Buddhist monks march through Myanmar for peace

By Vishal Gulati , IANS, Jan 26, 2016

Yangon, Myanmar -- After once trudging through war-torn Sri Lanka, their first outside India, Buddhist monks of the prominent Drukpa Lineage are now undertaking a similar foot journey for peace in Myanmar, which has witnessed decades of ethnic turbulence. The Drukpa monks are mainly based in India's Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir and have a long history of promoting inter-faith peace and celebrating diversity.

The country's former military government is on the cusp of a major transition to a pro-democracy setup under Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy last November won the first openly-contested elections in 25 years.

"This 'padyatra' or foot journey encompasses the message of peace and harmony. Our yatras or marches spread consciousness about the importance of harmony and reconciliation," Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche told IANS here as the journey began.

Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, who is leading the journey, is the spiritual regent to the Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the Drukpa Order with over 1,000 monasteries across the Himalayas.

The motto of the peace journey, according to him, is to rejuvenate the spirit of hope, love, peace, harmony and oneness. It will culminate here on January 29.

A spokesperson for the Drukpa Order said a three-day World Buddhist Peace Conference, organised by the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, on the sidelines of the peace march, concluded on Sunday. It saw delegates from 65 countries.

Myanmar President Thein Sein, besides many dignitaries, attended its opening ceremony.

He said with a new government poised to take over, this unique walk for peace will pass through some key cities and smaller towns, where tens and thousands of locals will be joining in.

The Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Lineage, had formerly undertaken a cycle expedition in India along with his followers and over 250 'Kung Fu nuns'.

The expedition, which entered India from Nepal last November, has been focussed on environment consciousness, women empowerment and peaceful coexistence.

'Kung Fu nuns' are Buddhist nuns who grow up learning the martial art. They belong to the Druk Amitabha Mountain nunnery based in the hills overlooking Kathmandu.

The first foot journey outside India was undertaken by Drukpa monks in Sri Lanka in 2013.

Mahinda Rajapaksha, then Sri Lankan president, had launched the peace march comprising 500 monks, nuns and general participants from India, Nepal, Bhutan and 16 other countries, apart from Sri Lanka.

That too was led by the Gyalwang Drukpa, whom the UN honoured with the Millennium Development Goals Award in September 2010 for promoting environmental education and gender equality.

Just two months after the flash floods that devastated the Leh region in 2010, the Drukpa Order, with around 9,000 people, planted 50,033 willow saplings in 33 minutes and 25 seconds over a 112,000 sq yard area near Ladakh's famed Hemis Monastery.

Two years later, the Gyalwang Drukpa led 9,814 people in planting 99,033 trees in less than one hour.

In 2009, the Buddhist monk, who is active in Nepal and India, along with a team of hundreds of monks, nuns and volunteers, trekked through the 475-km long highway that passes through rugged Himalayan ranges from popular tourist destination Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in the Ladakh region to create awareness about the hazards of non-biodegradable waste.

They collected 60,000 plastic bottles, 10,000 chewing-gum wrappers and 5,000 cans of carbonated drinks, according to a post on the Gyalwang Drukpa's website.

The present Gyalwang Drukpa is the twelfth incarnation of the founder of the Drukpa lineage.

The Drukpas are best known for taking their meditation practice off the mat and into the world - converting compassion into action to tackle the world's challenges.