I am disappointedly surprised at the comments of Nyunt Shwe in his Dec. 16 letter, “Monk deserves punishment.” His arguments in support of the Tokyo High Court’s judgment against a Buddhist monk who had been prosecuted for passing out Japanese Communist Party fliers’ in a Tokyo Katsushika Ward condominium complex in December 2004 were basically wrong.

The monk could be punished for “trespassing,” but not for passing out the fliers. Shwe’s argument that “politics and religion must be separated” is basically wrong in this case. He even went so far as to write that “If (the monk) wants to muddle with politics, he should quit his religious order first.”

What about the thousands of monks in his own country Myanmar who recently did not do anything as petty as pass out political fliers but went out into the streets to lead people against the despotic regime? Shwe also went so far as to put Buddhism above other religions when he wrote that “Religion is most sacred in this world, especially Buddhism.”

The sacred nature of religions should not prevent members from leading people toward good in worldly affairs, provided that they do not encourage people to blow themselves up in the name of Buddha, Allah or any other god. Buddhism has a centuries-long tradition of fighting for justice and human rights. Modern Buddhist monks in Myanmar, Vietnam and other developing countries are playing active roles in movements against unjust regimes that violate people’s human rights.

Japanese Buddhist monks should be more actively involved in the nation’s social and political process, and not just care only for shrines, graveyards, alms, wives and children.

I think the condominium resident who asked the monk, Yosei Arakawa, to stop and then called police might have done so purely because he felt that his/her privacy had been violated. For the police then to conduct a search of the monk’s residence violated the Constitution and was completely uncalled for.

hideo kaito

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