Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Maha Bodawin Museum

Near Shwedagon Pagoda, meditators may wish to visit the Maha Bodawin Museum, which is underneath the Western Entrance. Not to be missed outside the museum are the original teak posts that King Tharrawaddy used to make the Southern Stairway in the mid 19th century. One section is funded by the Goenka family, and overall this museum teaches visitors about the Buddha’s life and the Dhamma that he imparted, as well as more recent Burmese Buddhist history. The museum features a combination of paintings, murals, statues, dioramas, and other artistic and educational exhibits. 

This section on Bodhgaya was funded by the Goenka Family

One of the many paintings to be found at the museum

"The Practice at the Beginning"

The following narrative continues the story of a Mexican meditator who has been in Burma for many years. This is the second entry, and the beginning post can be found here.

"Before arriving in Myanmar, I completed a three-month retreat in Thailand where I learned about the four Application of Mindfulness. The reason why I chose to come to Myanmar was mainly for safety, and not because of any particular teacher in the country. I did not know anything about the teachers here, actually. Since the very beginning when I became introduced to Buddhism, I was told that I first need to find a good teacher. I was told that I should not follow a monk or nun just because they wear different clothes. What is important is the quality of mind that the person has, but the form of the person does not matter. If he is a monk, nun, layperson or even a person from another tradition, it does not matter, because what is important is the knowledge that the person has. It is important to make sure that the qualities of the teacher are of a very high standard, because you will develop as the teacher is. So it is important to make sure you become like someone that you find inspiring! For that reason, the first months I spent at Shew Oo Min I was testing the teacher, to see how skilful he was, how kind, how he was communicating with the students and how well he was answering the questions.

Moreover, my teachers in the past told me to focus mainly on a primary object. Normally the breath is a perfect object in order to gain some stability of mind, and they were very interested in helping their students to practice samathā. That was one point that was a bit confusing for me. Since long ago I listened to many dhamma talks where they explained the benefits of samathā, and now, the new teacher at Shwe Oo Min was mentioning that samathā was not needed for the practice! That was confusing. I did not know if I believed him or not… His instructions were not very clear to me at first. The way he was explaining, the method that he was teaching did not seem so well structured compared with what I was used to. I felt like he already knew a lot of the practice and because of that, he was taking for granted many small explanation about the practice that perhaps could be useful for beginners.

I read the books they gave me in the monastery many times to make sure I was understanding correctly the practice. But my progress was very slow. I had a lot of doubts about what the teacher was saying. However, I continued to follow his instructions. One thing is that I found it very suitable to allow the mind to choose any object. That helped me not to use much energy, because the mind was doing it anyway. At the beginning most of the time what the mind was choosing happened to be the sensations in the body. I remember I used to have a lot of pain in the head because of the heat. So that was my primary object as well as the breath. It took me a while to stop following the breath because I used to be very confident when I was following it. For me the instructions were not fully clear and I was constantly confused about how to practice."

Ajahn Panna: 2. Life Story

The great British monk Ajahn Panna was ordained in the Thai Forest Tradition, and was blessed with the revered teacher Ajahn Maha Boowa. Ajahn Panna was one of the first known Westerners to ordain, and was widely believed in his lifetime to be an arahant. Although his life intersects little with Burma, his inspiring, five-part biography is being shared here. May this offer inspiration to meditators and monastics everywhere.

Part One can be watched here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A California Sangha Dana in Honor of S.N. Goenka

One year following the passing of the great lay meditation teacher Sayagyi U Goenka, a Sangha Dana was organized in his honor in Azusa, California, at the Dhammakaya International Meditation Center. U Goenka had visited here in 2002 on the Meditation Now tour. This time, over one thousand guests attended, including many bhikkhus and nuns. There to photograph it was Mitchell Walker, and he has kindly allowed his images to be shared on this blog. Many of these photographs will be included a book that will come out in the following months.

These placards indicate the diversity of Sanghas represented at the event

The Vietnamese table

One regional group from Southeast Asia poses for a photo

Sangha Dana is served before noon

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tourists to the Present Moment at Dhamma Dhara

Sayagyi U Goenka has successfully made the liberating activity of Burmese meditation available throughout the world, and to countries where the Buddha's pure teachings have never reached in the 2500 years since Gautama Buddha himself taught the Dhamma. In this essay, author John Fallot describes his own experiences of attending such a course in America for the first time, which took place at Dhamma Dhara. For those well-accustomed to practice as it is found in Buddhist countries, is account may be intriguing to read.

Here is an excerpt from the post:

"The day’s remainder wasn’t too important, beyond the stating of the rules and the start of the Noble Silence. Indeed, it would be in poor taste for me to expound on it too greatly, since there is something very sacrosanct about first steps — nor will I describe the discourses of S.N. Goenka in detail. But as I will say repeatedly, it is to be experienced."

Guide for Dhamma Servers at Vipassana centers

This wonderful instructional video was made to help guide Dhamma Servers at Vipassana centers in the Sayagyi U Goenka tradition throughout India. It is from several decades ago, and demonstrates the great care and concern that is taken towards all students to provide maximum comfort and support for their ten-day course experiences, so that they may all be successful in learning the technique properly. Although the video may be dated, what remains just as relevant today is the attentive service that is provided to meditation students at all the Vipassana centers to be found throughout the world today. This instructional video provides a wonderful insight into the attentiveness to be found behind the scenes of running a course.

For those interested in taking (or serving on) a ten day course, please go here.

Sayadaw U Tejaniya in Kalaw 3

In this third of eight parts, Sayadaw U Tejaniya continues his Dhamma discussion in Kalaw. He is answering questions at the Shwe Oo Min Monastery in Kalaw, from a group of foreign meditators and monks. This is precious footage that can now be shared with those all over the world who endeavor to follow the Buddha's teachings of peace.

To begin at the first part, go here.