window on Burma

The past week has offered a number of events worthy of comment and I admit to having been too caught up in dukkha of my own creation to make it to the blog window and write about them.  It’s not so much a callousness or numbness to the tragedies unfolding in the world – though I feel the ironic edge of numb creeping up – but rather a preoccupation with several emotional encounters that may or may not signal another koan window to leap through.

A Zen koan poses the question of why the tail of an ox can’t get through a window when the entire ox can.  Lately compassion (for all beings including myself) has this feel.  So much pours out as though the window is vast and boundless and then I get stuck.  Interestingly, I might be able to lay the blame at the feet of Western philosophers for this one.  According to Paul Gilbert, author of Compassionate Mind, our philosophical roots lead us to be more likely to feel compassion for those whose suffering we believe is undeserved.  That may explain why we donate freely for victims of disasters but hesitate for the homeless person in front of the liquor store.

Well, the world has no end of opportunity to show compassion for those who did nothing to deserve their suffering.

On 2011 March 24, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude hit northeastern Burma in the Shan State.  The effects were felt in Bangkok and Hanoi.  The Irrawaddy (click on photo to the left) reported 150 dead and significant damage.  The government of Burma, of course, has a different story.  Apparently this isn’t enough of a photo-op for the generals so there hasn’t been any ego-feathers flapping as there was with Cyclone Nargis.  Likely as not, the generals aren’t expecting the same volume of Western goodies to be delivered that they can spirit away for themselves.

Ah, such cynicism.  It is expected, I suppose, and not just because of the lack of effort on the part of those in charge of Burma.  There is scant news available on the earthquake and its impact and even fewer calls for aid.  Perhaps we’re all too shaken by the intensity and danger of what is happening in Japan.  I know I am.  Perhaps the people in a mountain region of a country constantly beset by mind-boggling cruelty – natural and man-made – is too much for us to absorb.

But here it is.  One more tragedy in the long list of things happening at the end of the world.  I sadly point you again to the list of humanitarian agencies on the Ways to Engage page of this blog.  Please do what you can… again… and again.

Thank you for practising,


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