Alan Clements was in search of freedom that took him to Burma (now Myanmar), Yugoslavia, Australia, Bali and even here to Santa Cruz. He was a Buddhist monk, performer, and investigative journalist in areas of war and extreme conflict. Clement’s books, stage performances and World Dharma meditation retreats have always addressed the challenge of living openly and authentically in a world of suffering and violence.
Alan Clements was a Buddhist monk, performer, and investigative journalist in areas of war and extreme conflict. (Contributed)
His latest book, Extinction X-Rated, was written during the pandemic and, according to Clements, was “LSD-inspired.” He describes the book as part of the autobiography and partly as “auto-fictional dark satire on good and evil”.
Clements’ life has been intertwined with the Buddhist country of Burma / Myanmar since the 1970s. Clements was a monk there for four years and then made the world aware of a modern day genocide when he wrote “Burma: The Next Killing Fields?” (1990) He conducted a series of interviews with Democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was often imprisoned for her activism. These conversations later became the book “Voice of Hope” in 1997. Clements was evicted from Burma and was not allowed to travel there until 2012. In recent years, he has returned to interview hundreds of activists, teachers, artists, and laypeople about the ongoing opposition to authoritarianism embodied in a four-volume set entitled “Burma’s Voices of Freedom.” (2020)
“Spiritually wrong” is the name of the improvised “anti-performance” monologist Clements has staged around the world, including in the local Rio theater. It’s also the name of a documentary he just released about his life experiences as a Buddhist monk, journalist and activist.
Excessive meditation disorder
In “Extinction X-Rated”, Clements writes that his life changed in 1979; “I’ve had enough of the American scream. And I was ordained a Buddhist monk in New York and flew to Burma the next day with my teacher – Mahasi Sayadaw. “Clements was 29 years old. He adds, “I can hardly imagine leaving LA to live in one of the most politically volatile, dangerous and unhealthy environments in the world and find peace of mind, nothing less.”
Clements’ description of monastic life is painfully comical. He tells of the extreme challenge of 20-hour meditation while sitting and walking with only four hours of sleep. Not to mention celibacy and no meals after noon. Clements writes that at first he only survived by sneaking up on opium cigars. Now he looks back and wonders if he has not made mindfulness practice overdue, resulting in “excessive meditation disorder”.
Alan Clements with Aung San Suu Kyi and others in Burma on January 4th, 1996. (Burma Project USA – Contributed)
Shared sound anthem
“In my own progress, meditation has evolved from a practice to a way of being that is trans posture, trans training, trans practice. And maybe it’s like that for everyone, ”Clements told the Sentinel. “I look at some of these classic Buddhist texts and sermons and they are about the sonic, acoustic and vibrating exchange between a man who is known as Buddha and his students. And they tell in this animated, common space. It is a common anthem of sound. “
Clements explains, “One of my favorite discourses ascribed to the Buddha is called the Tuvataka Sutta. The Buddha duplicates his body and enables the devas and brahmas to overhear a dialogue between themselves and the created energy. That is so far away. Mahasi Sayadaw gave the same lectures and it was a very rare discourse. He said, “It’s called quitting.” To be available for the opportunity to increase insight, wisdom and liberation through common space. Hearing the words as vibrational frequencies that interact with your own fear, doubt, critical thinking, and mindfulness. “
“Oxygen your mindfulness with wisdom and you may become enlightened too,” offers Clements. “It’s very different from sitting, walking, eating, sleeping, getting up, practicing and maybe at the end of the three month retreat you will have an insight. This is quite different from the immediate, non-postponed availability for the psychologically intuitive feminine. “
Your own chosen future
Clements wrote Extinction X-Rated during the pandemic while living in Santa Monica. “I channeled this book,” he says. “I said to myself, ‘Just do the acid and let it come through you as you feel it. ‘This book is about my metaphysical Rocky moment, and its subject has never been abandoned. Do not let any obstacle come between you and your dream, Nibanna’s dream. The dream of your own future. “
“Extinction X-Rated deals with something few satirists ever deal with, which is the sixth mass extinction,” explained Clements. “And this extinction that we are facing now is not just about environmental collapse. It is also the Buddhist Pali word nibbana, which refers to the extinction of greed, fear and delusion. So it has these two meanings. “
Clements sees his new book in part as a dystopian warning like “1984” and “A Clockwork Orange”. He explains: “Satire is an incredibly complex art form. It’s like lying truthfully. You can really exaggerate, create sharp edges and contrasts. So what is a reasonable margin of exaggeration? I really needed to look closely at the history of gallows humor during the Holocaust. I found out that even in Dachau and Auschwitz, when I went to the gas chambers, there were these rare people with dark gallows humor, overheard and received by someone. “
Armed to the teeth
Clements expressed dismay at the recent turnaround in Myanmar in February when another military coup broke out and Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested again. She remains under house arrest as popular protests against the coup have risen. “Burma now has a totalitarian government armed to the teeth with the most modern weapons from China, Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Turkey. The people have no weapons, no training. And they are pacified through decades of obedience to a malicious, dictatorial psychology. They learned that if you speak or sing creatively, you’re dead, ”says Clements. “I interviewed over two hundred former political prisoners, some of them young children, arrested for drawing. And put in dog cages for fear that they could become revolutionaries for freedom, human rights and democracy. “
Dharma of Reconciliation
In 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to the Myanmar government, where she sat next to military generals who had previously ordered their own arrest and torture of pro-democracy activists. In 2016 she was widely criticized for failing to more confidently denounce and stop the forced relocation and violence against hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Myanmar. In a December 11, 2019 article in the New York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is referred to as an “apology for brutality.” Clements offers, “You cannot underestimate the horror of what happened to the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. That’s a fact. But she did not cooperate with the evil military because of her persecution. My book Extinction X-Rated focuses primarily on Aung San Suu Kyi and her revolution of the mind. “
“I was heartbroken for three years because of her vicious slander,” says Clements. “I support them now more than ever. Unfortunately, it turned out that most of the world didn’t understand what she was doing. She sought real reconciliation with a sociopathic military government. And that’s a tough call. She did it and no one really got it. “
Clements continued, “U Pandita, your meditation teacher and my teacher, designed what he called the Dharma of Reconciliation. The non-violent motive to get involved in evil. Do not slander, but adopt the old South African concept of “Ubuntu”; “I cannot be free without you.” You can win with the gun, but it’s not a long-term solution. “
“When people ask how a peaceful Buddhist culture could kill their own people, I always point out that Burma was a quiet, peaceful country until about 1823. Then Winston Churchill’s father, the Governor General of India, decided that Burma was something to pluck from the world and deliver to the Queen. And that’s exactly what he did, ”explains Clements. “Burma is a thoroughly traumatized sovereign country, very similar to Tibet.”
Occupy the freedom
Clements told the Sentinel he was now facing a personal health crisis. “I was unexpectedly diagnosed with a fatal illness. I was recently in the emergency room here in Santa Monica. And it turned out that the sharp pain in my chest was an acutely ascending aortic aneurysm. “
He says he is using all means necessary to deal with the difficult news, from doctors to Dhamma. “Meditation over the years, especially in the past six months and since the diagnosis of a so-called fatal disease, has become what I call the non-apartheid approach to Dhamma. And the non-postponed occupation of freedom. “Clements pauses and adds,” Live and breathe impermanence, the emptiness of solidity. Not ourselves. We’re not doing what we’re doing tomorrow for freedom. We are doing it now to occupy freedom. Quiver in this freedom. “
“Freedom is everything. As we both know, Harriet Tubman carried a gun. Keep moving to freedom. “Clements explains,” The children have a daunting task today. Preserving freedom of thought and fighting the good fight to keep the universality of human rights alive. Keep critical thinking, radical research, deep thinking, and ethical doubts alive. And mindful intelligence. Mindfulness itself is not enough. It has to be intelligent. “
Listen to this Thursday afternoon interview with Alan Clements on the Transformation Highway with John Malkin on KZSC 88.1 FM / kzsc.org.