Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese Political Leader, Chairman and General Secretary of the National League for Democracy in Burma, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Rafto Prize and Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

"A more significant phase should mean serious political dialogue."

"But we know that we are not alone. The cause of liberty and justice finds sympathetic responses around the world. Thinking and feeling people everywhere, regardless of color or creed, understand the deeply rooted human need for a meaningful existence that goes beyond the mere gratification of material desires. Those fortunate enough to live in societies where they are entitled to full political rights can reach out to help their less fortunate brethren in other areas of our troubled planet."

"Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear."

"But passive compassion alone is not enough to achieve victory in the struggle against inhumanity. A Buddhist story that illustrates the inadequacy of the mere feeling of compassion tells of a mother with paralyzed arms who helplessly watched her child being swept away along a fast-flowing river. Those who are compassionate but who do not possess the wisdom to find the means of relieving the sufferings of their fellow human beings are compared to that mother. Meaningful compassion has to be active; it must seek the means to bring comfort to those who are in need of succor. Wisdom is necessary to enable us to discover those means."

"Confidence-building is not something that can go on forever. If it goes on forever then it becomes counterproductive."

"Each man has in him the potential to realize the truth through his own will and endeavor and to help others to realize it. Human life therefore is infinitely precious."

"Fear is not the natural state of civilized people."

"Gandhi, that great apostle of non-violence, and Aung San, the founder of a national army, were very different personalities, but as there is an inevitable sameness about the challenges of authoritarian rule anywhere at any time, so there is a similarity in the intrinsic qualities of those who rise up to meet the challenge."

"Every government must consider the security of the country. That is just part of the responsibilities of any government. But true security can only come out of unity within a country where there are so many ethnic nationalities."

"Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions, courage that could be described as grace under pressure — grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure."

"Hate is never conquered by hate, hate is only conquered by love."

"However, we should not consider wisdom therefore superior to compassion. If compassion without wisdom can be illustrated by the story of the paralyzed mother, wisdom without compassion can be illustrated by a boatman who sits in his craft and eyes the hapless infant sweeping past on the current without making any effort to save it. Wisdom too can be as ineffective as passive compassion if there is no urge to use it to help others."

"Human beings the world over need freedom and security that they may be able to realize their full potential."

"I always say that one has no right to hope without endeavor."

"I don't think that political prisoners should be considered a danger at all, because I don't think political opposition in itself, political dissidence in itself, is a danger. It's how you handle the dissidence which will decide whether or not the situation becomes dangerous."

"Here is what I want most for my people: I want the security of genuine freedom and the freedom of genuine security."

"I have been free for more than a month. Some people may think that that is long enough. Others may think that that is not quite long enough."

"I don't think you can say that the talks between us and the military have not yet resumed. I think you could say that dialogue has not yet started."

"I'm a cautious optimist. I'm cautiously optimistic about everything."

"It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kinds of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the wrong path to spite those against whom one bears ill will, and moga-gati is aberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption. Just as chanda-gati, when not the result of sheer avarice, can be caused by fear of want or fear of losing the goodwill of those one loves, so fear of being surpassed, humiliated or injured in some way can provide the impetus for ill will. And it would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched."

"I think by now I have made it fairly clear that I am not very happy with the word hope. I don't believe in people just hoping. We work for what we want."

"I saw many aspects of the country which I needed to see in order that I might know what we need to do."

"I think I should be active politically. Because I look upon myself as a politician. That's not a dirty work you know. Some people think that there are something wrong with politicians. Of course, something wrong with some politicians."

"In an age when immense technological advances have created lethal weapons which could be, and are, used by the powerful and the unprincipled to dominate the weak and the helpless, there is a compelling need for a closer relationship between politics and ethics at both the national and international levels. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations proclaims that 'every individual and every organ of society' should strive to promote the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings regardless of race, nationality or religion are entitled. But as long as there are governments whose authority is founded on coercion rather than on the mandate of the people, and interest groups which place short-term profits above long-term peace and prosperity, concerted international action to protect and promote human rights will remain at best a partially realized struggle."

"It cannot be doubted that in most countries today women, in comparison to men, still remain underprivileged."

"I was surprised by the response of young people because there is a perception that those younger than the 1988 generation are not interested in politics."

"I would therefore like to call upon those who have an interest in expanding their capacity for promoting intellectual freedom and humanitarian ideals to take a principled stand against companies that are doing business with the Burmese military regime. Please use your liberty to promote ours."

"Investment that only goes to enrich an already wealthy elite bent on monopolizing both economic and political power cannot contribute toward égalité and justice — the foundation stones for a sound democracy."

"It would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear. With so close a relationship between fear and corruption it is little wonder that in any society where fear is rife corruption in all forms becomes deeply entrenched."

"Part of our struggle is to make the international community understand that we are a poor country not because there is an insufficiency of resources and investment, but because we are deprived of the basic institutions and practices that make for good government."

"Once serious political dialogue has begun, the international community can assume that we have achieved genuine progress along the road to real democratization."

"Repressed human beings are not the same as those who are free and secure."

"I've always thought that the best solution for those who feel hopeless is for them to help others."

"Peace as a goal is an ideal which will not be contested by any government or nation, not even the most belligerent."

"Often lack of wisdom can result in deeds lacking compassion. The philosopher Karl Popper was asked in an interview if he believed in evil. No, he answered, but I believe in stupidity. His reply struck me as remarkably Buddhist: often in Buddhist teachings, the wise are associated with righteousness and the foolish or ignorant with evil-doing. As sweet as honey is an evil deed, so thinks the fool... Lack of wisdom blinds men to attitudes and actions that deny the basic humanity that should unite all peoples, regardless of race, language, creed or class. Once set on a course which emphasizes differences and exacerbates conflict, there is little room left for compassion. Wisdom can thus be seen as important not just for making compassion effective, but for generating compassion itself."

"I've never been particularly concerned about my own freedom as such. This is not what we are working for. What we are concerned about is the freedom of political parties and the freedom of all the people of Burma."

"Please use your freedom to promote ours."

"People often ask me how it feels to have been imprisoned in my home… How could I stand the separation from family and friends? It is ironic, I say, that in an authoritarian state it is only the prisoner of conscience who is genuinely free. Yes, we have given up our right to a normal life. But we have stayed true to that most precious part of our humanity — our conscience."

"Revered monks and people. This public rally is aimed at informing the whole world of the will of the people... Our purpose is to show that the entire people entertain the keenest desire for a multiparty democratic system of government."

"Sanctions and boycotts would be tied to serious political dialogue."

"Some believe that the only way to remove the authoritarian regime and replace it with a democratic one is through violent means. I would like to set the precedent of political change through political settlement, not through violence."

"Some would insist that man is primarily an economic animal interested only in his material well-being. This is too narrow a view of a species which has produced numberless brave men and women who are prepared to undergo relentless persecution to uphold deeply held beliefs and principles. It is my pride and inspiration that such men and women exist in my country today."

"The case for human rights is hardly one that should need to be argued,"

"Sometimes I didn't even have enough money to eat. I became so weak from malnourishment that my hair fell out, and I couldn't get out of bed."

"The democracy process provides for political and social change without violence."

"The people of my country want the two freedoms that spell security: freedom from want and freedom from fear."

"The case of human rights is the case of human dignity, human security, of human beings."

"The effort necessary to remain uncorrupted in an environment where fear is an integral part of everyday existence is not immediately apparent to those fortunate enough to live in states governed by the rule of law. Just laws do not merely prevent corruption by meting out impartial punishment to offenders. They also help to create a society in which people can fulfill the basic requirements necessary for the preservation of human dignity without recourse to corrupt practices. Where there are no such laws, the burden of upholding the principles of justice and common decency falls on the ordinary people. It is the cumulative effect on their sustained effort and steady endurance which will change a nation where reason and conscience are warped by fear into one where legal rules exist to promote man's desire for harmony and justice while restraining the less desirable destructive traits in his nature."

"The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social and economic aspirations."

"The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the iniquities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance and fear."