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U Thant (22 January 1909 – 25 November 1974) was a Burmese diplomat and the third secretary-general of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971, the first non-Scandinavian to hold the position. He held the office for a record 10 years and one month.
- Wars begin in the minds of men, and in those minds, love and compassion would have built the defenses of peace.
- "Buddhism and the Charter" in Religion and International Affairs (1968) edited by Jeffrey Rose and Michael Ignatieff, p. 114
- Two world wars were fought to make the world safe for democracy. Today we have to wage a war on all fronts. This war has to be waged in peace time, but it has to be waged as energetically and with as much total national effort as in times of war. The war we have to wage today has only one goal, and that is to make the world safe for diversity.
The concept of peaceful coexistence has been criticized by many who do not see the need to make the world safe for diversity. I wonder if they have ever paused to ask themselves the question: What is the alternative to coexistence?
- Address of 1964, republished in Portfolio for Peace (1968), p. 14
- Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves. This, as the sages of many lands have taught us, is a golden rule in individual and group, as well as international, relations.
- Portfolio for Peace (1968), p. 92
View from the UN (1978)
- It is far from my intention to claim that I have reached a very high stage on the path to attainment of the highest wisdom, or that I have attained complete "inner peace." However, I can claim that I practice bhavana every day. I try to cultivate the ethical aspects of Buddhism, and I believe that I have attained a greater degree of emotional equilibrium than most people. This explains why the tragic news of the sudden death (in a traffic accident) of my only son, Tin Maung Thant, on May 21, 1962, with minimal emotional reaction. For are not birth and death the two phases of the same life process? According to the Buddha, birth is followed by death, but death, in turn, is followed by rebirth.
- p. 23
- To understand my feelings — and my conception of the role of Secretary General — the nature of my religious and cultural background must first be understood. I should therefore like to outline not only my beliefs but also my conception of human institutions and of the human situation itself.
As a Buddhist, I was trained to be tolerant of everything except intolerance. I was brought up not only to develop the spirit of tolerance but also to cherish moral and spiritual qualities such as modesty, humility, compassion, and, most important, to attain a certain degree of emotional equilibrium.
- p. 69