After dropping out of the University of Virginia in his second year, despite his scholarship, Boston-born Alan Clements went overland to India and the East, to become one of the first Westerners to ordain as a Buddhist monk in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). He lived at the Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha (MSY) Mindfulness Meditation Centre for nearly four years, training in the practice and teaching of Satipatthana Vipassana (Insight) meditation and Buddhist psychology (Abhidhamma), under the guidance of his preceptor the Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw and his successor, Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita.
In 1984, forced by the dictator Ne Win to leave the country with no reason given, Clements returned to the West and through invitation, lectured widely on ‘The Wisdom of Mindfulness’ and led mindfulness-based meditation retreats and trainings throughout the US, Australia, and Canada, including assisting at a three-month Mindfulness Teacher Training with the Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS), in Massachusetts.
In 1988, Alan integrated into his Buddhist training an awareness that included universal human rights, social injustice, environmental sanity, political activism, the study of propaganda and mind control in both democratic and totalitarian societies, and the preciousness of everyday freedom. His efforts working on behalf of oppressed peoples led Jack Healey, a former director of Amnesty International to call Alan “one of the most important and compelling voices of our times.”
As an investigative journalist Alan has lived in some of the most highly volatile areas of the world. In the jungles of Burma, in 1990, he was one of the first eye-witnesses to document the mass murder and oppression of ethnic minorities by Burma’s military dictatorship, which resulted in his first book, ‘Burma: The Next Killing Fields?’ (Graced with a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama).
Shortly thereafter, Alan was invited to the former Yugoslavia by Marcia Jacobs, a senior officer for the United Nations, where based in Zagreb during the final year of the war, he wrote the film ‘Burning’ (for Chartoff Productions) while consulting with NGOs and the United Nations on ‘The vital role of consciousness in understanding human rights, freedom, and peace’.
In 1995 a French publisher asked Alan to attempt re-entering Burma with the purpose of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of her country’s pro-democracy movement and 1991 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He met with Aung San Suu Kyi, who had just been released from six years of incarceration, and invited her to share her country’s courageous story with the world, together recording and illuminating the philosophical and spiritual underpinnings of Burma’s nonviolent struggle for freedom, known as a ‘Revolution of the Spirit’.