Thailand’s Sulak Sivaraksa
How can we in 2012 bring about as much change as Buddhists have in the past? Today, we’re presenting an interview with Sulak Sivaraksa, a Thai Buddhist who has been one of the great leaders and democracy activists in his country for decades. We hope that we can take inspiration and wisdom from accomplished leaders like him, as we move forward to new frontiers of Buddhist activism.
What project are you excited to be working on right now? How is it influenced by Buddhism?
I am now working to help Spirit in Education Movement (SEM) to bring Buddhist mindfulness to modern educators, emphasizing the need to synchronize the head with the heart. Through proper breathing to reduce selfishness, we become aware that all beings are interrelated. Gradually, we begin to cultivate seeds of peace within. From there we can build a peaceful society by tackling social structures that are violent. We should do so through nonviolence.
What practices have helped you develop more compassion for those who are doing “wrong” in the world? Do you have an example of how that has informed your actions?
Compassion (Karuna) takes place after loving-kindness (Metta). We love ourselves and our neighbors. Then we go to be with the oppressed and exploited and learn from them. Eventually, we will be oppressed with them, learn to cultivate altruistic joy (Mudita), and overcome hatred of the oppressor. I learned this from Tibetan and Burmese monks as well as others.
Have you had a moment of insight or wisdom that compelled you to Buddhist-inspired action?
Socially engaged spirituality—not only Buddhism—inspires and sustains me. It has pushed me to keep on struggling and going further.
I’m a member of Buddhist Peace Fellowship because …
BPF encourages members to confront social suffering directly and try to solve dukha (individual and collective) nonviolently and mindfully.
Sulak Sivaraksa is a Thai Buddhist activist, who has worked for decades for democracy and low-income people. Starting with the founding in 1961 of Sangkhomsaat Paritat, Thailand’s foremost intellectual magazine, he became the central figure in numerous non-governmental organizations in Thailand. He was arrested and exiled repeatedly over the decades, and received the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1995. To find out more about him, please click here: http://www.sulak-sivaraksa.org/en/