Saturday, 20 September 2014

Notes from Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka

The following message concerns a site that features notes from Sri Lanka's Buddhist and Pali University.

In the words of U Sarana, a Czech monk at Shwe Oo Min monastery in Yangon, "Welcome at the crossroad of education. You will find here notes from Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, First Year. I hope that this site will help you to improve your knowledge (for students) and to make the burden of teaching lighter (for teachers). I sincerely invite you all to point out any improvements that can be done here and especially grammatical and factual mistakes in the notes which I publish here. If the lecturer or submitter of a note is not known to me or if he is wrongly mentioned, then please point it out also....You can download whole the collection of all available corrected notes for the first year at Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka. It was written by me, ven. Czech Sarana. There are also some old notes from previous years and also excerpts from books. You may use as you like. All the things that are not from books, that means all the things that I have written or just the notes, all that is VOID OF COPYRIGHT."

The site may be found here, and there are numerous downloads available.

Panditarama Forest Centre

Built on more than 100 acres of forest and containing three natural lakes, this center, presided over by Sayadaw U Pandita, has beautifully landscaped gardens and other areas (including one long terrace) conducive to walking meditation. The site was originally covered with bamboo groves, and then replanted as a rubber plantation. Some of the buildings are a bit rustic, although renovations are currently underway that will allow each meditator his or her own individual room or cabin, with an adjoining bathroom.

The area of where this center now sits was quite important to U Pandita’s own early spiritual training. He first studied as a young monk at the nearby Mahabodhi Forest Monastery. For many years, he thought of building a forest meditation center in this area, and in recent years he was able to fulfill that dream, creating a center that now welcomes large numbers of Burmese and foreign yogis. As one yogi shared, “The stillness, clean air, freshwater springs, and fertile land create almost perfect conditions for a meditation center.” 

Monks on alms round in Hmawbi

The center serves nutritious vegetarian fare and freshly made local juices in the evenings. Hse Gone Center usually conducts 60-day silent meditation retreats each winter, during which the Sayadawgyi himself stays at the center to monitor progress and deliver daily Dhamma talks. In the words of one yogi, these are “based on Sayadaw U Pandita's deep practical experience and understanding of the Theravada Buddhist canon… [they] provide yogis with the practical and theoretical information they need for intensive satipaṭṭhāna vipassanā meditation practice.”

Yogis can get to the Hse Gone center by taxi, and can inquire about other transportation options from the center. For public transport, take the public bus towards Bago and get off at Sae Mi Gone Hill around 10th Mile; the center is just under two miles away from there. The telephone is 0949450787, 095300885, 095302500.

Novices study the scriptures

Friday, 19 September 2014

Full Moon Sunday at Kun Lay Monastery

Full Moon Days are always a special event in Burma, but they are especially sacred at Kun Lay Monastery. This short clip takes the yogi on a virtual Dhamma tour of three minutes on such a day, showing the many activities taking place around the monastery grounds. Whether young or old, male or female, monastic or lay, there are a variety of roles that happen within the space of a day.

Two nuns from Sagaing discuss Dhamma with resident monks at Maha Gandayone Monastery in Amarapura, as large rice buckets dry out after lunch

“People would have a fine time meeting friends at the monastery. ‘Apart from being a happy outing, a day at the monastery is satisfying in many ways, social, cultural and spiritual.’ I heard my grandmother used to say, never failed for all time. I concluded my diary the day at the monastery by the end of a perfect day.” Junior Win

“[My grandfather] usually had an interesting time discussing Buddhist scriptures with other retired gentlemen, who, like him, had found a useful vacation in the study of the scriptures in their retirements. Sometimes the discussions were spirited and they would often take their arguments to the head monk for decision. [My grandmother] would have a fine time meeting friends and she had an opportunity to do deeds of merit like sweeping the grounds. Children happily helped with chores and were taught the sacred duty of keeping the monastery grounds clean… Late in the afternoon we would come home, the end of a perfect day.” Khin Myo Chit (grandmother of Junior Win), Colorful Myanmar

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Children playing at Kun Lay Monastery

Kun Lay Monastery is located in a very traditional and conservative village in a place where little has changed in the passing years, and even decades. At no time is this more evident than on full moon days. While full moon days have an important significance in the Buddha's life and within Buddhist societies, the day is honored with more devotion at Kun Lay than can be seen in many other places in modern Myanmar today. 

On this day, villagers from all over the surrounding region come to the monastery. In this short video, one can see the role of the children. According to Sayadaw U Kumara, the Rector of Sitagu Academy in Sagaing, children are given free reign at monasteries from a young age, allowing them freedom to explore and grounds on their own terms. U Kumara also notes that this allows powerful positive associations between monks and meditation to form with playtime and fun. When the child begins to age, gradually they will be introduced to simple suttas, Jataka Tales of the Buddha, basic Pali, and introductory meditation techniques. But the basis of future spiritual development begins with, simply, having fun!

For the children shown in this video, they are still young enough that monastery visits are still firmly associated with fun and pleasant times. As this video is being shot, interestingly, the childrens' mothers are meditating together with the monks in the Dhamma Hall, after having finished their daily cooking tasks.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scattering of Goenkaji's ashes on the Ayeyarwady River

Nearly one year ago, the great lay meditation teacher S.N. Goenka passed away, as various posts in this blog shared at the time. Although Sayagyi U Goenka passed away in India, it was his final wish that his remains be returned to the land of his birth, Burma. The above video shows how his ashes were prepared in Dhamma Joti, the main U Goenka center in Myanmar. Excerpts from Dhamma speeches made at the center are partially translated, and the journey from the airport to the center and then the precious Ayeyarwaddy River are also shown in this video. 

Many local meditators and monks gathered for this occasions, as many will do around the world in the coming months when the one year anniversary of his death approaches, and people will meditate and give Sangha Dana in his memory.

Friday, 5 September 2014

A Special Tree in Ingyinbin

Three large trees are planted in a line at Webu Monastery in Ingyinbin. One is Lin Loon, and the other two are Bodhi trees. The largest one is in the northwest corner. Between the branches of the second Bodhi tree, Webu Sayadaw instructed Sayagyi U Ba Khin to place the hair that had just been shaven from his head for his 1965 ordination. With this, he also made the prediction that U Ba Khin would play an important role in spreading Buddha’s teachings, reportedly telling him that “Buddha’s teaching are in your hands.” U Ba Khin himself scooped up half of his hair and placed them in medicine bottles, putting them on his Buddha alter back at International Meditation Centre (IMC). Today, every IMC pagoda in the world has some of this hair enshrined in it. Before leaving the compound after disrobing, U Ba Khin offered dana to repair the walls and seating areas around these trees.

Pilgrims from the 2013-4 Pariyatti Pilgrimage can be seen walking around the tree. A travel diary from this trip can be read here, and information about upcoming pilgrimages can be found here.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Meal at Metta Shin

On the first day of the 2014 year, pilgrims from a dozen countries came together to share breakfast at Thoke Da Metta Shin Monastery in Hmawbi. This was part of a three week pilgrimage throughout Burma that visited important sites where the Dhamma has been preserved and is still practiced. One may also attend pilgrimages this year, and one full scholarship will be offered.

Pilgrims meditate inside mosquito nets in the Sima Hall at Thoke Da Monastery in Hmawbi

The Metta Shin Sayadaw is highly regarded throughout Myanmar as he coordinates a vast amount of humanitarian projects, ranging from health to education to sustainable development. He was very happy to host this pilgrimage group, who came with noble intentions to practice meditation in the Golden Land. Metta Shin Sayadaw has written over 20 books, and two were translated in English, and he regularly speaks to audiences in the thousands. He leads an annual New Year's course in which over 4,000 yogis attend! Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, he has just disrobed last month to become married, a rare occurrence for Burmese senior monks and Sayadaws.

Three American yogis from the following pilgrimage outside their room. One ordained at IMC in the 1970s, and another ordained the following month at Shwekyin Monastery