The famous monk Ashin Virathu has been released from prison in Mandalay recently after spending nine years behind bars. He has since refused to wear his monk robe and is still wearing his prisoner uniform as a form of protest instead.
Ashin Virathu protest is aimed at the actions of the Maha Nayaka Sangha Council. He says that even though the Sangha Counsil has the responsibility to protect the monks, the Council restricts and disrobes monks and closes monasteries.
“If the Sangha Council will work for the monks, I will wear my robe again.”
In a Dhamma talk he explained “Why am I wearing a prisoners robe? Even though I want to wear my monk robe I am now stuck in a prisoner uniform. This is a Buddhist country and monks never break any laws but still monks are sent to jail. Why is that so, why are monks sent to jail?”
Venerable Ashin Virathu is a lecturer at Masoe Monastery with over 3.000 monks living there. He was arrested in 2003.
In 1998/1999 he published a book criticizing monks for working together with the military regime. He also pointed out that some monks are teaching mediation practices that had nothing to do with Buddha’s teachings. In one case he criticized a monk for teaching a practice were students are asked to meditate on which animal they have been in a past life and encouraging them to act like such an animal.
His book was banned and he was threatened with arrest. Because of the strong support among the people he could not be arrested at that time.
In 2001/03 the authorities created a conflict between Buddhist monks and Moslems in his home town. A house of a Moslem was burned and people injured. Ashin Virathu’s old teacher was accused, arrested and sentenced to 27 years in jail. Virathu went to visit his teacher and was arrested too.
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