True leaders are hard to come by. But every generation has their shining stars, and Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the truly inspiring figures of our time. Without going into a history lesson, I hope you know that Aung San Suu Kyi is a pro-democracy activist from Myanmar (more commonly known as Burma). In 1990, her party won a landslide election against the military regime in that country - but the Generals refused to hand over power. Between 1989 and 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi spent more than 15 of those 21 years under house arrest, including a few terms in prison - but she never stopped campaigning for democracy in Burma.
It's really not possible for me to put into words how much I admire, respect and am inspired by this incredible woman, but here are just a few reasons why I love Aung San Suu Kyi:
- She is a peaceful activist who has always taught - and lived - a path of non-violence (ahimsa) and compassion.
- She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 - although she was only able to travel to Norway to accept it last week.
- She used her Nobel Prize money - 1.3 million USD - to establish a health and education trust for the Burmese people.
- She didn't choose to be a leader - she originally returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother - but her belief in democracy led her to take part in a wide popular uprising in 1988, and when asked to lead, she accepted the responsibility with awe-inspiring grace, despite the sacrifices it has entailed for her personally.
- She was given an easy way out (to return to the UK, where her family was) - but she refused to take it, choosing instead to stay and stand for what she believed in. [Many have looked upon her harshly (who are they to judge?) for leaving her British husband and her two teenage sons to grow up without her - but it is almost certain that if she had gone back to the UK to be a wife and mother, she would never have been allowed back into Burma. Between 1988 and 1999 she saw her husband only 5 times - and was not even able to be with him when he died of cancer in 1999. I can't imagine the emotional weight of this type of sacrifice, but I respect that she stood by her principles and didn't take the easy road out.]
- On 1 April 2012, she finally won a seat in Parliament, from where she continues to push for reform in Burma.
If you are inspired, be a Karma Yogi and consider a few things you can do:
- Read Aung San Suu Kyi's book "Freedom from Fear";
- Talk about Aung San Suu Kyi in your yoga class or with your community, or teach an Aung San Suu Kyi-inspired class on standing up for what you believe in;
- Give your children a history lesson on Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi;
- Learn more about human rights and support one of the many local and international campaigns to bring rights and dignity to millions of people around the world.
Cover photo: Amnesty Australia