Aung San Suu Kyi : Buddhism has influenced my worldview

By Sally Quinn, The Washington Post, Dec 1, 2011

Yangon, Myanmar -- The Council on Foreign Relations had a live video interview with Aung San Suu Kyi , the Burmese dissident who spent more than 15 years in custody. Today, she received a visit from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During her talk with the council, Suu Kyi was open and forthright about the issues facing her country. Despite all of the horrors she has been through, there wasn’t a trace of anger or bitterness in her remarks.

I found her a truly remarkable person. I have never met anyone like her before except for Nelson Mandela, who later became president of the nation that imprisoned him.

Below is an excerpt from the event.

QUESTIONER: I’m Sally Quinn from the Washington Post, editor-in-chief of “On Faith.” And like Fred Hiatt, my colleague, I wish you would write for us. (Laughter.) This is more of a personal question. I don’t know what I expected to see from you today, maybe somebody looking very tired and worn and maybe a little embittered. And yet I see an incredibly cheerful and optimistic person before me. And given what you have been through in the last 15 or 20 years, which none of us can really imagine, what has gotten you through all of this? You have talked about how we mustn’t -- we want restorative, not punitive. And you’ve said, let’s forget the past. Is it your faith that’s gotten you through this and brought you to the point where now you can be as optimistic and as cheerful and as forward-looking as you are?

SUU KYI: Well, let me answer you bit by bit. So -- (audio break) -- and secondly, I am tired -- in fact, rather sleepy as well. But I’m glad it doesn’t show. (Laughter.)

And thirdly -- well, I’m not embittered. But I have to say that I’m not saying forget the past. We must face the past. We can’t forget it. But we don’t need to remember it with bitterness. We don’t need to remember it with anger. We need the past in order to -- we need to remember the past in order to avoid the kind of mistakes we’ve made then in the future. So we need the past in order to help us live the future better -- the present and the future better.

And you asked if it was anything to do with my faith. I suppose you mean with my religion. I suppose partly it must have something to do with that because, well, I am a believing Buddhist, so I am sure the teachings of Buddhism do affect the way I think.

But more than that, I would state that when I started out in politics, in this movement for democracy, I always started out with the idea that this should be a process that would bring greater happiness, greater harmony and greater peace to our nation. And this cannot be done if you are going to be bound by anger and by desire for revenge. So I’ve never thought that the way to go forward was through anger and bitterness, but through understanding, trying to understand the other side, and through the ability to negotiate with people who think quite differently from you and to agree to disagree if necessary -- if necessary and to somehow bring harmony out of different ways of thinking.

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