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Vandana Kohli
Monday , November 19, 2012 at 11 : 55

Aung San Suu Kyi: a mind in flow


Every meditative discipline across traditions has one singular aim - to help focus the mind on its true nature - open, vast and inclusive.

For the mind to know focus and flow, it must have the time and space to reflect preferably in solitude, to cut through layers of confusion and noise; noise created by the mind chattering out instructions; or by a mind that judges, blames, condemns, warns, threatens and punishes others and one's own self under the weight of its aspirations, fear and insecurity.

Above all, noise created by anger - deep and unresolved anger from a sense of injustice, real or perceived.

Anger is a difficult one to move away from, mostly because it makes one feel justified and right about being angry. It is addictive in this feeling of righteousness, and before one can understand the implications of allowing anger to rule, it grips and draws the mind into an exhaustive wheel. Like a dragon eating its own tail. Or like water caught in a whirlpool around an abyss.

For a woman who was persecuted by the military rulers of her homeland for several years, who suffered great personal loss, and who was placed under house arrest and forced into solitude, Aung San Suu Kyi has several reasons to be angry.

Yet, she isn't.

Speaking at several fora over her six-day visit to India last week, she was direct and honest in her comments, yet gentle and gracious in manner at all times. She was anything but bitter.

"There's nothing that ages more than hatred," she said to young students during a visit to her former college, "and there's nothing that ages more than making yourself a complete hostage to the past and its bitter experiences. Experiences are bitter or enlightening in how you interpret them."

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi over 15 years in solitude under house arrest obviously used her time well. She used it as an opportunity to reflect, and the fact that she practiced self -reflection to cut through layers of negativity she could have otherwise chosen to feed, is evident in the clarity of her thoughts, and in her tone of speech.

Asked if she was disappointed by India's lack of support to the Burmese democratic movement over the past few years by making peace with Myanmar's army generals, in short here's what she said.

"You are disappointed when you expect something from someone. India did what it had to...I can only expect things from myself."

Aung San Suu Kyi relinquishes everyone except herself of responsibility. In doing so, she releases them from blame. That is the key to overcoming anger.

Blame is the glue on which anger sticks. It is the weapon of the weak. Stop the blame and anger has nowhere to latch itself on, nowhere to feed itself from. Then, like black smoke, it dissolves into nothingness, to leave space for a less obscure response to the cause of anger.

Asked to comment on the military generals and officials who kept her confined for years, she said she does not think ill of them and that her security officials were "in fact rather nice" to her.

Her statements hold a deeper reflection. In stating that individuals or entities act under their own compulsions, she alludes to an acknowledgment that everyone comes from their own truth, whatever that is. That truth is as significant (or insignificant) as one's own; and that truth must be respected.

Once again, she cuts at the root of blame. Furthermore, she displays the working of a mind that is fair and open in its response; a mind that is in touch with its true nature - vast, receptive and inclusive.

"Politics is difficult," she said to the young girls in college, "but one needn't compromise on principles. Compromise is the understanding that the other may have something equally or more significant to say, that one may not always be right."

These simple yet thoughtful responses position Daw Aung San Suu Kyi above anger, resentment and bitterness. She roots herself unaffectedly beyond the seemingly immutable "me" and "I", beyond the divisive ego that hankers for importance.

I look at her and can't help but think of her as a river, that has freed her waters from the whirlpool of the abyss. A mighty river, deep and clear in a higher reason; oblivious to its volume; equally accessible to those who pollute or pray to it; undeterred by those who exploit or harness its power, but flowing onwards, always onwards seeped in the truth of its nature of flow, to the sea, where all waters meet, where ultimately there is no 'I', 'we' or 'them'.

Indian mythology has always considered water as feminine - for its power to flow and nourish. Aung San Suu Kyi wouldn't have known this when she mentioned her response as a young student to a Gandhian song in college.

"I felt my ties to India were lasting and strong, that I was part of India and its traditions," she said, "...I feel myself a citizen of India..."

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi belongs evidently to more than one land. For now though, while the mighty Irrawaddy remains its physical life-blood stream, the people of Myanmar, in their young journey to democracy, have the might of another river to sail with.


More about Vandana Kohli

Vandana Kohli is an acclaimed filmmaker, musician and photographer. She has recently researched, produced and directed the award-winning international documentary ‘The Subtext Of Anger’. Vandana has scripted, directed and edited projects for clients that include The National Geographic Channel, The History Channel, Doordarshan, various agencies of the United Nations and the Government of India. You can find out more about her at www.vandanakohli.com.