Pribumis, Bumiputras and the politics of race

Let’s be honest: when the word Pribumi is used, it is code for anti-Chinese. This is the same in Malaysia where the word Bumiputra is used to mean anti-Chinese.

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Lining Anies’s passage to his inauguration: Not enough that you have to be a Pribumi but a Pribumi Muslim. No protection even if you’re a Pribumi.

The parallels do not stop there. The champions of the the racial ideology – Anies Baswedan in the case of the Pribumis and Mahathir Mohamad in the case of Bumiputras – are also shapeshifters. Both are of immigrant stock fashioning themselves as the torch bearers of the indigenous people.

 

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Never too Arab to champion Pribumi rights

 

Mahathir who championed Bumiputraism hailed from Indian Muslims in Kerala in South India.

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Mahathir’s identity card before the makeover: Never too Indian to champion Bumiputra Rights

Anies is from Arab stock and he is now claiming to champion the rights of pribumis.

Both seek to exploit the politics of race against a community that has proven easy pickings – the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mahathir wrote his The Malay Dilemma in 1970, a year after racial riots tore through Malaysia. The cause of the riots was that the ruling Alliance (forerunner of the Barisan Nasional) for the first time lost its two-third majority in Parliament in the 1969 national elections. It was more a psychological defeat rather than a real one. They were still in power but they had lost the majority ended to amend the constitution. They also lost most of their seats to the DAP, a Chinese-based party.

Tensions rose after the elections and on May 13 1969 a riot broke out in Malaysia. The next year Mahathir came out with his book that essentially said that the Malays were the indigenous people of Malaysia; that they were too  nice and had been taken advantage of; and that affirmative action was needed to balance out the dominance of the Chinese Malaysians in the economy and commerce.

This hate mongering was effective. It propelled young Turks like Mahathir into power and allowed them to oust the Old Guard typified by Tunku Abdul Rahman, who stood for decency and moderation.

The take out from Mahathirism is that race is an easy card to play and it can be devastatingly effective. The Barisan Nasional has been in power ever since and each time it is threatened it trots out the racial card and that is enough to get it though one election after another. Even Najib, tainted as he is by the 1MDB scandal and the murder of Mongolian model Alantuya, remains in power through the Machiavellian use of racism and money politics.

Anies is embarking on the same path. His campaign was racist and he is now fashioning himself as a champion of the Pribumi. That is, as we say in Indonesia #kodekeras for anti-Chinese.

As he and Saracen have demonstrated during the gubernatorial elections, playing the racial card is effective. Ahok is now in jail and Anies-Sandi is sitting in the governor’s chair.

Like the Barisan Natsonal  who will play the race card each time there is anything to threaten their grip on power they will do the same.

What is a threat to Anies-Sandi now is accountability. They made a lot of wild promises to get elected. If they fail to deliver, even the masses that vote them in will begin to turn against them.

They need to distract the attention of the hoi polloi and redirect that energy into something else – and hating the Chinese “colonizers” of Jakarta is as convenient a target as it can get. Similarly what threatens Najib is accountability over 1MBB, so what does he do? All sorts of racial distractions such as the nonsense about Ketuanan Melayu while he quietly hocks the nation to the Chinese Chinese.

So what are the rest of us to do with such an inexorable force as racial politics?

Indonesia can be different from Malaysia where the Bumiputra is synonymous with Malay. In Malaysia the predominant non-Chinese group are the Malays (an artificial construct as most of them are keturunan Orang Jawa, Orang Minang, and even the present Prime Minister Najib is keturunan Orang Bugis – but they are all manipulated to be in one “race” the Melayu or Malay).

Non-Chinese Indonesians are so diverse in ethnicity and religions that nobody can claim to speak for them. And this is where Indonesia’s strength lies – in its diversity. #Notmypribumi seems an appropriate hashtag for anything racial Anies utters from now on.

Indonesians should also b aware of the devastating effects of racial politics. Go to Malaysia and see the harm that Mahathir has done there. People there are so polarized that they eat in different restaurants, make friends mainly only with the same “racial” groups. Each year that passes there is less tolerance and more absurdity – like the Muslim launderette owner in Johor that would accept only Muslim clients to prevent pollution from other races (race and religion are synonymous in Malaysia, thanks again to Mahathir).

The situation is so bad that parents (even Bumiputra ones) tell their children not to stay in Malaysia and to work and live overseas if they can help it.

Indonesia can do better than Malaysia and the time to act is now by refusing to fill into Anies’ scheming. Avoid giving his racial politics much credence by discussing it at length but keep focusing on what he actually does as a Governor against his election promises. At best it would force him carry these promises out – which would be the benefit of everyone. At worst, it would starve his intent to use racial politics of the reaction it needs to create a Malaysianization of Indonesian racial relations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some questions about #SayaPancasila

The hallmark of a good campaign is that it spurs public discourse on a particular subject. In this sense, the #SayaPancasila campaign can be said to be successful, if the preponderance of the hashtag and profile pictures bering the message on social media are concerned.

Effective public discourse, however, exists when there are differences of opinion and when the participants abide by rules of rhetorical fair play. So here goes Unspun‘s contribution to the public discourse on the#SayaPancasila campaign.

Three questions spring to mind from all the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila profile photos being used on Facebook Instagram and other social media channels:

  1. Are atheists allowed to proclaim #SayaPancasila? Pancasila requires the belief God, in whatever form she exists. Arising from this should there be a discussion on which is more appropriate for Indonesia today – a concept from 1945 repurposed to knit together Indonesia in 2017; or would Embracing Diversity be a more appropriate idea to campaign on?
  2. When people these days declare #SayaPancasila can it be taken as their full subscription to the five principles formulated by Sukarno in 1945 as an instrument to rally people round Indonesian Nationalism? Or is it more a talisman to signal their rejection of the more extreme and intolerant elements of Indonesia today, i.e. Rizieq and the FPI as well as other assorted hardliners? There is a difference here: one is an embrace of something, another is a rejection of another thing.
  3. Are all these declarations of #SayaPancasila on the internet missing the target? One of the things the internet is notorious for is to create bubbles where like-minded people reinforce their own ideas and convictions. How many of these #SayaPancila proclamations are actually seen by the real targets? These are the 50+ percent who voted for Anies, the thousands of easter-clad protesters who came out on 212 and other demonstrations, that part of Indonesia who get their information more from mosques and grassroots institutions than the social media. There is also the question of whether seeing such #SayaPancasila declarations would persuade them to change their minds or reinforce their believes so that they dig down even deeper in the embrace of hardline attitudes and beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that any effort to claw Indonesia back from the clutches of the hardliners is something good for this country and society. But will it be effective? Or wilt be a distraction when resources could have been channeled elsewhere for greater effect?

So where do people stand on these three questions?

 

 

 

Did Jokowi set a trap by allowing Nov 4 protests?

All of a sudden, politics has once again got more interesting in Indonesia.

To understand why this is so we need a little context and a term, let’s call it the Dark Forces.

The context

Jokowi came into office with great expectations from Indonesians. They saw him as a reformer and expected sweeping changes. When these changes did not materialize as fast as thought, disillusion began to set in. This was not helped by seemingly obvious fumbles in the part of Jokowi in several matters, not least in the appointment of Arcandra, an Indonesian that had taken up US citizenship as Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources; and then fell further by appointing the disgraced Transport Minister Jonan to take over. All this contributed to the impression that Jokowi was now making so many political compromises that his Reformist agenda had been railroaded.

The Dark Forces

Suppose, just suppose that Jokowi is a reformer, but not just any reformer. He is a Javanese reformer. If this supposition is true then he would bide his time as he moves all the chess pieces into place to finally reveal his hand and bring about reform. The people who stand to lose if Jokowi succeeds are many — among them the corrupt politicians, their cohorts in the business world, powerful civil servants, the quasi-religious militias — these are the very people who want to protect the status quo because they can milk the country for their own benefit. They know the Javanese way of thinking and see the noose tightening, they realize they have to mobilize before too late. These are the people who would not hesitate to employ Order Baru tactics such as rent-a-crowd demonstrations, getting thugs to cause mayhem and to sow fear, even exploiting ethnic  and religious divides. Let’s call them the Dark Forces.

What follows is pure supposition from the imagination of Unspun and has nothing to do with reality.

Contrary to popular opinion everything is going according to plan for Jokowi. Politically, he now controls Parliament. In security matters his elevation of Tito Karnavian, his closeness to Luhut Pandjaitan, and his appointment of  Wiranto as Coordinating Indonesia’s chief security minister  has ensured that the Police and Military are behind him. Economically, he’s brought back Sri Mulyani to ensure that the Tax Amnesty works.

The Tax Amnesty is ostensibly a way for the Jokowi government to fund its infrastructure projects that would underling Indonesia’s economic growth over the next few years. That may be so but there is also a political dimension to the Tax Amnesty: it would shine a light into the dark recesses of corruption in Indonesia and effectively put a stop the illicit way of bleeding the country dry.

Like stirring a beehive, the Tax Amnesty has driven the Dark Forces crazy. They must attack the source of the Tax Amnesty, otherwise their incomes and source of power would be saved in a wave of reforms that would surely follow.

How to attack? Jokowi has been very careful, opaque and growing more politically powerful  by the day. The obvious point of vulnerability to the Dark Forces would be Ahok, who is contesting the upcoming gubernatorial elections. Ahok is brash, a Christian and a Chinese. Many of the hardline Muslims have already seen this as a threat and attacked Ahok along these lines. Ahok’s brashness also doesn’t sit well with many of the hardline Muslims.

So when controversy erupted over Ahok’s alleged blasphemy ,it provided them with the opportunity, they thought, to put Jokowi in a bind. They felt that by demanding that Ahok be prosecuted Jokowi would be forced to do one of two things, both of which would be a setback for him. The first is to intervene and say that Ahok has no case to answer for. This would open Jokowi to accusations that he’s meddling with the law to save his cohort. The second is for him to ask Ahok to resign, at which case he would be weakened as former President SBY’s son, Agus, would then be likely to win the election.

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Did the Lebaran Jockey into Jokowi’s trap? 

 

It is in this context that SBY’s Lebaran Kuda press conference last Wednesday – two days before the November seems to make sense. His message was deeply unsettling, coming two days before the November 4 demonstration. He said that Ahok must be brought to justice for what he said or the people will be justified in continuing their protests (He used the term Lebaran Kuda, a non-existent idiom in Indonesia. There is Lebaran Monyet that translates to “till the cows come home”. A more comprehensive explanation here).

Why did he say that? There are many theories. One says that he wanted his son to win the elections so anything that can get rid of the frontrunner Ahok is fair game. Another theory, and one that is particularly appealing if you believe in Dark Forces, is that Jokowi has been gathering evidence and building a case against him and his son over Hambalang. He knows this and backing the November 4 demonstration would help preempt further moves from Jokowi.

 

How much SBY was involved in the November 4 demonstration and the disturbances after remains to be seen but in the meantime the Dark Forces must have made a pact with the Muslim hardliners. They both had lots of common ground, getting rid of Jokowi. Anything that can weaken Jokowi would benefit the Islamic hardliners and their vision of establishing an islamic state. This would also benefit the powerful political/business forces so they can carry on with business as usual.

So November 4 happened and when it did Jokowi had all the pieces in the right place. The police was clearly behind him, the military was this looming presence in the background. On the frontline the police acted with admirable professionalism and restraint so that they would not inflame the situation and provide the hardliners with an excuse of rough handling.

They were also prepared to defend the Parliament against the mob if necessary. Disturbances in Penjaringan were quickly contained and brought to order. A group trying to attack Ahok’s house was also met with restraint and professionalism and dispersed.

And when some of the demonstrators had no means to go back to their villages, the Government provided busses to take them back.

This was a calculated action to neutralize the appeal of the Islamic hardliners.

Shortly after midnight on November 5, Jokowi made a statement thanking the hardliners for their discipline and support. He also said that there were political actors that rode on the November 4 demonstrations for their own ends by using the occasion as a platform to launch disturbances.

Trivia: Typical of the salah focus tendency for many Netizens in Jakarta, many people were more concerned about Jokowi’s bamber jacket that they felt was cool. The result: The jacket that is retailed in Zara was compeltely sold out over the next day or two.

Then, characteristic of the Javanese Opaqueness that he is known for, Jokowi kept silent. This force his detractors to demand that he pony up on who these “political actors” were to substantiate his claims.

He has continued to be strategically silent, although the head of the military has said that the government has intelligence and evidence of who the political actors are.

Over the next few weeks we may see Jokowi tightening the noose around these political actors and the Dark Forces. They have given him the excuse and justification to do so via the November 4 demonstration and subsequent disturbances.

What’s quite sure is that if this happens the Dark Forces are unlikely to take it lying down so there might be some action in store as Jokowi tightens the trap he’s set for the Dark Forces.

Makes for politics being a great spectator sport. Let’s sit back and enjoy the show.

Takeouts from the November 4 demonstration

Here’s an attempt to make sense of last night’s demonstration and disturbances

First the facts as I understand them:

The protesters

  • Tens of thousands of people, ostensibly from Muslim groups throughout the country, converged on the area around the Presidential Palace and Monas yesterday to demand that Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama be prosecuted by the police for allegedly insulting Islam
  • There was some inflammatory rhetoric but on the whole the protesters were well-organized and disciplined. They had volunteers to pick up rubbish, others to provide food and drinks and medical aid.
  • The protest officially ended at 6pm, according to their police permit, and many of the protesters headed home or away from the venue
  • As the crowed dispersed, a group that some believed represented members of the HMI, clashed with the Police. FPI members were seen forming a line between them and the Police, trying to prevent the former from attacking the latter. At least two police vehicles were torched. Tear gas was fired and the crowd, many of whom brought toothpaste because they believed smearing it near their eyes would mitigate the effects of tear gas. The situation was brought to order within an hour.

The renegade groups

  • Around 9pm reports emerged of a group of people wearing white Islamic shirts and skullcaps was causing mayhem at a convenience store in Penjaringan, north Jakarta
  • Rumors, through social media began spreading about how one group was heading toward the DPR. Others reported that cars were being damaged in anti-Chinese cordons near Baywalk, Pluit. There were reports of violence elsewhere, and in other towns, but they were unverified.
  • The disturbance at Penjaringan was quelled and some arrests were made. Police announced that order had been restored.

The Government

  • President Jokowi appeared nonchalant about the protest, spending his day inspecting facilities at the airport and elsewhere. Supporters praised him for studied and strategic nonchalance. Detractors said he was oblivious, didn’t care or was afraid
  • Vice President Yusuf Kalla was not seen much although he headed the government team to speak with the protesters and agreed to process Ahok’s case with firmness and speed.
  • Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs  Wiranto, showed he was very much a frontline person and still  a military man when he took to the field. There was even some blood on his shirt from an injured policeman. There is debate on how visible he should have been.
  • Shortly after midnight Jokowi delivered a statement that thanked the protest organizers for being disciplined but blamed their disturbance on political actors who were riding on the event. As usual, it’s in Javanese Vague terminology so lots of guessing on what he meant.

The Police

  • They acted with exemplary restraint and discipline.
  • They also psyched the protesters with their display of manpower (backed by the military) as well equipment. Speeches given by the Police Chief in the run up also left no doubt that they would keep the peace neutrally and strictly.

Social Media

  • As usual lots of noise between supporters and detractors of one side against another.
  • There were some positive developments though. Lots of Netizens urging calm, checking and rechecking social media posts before believing in them and some even started #safetycheckjkt to report where there was any disturbance, where was peaceful and normal.
  • The Teman Ahok Twitter account made a blunder when a timed-tweet appeared on the timeline, just as when things were getting heated up, to sell merchandise. They quickly apologized when netizens scolded them.
  • Coach, motivator and now one of the campaign advisors/influencers for the Anies-Sandiaga team Rene Suhardono dissed off many Netizens when he tweeted that though he respected Ahok, the Governor was really asking for whatever come his way. He hasn’t been as contrite as the Teman Ahok twitter administrators when criticised and the anger is still being vented against him today.

The Media

  • A bit better from their coverage of previous incidents when they were given to sensationalism, hyperbole and continuous reruns of violent scenes without pointing out that they were shots of incidents some time ago. TVRI was singled out by some observers as good news anchoring when it pointed out that some the clips had been taken before but the situation had changed.

On Saturday, the morning after the demonstrations, order seems to have restored, although some protestors had spent the night at the Parliament and was still there.

So what takeouts are there?

  • Unlike 1998 Jokowi seems to have the full backing of the Military and Police.So a repeat of the 1998 riots scenario seems unlikely.
  • It seems quite evident that there are political forces trying to bring down Jokowi and Ahok is seen as the chink in Jokowi’s armor (pun realized but unintended)
  • Jokowi’s maneuverings of Police appointments, Wiranto’s entry into the Cabinet and Luhut’s continued influence in the Cabinet seems to make more sense now
  • The battle between Jokowi, whom many now see as an honest man trying to slowly clean up the system, and the political forces that stand to lose if he is successful (tax dodgers, corrupt politicians, officials etc) continues and is likely to escalate after this.

Stay Tuned.

Insulting Islam or taking the piss out of ISIS?

One thing about Indonesia is that it always surprises.

Just when all of us thought that the Jokowi Government would user in a even more liberal regime that would value freedom of expression, comes news that the Police have indicted the Jakarta Post’s chief editor for insulting Islam.

The Post had carried a cartoon, demonstrated here on the Bisnis.com website today. Its crime: replacing the ISIS oval with a skull and bones. One might say fair comment, given ISIS’s propensity to lob off heads or hostages.

When the more religious readers raised a kerfuffle over the Post’s cartoon, the Post bowed to pressure and apologised. You’d think that people of a religious bent would find it in their hearts to forgive, given how all religions preach about redemption, love and all that.

The Indonesian Police, however, have a different take on things, charging the editor Dimas (Mediatama Suryodiningrat) with blasphemy.

Nice to see the nation’s enforcers so sensitive about the good name of ISIS and religion, to the point that they would not tolerate snark from journalists.

One wonders where the President and his Working Cabinet of putatively progressive leaders stand on things and how long will they keep quiet over this?

PEMRED JAKARTA POST TERSANGKA: Ini Komentar Meidyatama dan AJI | Kabar24

PEMRED JAKARTA POST TERSANGKA: Ini Komentar Meidyatama dan AJI | Kabar24

Bisnis.com, JAKARTA – Pemimpin Redaksi The Jakarta Post Meidyatama Suryodiningrat (MS) ditetapkan sebagai tersangka terkait dugaan dugaan tindak pidana penistaan agama. Langkah penyidik yang menjadikan MS tersangka mendapatkan komentar keras dari AJI.Dalam pesan yang diterima Bisnis.com, Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Indonesia menyatakan tiga hal terkait dengan penetapan Meidyatama sebagai tersangka kasus penistaan agama1). Menolak keras penetapan Pemred Jakarta Post sebagai tersangka karikatur Laa ilaaha illallaah pada edisi Kamis 3/7/2014 lalu.2. Mendesak kepolisian RI tidak menggunakan KUHP untuk menangani kasus-kasus yang terkait dengan karya jurnalistik, dan kembali menggunakan UU Pers sebagai cara untuk menyelesaikan sengketa pemberitaan atau produk pers.3. Mendesak Kapolda Metro Jaya segera mencabut status tersangka Meidyatama Suryodiningrat dan mengembalikan kasus ini sesuai UU Pers yang bersifat lex specialis.4. Mengajak masyarakat pers, baik media massa, Dewan Pers, dan stakeholders lainnya untuk bersama sama menjaga kebebasan pers dan menegakkan kasus ini dalam koridor kasus pers bukan kasus pidana. Kasus ini apabila dibiarkan akan menjadi ancaman serius bagi kebebaaan pers dan akan bisa terkena kepada siapapun.Untuk itu, AJI mendesak kepolisian mengembalikan kasus ini seperti yang sudah tertuang dalam kesepakatan Dewan Pers dan Kepolisian dalam menangani kasus pers.Sementara itu, Pemred The Jakarta Post Meidyatama Suryodiningrat dalam pesan tertulisnya yang diterima Bisnis.com mengaku kaget atas penetapan dirinya sebagai tersangka oleh penyidik Polda Metro Jaya.

Read more…

Raiding the Ban for Popular Votes?

Even though you may no agree with it you could understand the reasons why Malaysia’s censors might want to ban a film like Noah – the ultra sensitive Muslims in that country bristle at any attempts to dick around with the religious texts.

But to brand The Raid 2 is a bit morelthan a mystery. Malaysia has let in ultra violent movies before. There is no religious element to the film unless your religion is violence and its the product of a neighbouring country. So what are the reasons.

We can take it for granted that Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo is being opportunistic and nationalistic to question the Malaysian censors. That does not detract from the fact that his question needs an answer.

One can only hope (against all hope?) that the Malaysian politicians and censors have enough wits about them to adopt a more open approach and provide some answers after their disastrous brush with openness over the MH 370 tragedy.

Because, if they don’t they’ll be delivering to Prabowo a golden opportunity to shore up his popularity. (Thx for the spot Andi).

A spat with Malaysia is something relished by many Indonesians and if a spat breaks out over The Raid 2 Edhie will be able to ride the wave of nationalism and Malaysia-bashing.

All not good for Indonesia and Malaysia…unless it is a conspiracy between the powers that be in both countries to advance Edhie’s electoral prospects in the first place…Hmmm…Unspun’s been watching too many conspiracy movies lately.

Presidential Hopeful Criticizes Malaysia for Reported Banning of ‘The Raid 2’ – The Jakarta Globe.

A scene from the ‘Raid 2: Berandal.’ (Photo courtesy of Merantau Films)

Jakarta. Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo asked Malaysia explain why the country’s film board had banned “The Raid 2: Berandal,” the ultra-violent but internationally acclaimed Indonesian martial arts film that was released in theaters last week.

“It is very unfortunate that the Malaysian government banned this movie without giving any reason,” Pramono said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The movie was scheduled to hit Malaysian screens on March 28, but as of Tuesday, it had not been shown anywhere in the country. There has been no official statement from the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia on why the movie by Welsh director Gareth Evans had not been screened.

Calls to the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia were not returned — but the film does not appear on the board’s list of approved new films. The Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta declined to comment on the ban when contacted by the Jakarta Globe.

Pramono called on the Malaysian government to view the film as a positive contributor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) film industry.

“I also demand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actively perform its mediation function with the Malaysian government,” he said.

A Malaysian movie site, cinema.com.my, reported that Malaysian audiences were disappointed by the lack of screenings in the country.

One moviegoer, Nicholas Lim, told the site he was disheartened by the ban because he had enjoyed the first movie, “The Raid: Redemption,” which was not banned in Malaysia. The second film, however, contains more scenes of graphic violence than the first.

“The Raid 2″ was released in Indonesia on March 28. More than 300,000 people saw the film during its opening weekend.

 

The Monk who gave up (potentially) a few hundred Ferraris

Respect. Ajahn Siripanno looks like one of those rare individuals who either have a huge amount of courage, or are disturbed enough by the dhukka in this world to renounce a life where Daddy’s millions of dollars would guarantee him a comfortable of not lavish life.

Of great interest to Unspun is the catalyst that started Ajahn Siripanno on the Middle Path – Ajahn Chah. If you haven’t heard of the man or his teachings you an now access them in English through a podcast on iTunes (link here). Unspun, ever life’s pilgrim, came across Ajahn Chah from his disciple Ajan Brahm who wrote a marvellous book on meditation and has podcasts of his own as well.

Heartening to see that in there are those who show us the way. One day we might gather enough courage to follow these footsteps.

Modern Age Siddharta Gautama – Giving Up Billions and Lead a Life of Monkhood.

With his father, Ananda Ajahn Siripanno is a humble Theravada Buddhist monk from Thailand. He was educated in the UK and can speak 8 different languages. He is the one and only son of the second richest man in Malaysia, T. Ananda Krishnan, a low profile successful businessman that has business interest in media, oil and gas, telecommunications, gaming, entertainment and property. A

nanda Krishnan is estimated to have a net worth of US$9.6 billions according to Forbess 2012 world wealthiest people. He ranks the second richest man in Malaysia while at the number of 89 in the world.Ajahn Siripannos mother is a Thai and he has two other sisters.

It was during a retreat in Thailand where he wanted to pay homage to his mothers family and took up temporary ordination as a Thai forest monk. He was eighteen then 1989 and growing up in UK has made him quite open to different culture and to him the temporary ordination could be something fun. That was the first time he encountered Buddhism, something that was very new to him.

It is a culture for the Thais where the male will join the Sangha not compulsory for a short period of time before returning to ordinary life.With his father, Ananda. His aim during that time was simple and according to a talk that he gave at Maha Vihara, a Theravada Buddhist Temple in Malaysia, some years ago, his initial plan was to stay in the forest for just two weeks. He had never thought of becoming a forest monk would be his life career.

What had really moved his heart was none other than visiting and learning how Ajahn Chah had done to the Sangha community during that time.Ajahn Chah was a well-known Theravada monk and he had many followers/disciples from the West. Some of his most famous diciples include Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn Khemadhammo, Ajahn Brahm and Jack Kornfield a notable author and meditation instructor.

However, his hope of learning directly from Ajahn Chah shattered because this great master was already very ill. He could hardly talk and needed aids moving around on his wheelchair. Ajahn Siripanno only had the chance to meet him once but the impact that had on him was huge. It was a life changing moment!

What he experienced during the stay at the forest temple had totally changed his perception towards Buddhism and monkhood. The initial two weeks plan had now become a permanent one. He had never look back and after more than two decades, he is now an abbot of Dhao Dham Monastery, located in National Forest Reserve near Thai-Myanmar border.

Ajahn Siripanno is still in contact with his father and, which his father will visit him from time to time. It is the top priority for all Buddhist followers to practice filial piety and monks are not exceptional too. There was a time when Ajahn Siripanno travelled in his fathers private jet to Italy as he was requested by his father to spend some time with him for his 70th anniversary.

This humble monk with only a robe and a small tote bag drew quite a lot of attention during the stay in one of the finest hotel in Italy. The story that you might have read over the net about a monk that travelled in a private jet was none other than Ajahn Siripanno.

Nothing VS EverythingCan you imagine how a young man could give up everything billions and lead a simple life as a forest monk?

Note that a Theravada tradition monk only eats once a day and after 12 noon, they are prohibited to consume any solid food.It is quite normal for a young man from rich family to enjoy his luxurious life; driving a sports car, wearing fancy clothing and of course with a hot lady sitting at the side.

However, an exceptional one will truly choose an extraordinary path of life and Ajahn Siripanno is one of the least examples of the Modern Age Siddharta Gautama.Below is the talk that given by Ajahn Siripanno at Maha Vihara, Brickfields, Malaysia, 2010. There he shared about the teachings of Ajahn Chah and what he encountered during his first visit at the forest Shangha community. The title of the talk is Timeless Teachings of Ajahn Chah.