Remembering Václav Havel

Václav Havel with an image of Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo by Anne Bayin.

For those of us who care about social justice generally and human rights in countries with large populations of Buddhists, 2011 certainly ended on a sad note with the death of Czech playwright and activist Václav Havel, who also served as the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic.

Public condolences have been issued by both His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma — two Nobel Peace laureates and socially-engaged Buddhist icons who received unflagging support in their causes from Havel in the last several years.

His loss is worth at least a mention here at a blog that purports to be about Buddhism and social justice. He will be so terribly missed, and I hope at the very least that you will spending some time coming to know about him and his work if it was previously unfamiliar to you. I recommend starting with his official website at

“Gentle, honest, humble and full of humour, he was motivated by the idea that truth must ultimately prevail. It was this insistence on the truth that got him into trouble with the authorities when he was young.  The same quality inspired his people to choose him to be the President when they threw off totalitarianism during the Velvet Revolution, which Havel led with an extraordinary display of people power. His abiding concern for human rights meant that once in a position of authority himself he did not indulge in rancour or vengeance, but instead worked to bring about reconciliation.” – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

“This is not only a loss for one person or one country, it is a great loss for humankind.” – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

(L-R) His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Václav Havel in Prague on December 10, 2011, just days before the latter's death. Photo by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
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