Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Tigers of Sagaing

The view just outside the fortified structure described below
Historically, Burmese ascetics have regarded the Sagaing Hills as an ideal spot to practice dhamma. This is because for many centuries it was a lush jungle-laden series of rolling hills, allowing the monks (for in past years nuns and lay people did not engage in such practices to the same extent) to concentrate fully on the practice and development of insight. To this day, there are as-yet uncounted caves, pagodas, monasteries, kutis, and other sites showing the living Buddhist practice community that Sagaing has been over the years.

In recent years, much of this tropical forest region has been peeled away by expanding roads and communities, pushing the ascetic's practice deeper into the hills. Areas that one could only reach by trekking are now accessible (some entirely) by vehicle.

The entrance to the fortified building that protected monks against tiger attacks
However, as recently as a generation ago, nature still held sway. In fact, monks were under constant threat by tiger attacks during their alms rounds.  These pictures show a structure that was built as a means of protecting the monks from such tiger incursions.  The building was situated between eight very small monasteries, allowing easy access to all. The walls were built to be considerably thick and the structure was further fortified by sealed rooms that are unlike what one would find at any other Burmese monastery. When tigers were known to be in the area, monks from all eight monasteries would retire at night to sleep in this bunker together, returning to their own grounds during the day for practice.

It is also worth noting that the monk featured below mentioned that his own teacher was once personally attacked by a tiger on his alms walk, and the claws ripped into his abdomen. Fortunately, he survived the attack, and left with scars to show it.

The ceiling of the upper story chamber today, so loose that it is no longer safe for anyone to enter

An entrance on the upper story of the fortified building

Auspicious Results of a Blood Test

This is a large poster hanging in an Upper Burma nunnery that shows the result of a recent blood test that an aged monk had at a hospital. Upon examining the blood and particles closely, the nurses were astounded to find certain crystalized properties within the venerable monk's blood that suggested this monk had attained enlightenment. His achievement of such a stage was not known or guessed previously to this very auspicious blood test.

Children Meditation Course at Saya Thet Gyi Meditation Center, Pway Bwe Gyi

These are photos from a recent Children's Meditation course that was held at Saya Thet Gyi's meditation center in Pway Bwe Gyi, which is across the Yangon River from Yangon (and then a further 30 minute cycle ride).

Note some are wearing the traditional brown scarves that denote in Burmese culture that one is on a religious retreat. Also, most are in their white and green school uniforms as they attend. 

For those who would like to gain merit by sponsoring further meditation courses for children in Myanmar in the future, please contact us.

Children Yogis break for lunch

Yogis from local schools head into Saya Thet Gyi's Meditation Center to begin their one day course

Monday, 18 March 2013

SN Goenka pays respects to Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw

The following photographs are from what is believed to be the year 2000, and feature SN Goenka visiting the Shwe Oo Min monastery to pay his respects to the Sayadaw in Yangon, Myanmar. The Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw was considered by many to be an arahant, e.g. a fully enlightened being. It is also reported that at the time, U Goenka told those of his meditation students wishing to ordain as monks that Shwe Oo Min was a conducive place for continuing their practice. In a commemorative book after the Sayadaw passed, one page also honored the special relationship that Goenkaji enjoyed with him.

As a note, the original Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw (featured in the photos below) passed away in 2003 and the monastery is now presided over by Sayadaw U Tejaniya.

SN Goenka visits the Shwe Oo Min Monastery 
SN Goenka visits the Shwe Oo Min Monastery

SN Goenka pays respect to Shwe Oo Min Saydaw

SN Goenka pays respect to Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw

SN Goenka speaks to assembled guests at Shwe Oo Min monastery in Yangon, Myanmar

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Opportunity for Meritorious Deed

A monk pauses as an oxcart passes him on a road outside Webu Sayadaw Monastery in Ingyinbin
As a previous post indicated, work has begun on the 3rd edition of the Burma meditation notes, and we are quite excited about how it is shaping up. 

We have seen that there are more and more foreign yogis coming to Burma for the purpose of developing more deeply in Dhamma, but unsure about how to get around and the opportunities which exist. To enhance their practice, yogis have also shown an interest in better understanding Burmese culture and monastic environments. 

A local neighborhood of Inthar villagers in Inle Lake, Shan State
Similarly, we have met a good amount of Burmese monks and lay people who sincerely wish to help these yogis and welcome them to their particular monastery, but do not know how to get the word out to extend this invitation. We hope that this upcoming guidebook will provide the link or meeting place for these two groups and will foster a mutually beneficial experience, as dedicated yogis get more exact information on specific sites and regions they can go to deepen their practice.

An entrance to a cave in Sagaing
For all those who are interested, we are announcing an opportunity for merit. The yogi guidebook project is dana-based and so no one connected to it will make any personal profit, other than the simple joy of participating in a meritorious deed. There are many ways to contribute, and opportunities available to all depending on one’s background, ability, and knowledge. 

Some people are finding ways to help that have not even yet visited Burma. Examples of ways other people have been contributing, as well as future needs, include:

The bed of a Sayadaw inside a Sagaing cave
  • Editing
  • Collecting and/or writing essays
  • Artwork, including photography, sketches, formatting,
  • Promotion and distribution
  • Fact checking and background work on internet
  • Providing and/or soliciting on-the-ground information
  • Financial donations to cover project needs
  • Etc.

If you are interested in contributing in any of the above (or additional) ways and sharing in the merit of assisting foreign yogis in Burma, contact us at burmadhamma@gmail  

Deep inside a meditation cave high up on a mountain in the Shan town of Taungyi