Vietnamese spiritual leader urges India to start peace dialogue between Myanmar junta and rebels

Thầy Huyền Diệu, also known as the Venerable Dr. Lam, the founder of the Vietnamese monastery in Bodh Gaya.

Thầy Huyền Diệu, also known as the Venerable Dr. Lam, the founder of the Vietnamese monastery in Bodh Gaya.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

India must intervene to build dialogue among the warring factions in Myanmar, the senior-most Vietnamese Buddhist monk stationed in India has proposed. In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Thầy Huyền Diệu, also known as the Venerable Dr. Lam, the founder of the Vietnamese monastery in Bodh Gaya, said India has cultural influence in the form of Buddhism and should exercise this advantage over Myanmar to initiate dialogue among the junta, the National Unity government, and ethnic armed groups in that country.

“The majority of the people in Myanmar are misunderstanding but I believe that they are misunderstanding the concepts of the Buddha. If we can convince them to come to Bodh Gaya and follow the Buddha way, then the conflict can be resolved. Many countries are facing unending conflict because they are not trying to find a solution. That solution was given by the Buddha, who said hatred can be ended by kindness and compassion,” Dr. Lam said. He argues that world history is replete with examples of violent rulers who underwent a change of heart after being convinced by the arguments of the Buddhist path.

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Dr. Lam is regarded as the tallest Vietnamese spiritual leader in Buddhist circles, especially for founding the Vietnamese monastery in Bodh Gaya which is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year from his home country. Moulded by the U.S.-led war on his country in the 1960s, Dr. Lam came to India in 1969 for the first time and chose to return repeatedly in subsequent years till he managed to set up a Vietnamese monastery in Bodh Gaya.

“I was left thinking why my country did not have a monastery in the place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment and finally, with the help of my students and the Government of Vietnam, we developed the Vietnamese monastery in Bodh Gaya in the early 1980s,” Dr. Lam, who believes in strict separation between religion and politics, said. The spiritual life, he believes, cannot be mixed with the pursuit of political power. Buddhism has helped build peace in Nepal, Dr. Lam said, and reiterated the conflict in Myanmar too could lead to a peaceful beginning through the Buddhist way.

“I met the current Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda when he was a fighter in the jungle. I went to meet him after visiting Lumbini and asked him to come out for peace and dialogue. I predicted that he would become the Prime Minister if he could come out from jungle,” Dr. Lam said, recollecting his interaction with the Nepalese PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also known as ‘Prachanda’, the name by which he was known during his days as the leader of Maoist fighters in Nepal.

“I gave the example of a very cruel ruler Ashoka, who changed his mind after encountering the message of the Buddha, and said violence is not the answer to problems. The power of love and kindness is stronger than [an] atomic weapon,” Dr. Lam said.

Dr. Lam said the “truth and peace weapon” that Buddha has given India is a tool to end the conflicts that are presently raging in the world. “If the Myanmarese come to Bodh Gaya, I will be happy to host them and I will cook for them,” Dr. Lam said, urging them to give peace a chance.

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