Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:...Ashin Nyar Na clearly holds wrong views, but it's sad that he is persecuted so severely for expressing them. Banning someone from an Internet forum or refusing permission to publish heretical books is reasonable, but imprisoning people for expressing unorthodox views is extremely intolerant.
Suppression of freedom of the press is reasonable and tolerant? As in also something that came up here a while ago where it was noted that books of the PaAuk Sayadaw were banned at some point in time. The behavior of the church-state establishment in Myanmar appears to rival the European Christian "Inquisition" in terms of brutality and dogmatic extremism.
A clue as to one possible dimension of the situation came up in the article linked in the OP:
From the Frontier Myanmar article: "The monk in blue robes"
“The people donate offerings to the monks because they believe they will be rewarded in their next life,” the follower said. “If they were aware of Sayadaw’s [Ashin Nyar Na’s] doubt about a continuing existence after their worldly lives, they would be unlikely to give offerings to monks any more.”
That is to say, the issue of the economic basis of the religious establishment. But is it necessary for Buddhists to preach "hell-fire and brimstone" threats to keep the laity in line contributing to the monks?
My first-hand impression, from contact with ethnic Asian Buddhist communities here in the USA (Thai Wats, and a Vietnamese congregation served by Burmese (Pandita) monks) is that the people are taught the positive motivation to improve their paramis
, to increase their (and their progeny's) chances of actually achieving the Buddha's path. Donation (monetary and, e.g. providing food for the monks and retreat yogis) is not pushed aggressively (as it is, for instance, in some of the institutions in the Western Vipassana-Movement), but is rather an inherent value in people's lives – tradition from their fore-bearers and passed on to their children. Retreats don't end with a "dana day", like, for instance, at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. I've not heard in any talk, nor read anywhere in the voluminous (free) literature, for instance at Tathagata Meditation Center (San Jose, Calif.) anything threatening people with "hell realms".
Clearly, from the news across at least recent decades, Burmese culture has some serious "sila
" issues. One would perhaps hope that would occur mainly in the political-economic dimensions of society. but apparently it also infects, via the state-religious establishment, the attitudes and behavior of some monastic participants.
Not to assert that Western societies aren't also infected by gaps of hypocrisy between their "liberal" value systems and some of their political-economic policies, especially in terms of ongoing "colonialist" behavior toward other societies. One lesson of history, however, more or less well learned in the West is the pragmatic value of institutional "separation of church and state" – despite sporadic outbreaks to the contrary by right-wing religious fanatics. Unfortunately, a more rigid church-state integration still flourishes in some corners, largely driven by right-wing extremism – e.g. in radical Islam, places like Myanmar, and even Israel.