Burmese generals are doing themselves great harm

by Visakha Kawasaki, The Buddhist Channel, June 12, 2008

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Aid agencies and the international press are unanimous in their condemnation of the Burmese junta for blocking relief to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, but few, perhaps, view these actions from a Buddhist perspective.

By preventing others from doing good, by interfering with the generosity of others, the Burmese generals are doing themselves great harm. The seriousness of this offense is clearly set forth in Losaka Jataka.

During the time of Kassapa Buddha, there was a monk in a small village temple who was generously supported by a local landowner. One day, another monk arrived and asked to stay at the temple. When the landowner invited the visitor to lunch, the resident monk began to worry that, if he tasted the delicious food, he would never leave. Afraid of competition, the resident monk did not convey the invitation.

The landowner, disappointed at not being able to offer food to the visiting monk, sent a bowlful of succulent curries back to him, but the resident monk did not deliver it. Instead, on his way back to the temple, the monk pondered how to dispose of these alms. If he gave them away, people would talk. If he threw them in the river, the ghee would float to the surface and be visible. If he just tossed them on the ground, they would attract crows, and people would know what he’d done. Finally, he scraped a hole in a recently burned field, emptied the bowl, and covered the food with dirt and ashes.

He needn't have worried. The visiting monk, being an arahat, realized that he was not welcome and had already left.

Because the greedy resident monk prevented the landowner’s alms from being eaten, he was reborn in hell, where he suffered horribly for hundreds of thousands of years. Furthermore, for the next five hundred births, he was reborn as a miserable yakkha, who never had enough to eat, except for one time when he enjoyed a surfeit of filth. Then, he was reborn another five hundred times as a pariah dog. In all of those lives also there was just one occasion that he had enough to eat, and that was when he happened to find a mess of vomit.

Eventually, he was reborn as a human being, but it was into a lowly beggar family. His name was  Mittavindaka. As a baby, he never got enough milk, and, as a toddler, never enough thin gruel. At last, his parents concluded that he was the cause of their own misfortune and drove him away. After a series of misfortunes, he was saved from execution by the compassionate intervention of the Bodhisatta.

When he was again reborn as a human being, he was once more abandoned by his parents and had to scrounge for himself on the streets of Savatthi. Even after becoming a novice through the compassion of Venerable Sariputta, then a bhikkhu who finally attained arahatship, he could not receive adequate alms. It was only on the very day that he would pass away that Venerable Losaka Tissa was able to eat his fill of catumadhu, and that was entirely due to the goodness and power of Venerable Sariputta who remained by his side.

After Venerable  Losaka Tissa's death, several monks asked the Buddha why he had always been so unlucky. The Buddha told the story and explained that because he had long ago prevented the visiting monk from receiving his alms, he had in succeeding lives received so little himself. On the other hand, by meditating on suffering, impermanence, and nonself, he had won arahatship.

The Burmese generals must hate and fear such stories, but they also might hope that the consequences of their wickedness will never come to them.

Sheer delusion!

So long as an evil deed has not ripened,
the fool thinks it as sweet as honey.
But when the evil deed ripens,
the fool comes to grief.

Truly, an evil deed committed does not immediately bear fruit,
like milk that does not turn sour all at once,
but smoldering, the evil deed follows the fool
like fire covered by ashes.
– Dhammapada 69, 71