From the Chiang Mai University to the IUS

From the Chiang Mai University to the IUS

Seeking the reasons behind democracy


Metta Surinkaew


Preeyanoot Surinkaew is the first, and till now the only, Buddhist student at the IUS. Her presence constitutes an unceasing spur for those who find it difficult to believe that an authentic dialogue is possible between such different realities as the West and the East, a Jewish-Christian culture and a Buddhist culture. Born in Thailand, Metta – as she introduces herself to Westerners, a religious term that means “compassion” – after having studied Buddhism, at the IUS she has chosen courses in the Political Studies track: she herself will explain why.


What urged you to come and study at Sophia?
I have always been interested in the difficult processes of development of my nation and , I also studied Buddhism in this perspective, the main, widespread faith in Thailand. There was not just the economic dimension... Faced with the difficulties of the democratic institutions of my country, I wanted to better understand the reasons behind them.
In this program, I have realized that much of our national politics has been influenced by Western history and thinking. I felt the need to open up my horizons. My firs thesis from the University of Chiang Mai was already an initial exercise in this: I dealt with a project of the Economy of Communion, born within a Christian milieu, within the Focolare Movement, and the economic model that is born from the Buddhist Theravada tradition. And then, to further this research topic, I decided to study politics and I came to the Sophia University.


You are Buddhist, while the IUS wass born in a Christian context: does this not create difficulties?
Here studies have their roots in the life of communion among us, it is a relationship of fraternity: this is the experience that we live. Certainly, languages and cultures are different and this is a difficulty... but what unites us is the common effort to share our lives, to listen to one another, to welcome each other every day, and this experience can be easily translated also into the language of Buddhism. The choice to love each other reciprocally becomes a language in common, both to understand the content of the different disciplines and of our personal lives. And this is the root of dialogue. I have discovered that from the ability to dialogue “within me” also depends my ability to dialogue “outside of me.”


What repercussions does this have for your professional growth?
In these months I am writing my thesis on political philosophy: I am studying the idea of fraternity as applied to the political sphere, starting from the origial thought of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, one of the most influential Thai Buddhist monks of the 20th century. I am working very hard, because the thought of this teacher is not considered applicable and I think it is important to give value to all that directs the history of our peoples towards peace and the good.
On my part, I know that my life plan, my competencies, none of these are only for me; what I have is in my hands only to be shared. So I must not think of realizing only my aspirations, but the aspirations of others.... I must not only deepen my knowledge of Buddhism, but also that of Christianity..... All that I understand can become a contribution, an answer to the questions of today’s world.


What do you intend to do after your Master’s from Sophia?
I think that it is important to go back soon to Thailand and to dedicate my time to forming others, to bring quality to the formation of young people. Here, the different courses have been a laboratory for me to better grasp the value of relationships among persons, of universal brotherhood, the importance of participation.... But we must discover the golden thread that binds us and this thread is love. For this reason, I would like to work as an educator, to promote civic responsibility, to renew the reasons for a democracy.

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