic pushback.  

Burma seems headed into a maelstrom of inter-communal conflict.  And this may very well fit the purposes of still-powerful generals and politicians whose vision is to create a strong nationalist entity with a Burmese Buddhist identity. Ethnic confrontation in Burma challenges many of our cherished ideas of a “peaceful” Buddhism and religious fellowship. We know that the Buddha’s teaching and example are profoundly nonviolent, but for those of us inside and outside Burma who may have idealized a Buddhist-based nonviolent movement for democracy and human rights there, violence in Rakhine State and elsewhere is a discouraging reality.

And this is not confined to Burma. A decade of conflict between Buddhists and Muslims in southern Thailand has left more than 6000 dead and 10,000 injured. In Sri Lanka, after the murderous suppression of a Hindu Tamil minority in the north by Singhalese Buddhist nationalist military, tensions between Buddhists and Muslims have taken a center stage.  In the modern era we see again and again: where a national state and religious identity merge, nothing wholesome will emerge. 

I know there are countless open-minded citizens, monks, and nuns in Burma who desire peace and harmony among all religions and ethnicities. May they have the courage to speak out. And may they remember that what happens in the name of Buddhism affects how people around the world view this precious path that we strive to follow. Shakyamuni Buddha lived in a place and age of great diversity and change. He never taught fear. He never advocated violence. He did not hesitate to speak out for what was right and just.  I would hope that Buddhists of today, whether they are in Burma or the West, would hold themselves to the same high standard. May all beings live in safety and happiness.

—  Hozan Alan Senauke

Clear View Project

March 2014


Postscript: What Can I Do?

Many Buddhists and concerned people in the West want to know what we can do to be of help in this painful situation. Over the last two years I have organized and taken part in letter-writing campaigns to Myanmar’s government, the United Nations, and the U.S. State Department by citizens and Buddhist teachers from Asia and the West. So far, to no avail.  By long habit the government of Myanmar is relatively heedless of outside criticism, and they know that money from developed nations will continue to flow in their direction so long as Burma has resources to sell. 

 Nonetheless, we have to try. Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield just returned from Burma and he suggests the following:

 …write or contact your congresspeople and the State Department, pressing the U.S. not to support major aid, business deals, and especially military collaboration with Burma unless the Burmese government stands up for human rights for all groups. Western Buddhist can write to Myanmar’s Ministry of Religious Affairs expressing your concerns.

 I would also urge you to stay informed and be watchful. Online publications like as well as conventional sources like the New York Times, and the BBC do a good job following this issue.

 I am encouraged by discussions that took place at last November’s conference of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Throughout the conference, Burmese Buddhists and Muslims held a daily dialogue behind closed doors, where they could begin to map out both differences and possible solutions. Growing from these discussions, a commission of inquiry has been organized by a recently-formed International Forum on Buddhist-Muslim Relations. This fact-finding commission plans to meet and collaborate with local civil-society bodies inside Myanmar. It will have three primary objectives:

1. to bring forth the facts of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Myanmar;

2. to ascertain the causes of this conflict;

3. to develop resources and proposals for the establishment of inter-religious peace and harmony in Myanmar.

People of Burma and of the whole Southeast Asian region will need to solve these problems by their own agency.  I believe they can do this and they will need us to bear witness and lend support. In time we will be able to offer help.

As the situation evolves, I will do my best to keep you informed in these pages and on the Clear View Project website and blog

 —  A.S.



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A Fact-Finding Commission — Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar

Here is the press release for an important initiative that came out of our INEB meeting in Malaysia two weeks ago.  The meeting itself had an ongoing focus on interfaith relations, particularly between Buddhists and Muslims in South and Southeast Asia.  We read about tensions between these communities in Burma/Myanmar, but issues are also at a flashpoint in Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.  
The challenge of organizing and staffing a truly open fact-finding commission is not going to be a simple or easy matter.  INEB and JUST, the sponsoring organizations, take this responsibility seriously, knowing that the well-being of our friends and allies inside Myanmar are at stake. 
If you have further questions, please direct them either to me or to the INEB office at the footer of this page.  As this initiative takes shape, I will provide further information. 
Hozan Alan Senauke
Joint Press Release
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
November 20, 2013
Towards the Creation of a Fact-Finding Commission
on Relations Between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar


The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) concluded its biennial conference on November 4 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, our first such meeting in a Muslim-majority nation.  The conference theme — Inter-Faith Dialogue for Peace and Sustainability — points to the interdependence of Buddhists and Muslims throughout Southeast Asia.  A long history of harmonious relations across all the nations of this region has been challenged in recent years by inter-religious conflicts rooted in a complexity of economic, political, social, and cultural tensions. INEB’s mission is to respect the integrity of all religions and people, restoring harmony wherever possible.
A significant outcome of this unique gathering was the affirmation of the establishment of an international forum for Buddhist-Muslim relations, drawing from members of INEB and Malaysia-based International Movement for a Just World (JUST).   
At the close of the conference, a special session brought together Buddhist monks and laypeople, Muslims, and concerned friends from inside and outside Myanmar to consider conflicts and violence that have taken place inside that country over the last two years.  Participants in this session, including people of four religions and from interfaith partners inside Myanmar, called upon this interfaith forum to establish a fact-finding commission to examine relations between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar.
Collaborating with local civil-society bodies inside Myanmar, this fact-finding commission would have three objectives:
1. to bring forth the facts of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Myanmar;
2. to ascertain the causes of this conflict;
3. to develop resources and proposals for the establishment of inter-religious peace and harmony in Myanmar.
Guided by these objectives, an open-minded interfaith group will research conditions inside Myanmar and offer advice and support for the restoration of inter-religious and inter-ethnic stability. Members of INEB see this work as the embodiment of our vision of peace and sustainability across the region and among all peoples.

INEB Secretariat Office
666 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, 

Bangkok 10600 SIAM (Thailand)
Tel. (+66) 081 803 6442  
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All People Are Chosen, All Lands Are Holy: from an Interfaith Dialogue on Peace & Sustainability

 This is the text of a talk given on 1 November 2013 at the Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (IKIM) in Kuala Lumpur, at the start of the 2013 conference of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists.  At IKIM there were presentations on interfaith relations by Dr. Azizan Baharuddin, Ajahn Sulak Sivaraksa, Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, and myself.  I began, briefly, by acknowledging my appreciation for the other presenters, then leading a practice of breathing together for a few moments.  Key parts of this talk were developed from an essay I wrote in 2002, “Through a Glass Darkly: A Buddhist View of Israel & Palestine.”      

Petronas Tower, Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Tower, Kuala Lumpur


Lets begin by taking a few minutes to breathe silently together.  Please close your eyes and sit upright.  Take a long breath in and let it out slowly.  Take a few breaths like this.  When you are ready, just settle into a natural rhythm of breath.  In your mind you may reflect on my words, offer a simple prayer, or simply enjoy a feeling of peace, of being alive together.

The air we breathe is a fabric that weaves together all life on the planet. Everywhere, every moment every sentient being is breathing.  The air – clean or smoggy, steamy or cool – connects us and allows us to be together in a common physical activity, the motion of breath.  We breathe and we are breathed by forces that are beyond our understanding. Please just enjoy this common act of life.


Thank you for taking these few minutes to reflect and act together.  It is common, human activity that we need.


The essence of my talk today is a simple and challenging principle: All people are chosen; all lands are holy. Let me say that again: All people are chosen; all lands are holy.

I should say that I was born into a secular Jewish family in the United States. My grandparents and great grandparents fled religious repression, violence, and military conscription in eastern Europe one hundred years ago.  Over more than five thousand years going back to the earliest Hebrew scriptures, Jews carry with us the myth of the chosen people.  And then there is the myth of the holy land, a story that continues to bring great suffering to peoples of the Middle East.

I have never been able to accept these myths. Visions of chosen people and holy lands seduce us.  The obsessive nature of religious, ethnic, and national identity is not sustainable, nor does it lead to peace.

At an early age I set aside my religion of birth and began a search for spiritual teachings that fit with how I saw the world.  By the time I reached college, I had come to admire Buddhism.  In the simplest terms the Buddha explained: “I teach about suffering and the end of suffering.”  This teaching continues to inspire me.

Still, I carry two powerful models in mind.  In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam we hear the voice of the prophets, preaching justice and righteousness in society, speaking truth to power.  In Buddhism we admire the Bodhisattva, who selflessly places the wellbeing of others before him or herself.  Two streams of faith from two sides of the world — Jewish elders and Buddha ancestors — converge in my heart.  They speak to each other and I try to listen.

When I consider that all lands are holy, two Zen Buddhist sayings come to mind. The first is: “There is no place in the world to spit.”  Every place is precious to those who live there.  Every place is the center of the world.  So, of course, there is no room for thoughtless actions that defile the land and poison the air and waters.  The path of peace is to take equal care of every place.

The second Zen saying that comes to mind is this: “If you create an understanding of holiness, you will succumb to all errors.” Just as all lands are holy, we can see that elevating one people splits the world in two. An exclusive holiness — my people, my religion, my nation — plants poisonous seeds of “us and them.” From such seeds war and hatred grow. In the name of what is holy, the soil of countless nations has absorbed the blood of crusaders, soldiers, defenders, martyrs, and other innocent people.

From a Buddhist perspective, our limited view, our self-centered attachment to these views is the source of suffering. Self-centeredness causes us to live at the expense of others. From this root we readily grow a kind of cultural or national self-centeredness, with individual suffering manifesting as policies of religious and ethnic intolerance, generation to generation, forging chains of suffering out of fear and anger. And we use violence to enforce this identity.

Verses 3-5 of the Dhammapada speak to this.

He insulted me, hit me, beat me, robbed me

— for those who brood on this, violence isn’t stilled.

Violence is never stilled through violence, regardless.

Violence only ceases are stilled through love.

This is an unending truth.


With Buddhism and Islam prevalent in Southeast Asia, we have seen the rise of inter-communal tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka over the last decade. Our effort in this forum, at this conference, and in the mission of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists is to recognize our common humanity and our common right to life. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with recognition that “…the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…”

The enlightened center of Buddhism and the peaceful heart of Islam, along with the essence of many other religious traditions, are often lost in a world that is governed by global politics and multinational corporations. Where religion, the state, and economics join forces narrowness and prejudice readily arise.  This unholy alliance is more about power than faith.  In a religious state the religious community in power has the preponderance of power, resources, and weapons.  At this forum we begin with words, but peace and sustainability in Southeast Asia or anywhere across the globe depend on much more than words. We can talk about equality, generosity, and all kind of high-minded principles. But until we recognize that all people are chosen, that we are our brother’s brother and our sister’s sister, nothing fundamental will change.

Article 1o f the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:  All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 25 puts this in concrete terms:  Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services…”

We also recognize that sustainability is a global issue. Southeast Asia suffers from overpopulation and from global warming.  Agricultural output is threatened and fresh water is at a premium even as oceans rise and overrun low-lying coastal areas. The exponential rise of co2 from factories, energy production, and fossil-fuel-powered vehicles has destabilized weather patterns; unseasonable and cyclones, hurricanes, tornados, and floods rake across our continents.

These man-made crises will not just go away.  Nor will they be resolved by the actions or technology of any one nation.  If all beings are chosen in the sense that our deepest nature is enlightened being, we are also chosen together to face all the self-created

In one of his last books, my late teacher Robert Aitken Roshi wrote a Zen fable with talking animals.  The wise Owl and Brown Bear discuss the Buddha’s Eightfold Path Owl asks, “…where does Right Realization come in?”

Brown Bear said, “Right Views! Right Views!”

Owl said, “What are Right Views?”

Brown Bear said, “We’re in it together, and we don’t have much time.”

—   from Zen Master Raven: Sayings and Doings of a Wise Bird

We are all in this world together and we don’t have much time.  Even in the United States — a nation whose lands were stolen from indigenous people and tribes, and whose wealth was built on the backs of slaves shipped like cattle from Africa and worked to death on farms and in the fields — there are many of us from all religious and political traditions who know that our privilege and empire are not sustainable.

Today, we have begun with words, but words are not enough.  I hope that our efforts at this forum and in our meetings over the next few days will lead to dedicated and cooperative action.  Buddhist and Muslims, living in the same cities, farming the same lands, fishing the same rivers and seas, must work hand in hand.  As all people on this planet must.

If there are differences between us we must learn to respect and even treasure those differences, even those that seem to contradict our beliefs. This is the true variety of human creativity.  We have to do this carefully and kindly.  That will not be easy, but it is necessary if the world itself is to survive. Let us dedicate the next few days and the work that flows from these days to this common purpose.  Warm hand to warm hand.


 In our Buddhist traditions we end our meditation, prayers, and devotional services with what is called a dedication of merit. The particular form of this dedication varies, but it calls on us to offer our efforts and our abundance to all beings, not to hold these benefits for ourselves.  I’d like to close by sharing a dedication that we use at Berkeley Zen Center for our weekly peace service.  I hope this will find a resonance in your hearts here today.


Peace Dedication    (revised 10.2013)

With a deep desire for peace we have offered light, flowers, and incense, our words and prayers.  May the merit of these offerings reach everywhere  — to save all sentient beings in worlds of suffering and confusion; to encourage us to nourish compassion and selflessness; to end all wars; to avert the calamities of epidemic and famine, and the destructive forces of fire, water, wind, and earth; to rejoice in our different ways and faiths while recognizing the intimate connection of all life on this fragile planet.  May we together with all beings realize the path of peace and harmony.

— Hozan Alan Senauke

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