Sunday, 12 May 2013

To The Door Of Light: Cyclone Nargis hits Dhamma Joti Meditation Center in Yangon

Many readers will have already seen this message that was written and mailed just days after the devastating Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar May 1, 2008. Following we repost it for those that may have missed it five years ago. It tells the story of a Burmese Dhamma worker at Dhamma Joti and how the cyclone impacted the course she was serving, and the center overall.

"To The Door of Light"
Date: May 3, Saturday
Time: Before 4.00 am
Venue: Dhamma Joti, Yangon, Myanmar
Situation: The No. 2 Stage Cyclone "Nargis" is passing over Yangon and Ayeyarwaddy Division

We are the Dhamma serves whom are serving for ten days Vipassana course at Dhamma Joti. There are 8 Dhamma servers and the age range between 20s to 60s. At this course 104 female students and 77 male students attended.

Today is the 8th day at Vipassana meditation course. From 11 pm last night the wind became very windy and became quite a bit worse. We had no idea at all how powerful and strong this coming cylone is going to be. But the sound of the wind is very strong and so I am waiting in my room to strike the bell for 4 a.m. to wake all the meditators. With this situation the teacher whom is conducting the course, I wonder what is his decision? But at 4.00 am sharp the main bell starts striking. So I followed with 7 strikes to wake up meditators.Then I went to the Dhamma Hall to bring back the Emergency lamp and to assess the damages at the centre from the storm, especially on the pathway to the Dhamma Hall. At this time some of the trees were broken, and branches were down, but nothing could prevent the way to the hall, so I felt quite safe for the yogis.

At 4.30 am, to call the meditators, we wait at the walkway with emergency lamps and flash lights. The electricity was cut off last night. So the center is dark and only the light of lamps and the sound of srong wind remains. But all the meditators arrived to the Dhamma Hall and were meditating as usual. Outside, the wind became so much worse and was trying to open the windows by force. When it became clearer and we can see the dawn light, most of the trees are leaning and it is more windy. At 5.00 am the teachers arrived to the hall to meditate. At 6.00 as usual, they played the chanting of Goenkaji. At this time we Dhamma servers are quite worried. Most of the trees at the centre are broken and more covered the walkway to the Dining Hall and to the Women's Dormitory. The walkway to the Ladies' Dormitory roof is nearly collapsed and only one way is left for all meditators to use. Before allowing them to go anywhere, the rain water came into the Dhamma Hall with wind and the chanting is also playing. I asked one of the male Dhamma servers to look at the walk way and he replied to me it was safe, because there were no big trees on the path. After the chanting was finished I suggested to the teachers what I thought was the best and safest idea. The teachers permitted me to choose the ten youngest yogis and with them I was heading the group to run from the Dhamma Hall to the dining room. This was the safest building as few trees are around it and it is only one story. I told them to leave all unnecessary things and not to use an umbrella. The wind is so bad that if they use an umbrella, they could fly away. The first group arrived to the dining hall safely. So next group followed by the heading of Dhamma servers. When only old and disabled people were left, two dhamma servers helped one each, so now everyone is in the dining hall safely.

A delicious breakfast of noodles was waiting for us. You can imagine within this severe storm the kitchen workers are preparing food for 200 people. After breakfast we requested to the students not to go back to their rooms as the dining hall was the safest place to be. So they stayed there, and the teachers sent a message that the course will stop for a while within this storm but all meditators should keep on meditating as they sat in the dining hall. At this time I asked fellow dhamma servers if the teachers will continue the course, although I decided that I will continue to serve for the good of all meditators. What about all of you, I asked my friends? They said they will do their utmost abiilty to continue serving the course as well.

At 10 am the storm was still too windy and rainy. The teacher arrived in the dining hall and called three of us to meet them and discuss. They wanted to continue the course, since we were already on the 8th day, and asked our advice. We said that if the teachers say yes, we will follow all the instructions of the teachers and do the best for the benefit of all meditators.

After that we needed to look around the centre to see what happened. The Dhamma Hall roof was broken and rainy and some roof went off with the wind, and had become wet inside. Most of the cushions were wet because of rainy wind. So it was impossible to use the Dhamma Hall. But fortunately we had batteries, invertors, casettes, and they were intact because some male Dhamma servers had covered it carefully before leaving the hall. So we could use an audio tape without problem. Under the Dhamma Hall is a place which we typically use for the Sunday group sittings. So we could use this hall since the Dhamma Hall was no longer suitable. Only one place was wet because of a leak from upstairs. Two female dormitories were nearly in good stage, but the two story women's building was the worst. All the roofs of the toilet and bathrooms were all gone, and the hall where female meditators are sleeping were wet and dripping with water going down to the downstairs ground. The first floor was totally unusable. So we have to reaccomodate 37 female meditators. The only way is to share dormitories more than before. Before most of the rooms are twin sharing beds, now some of them will have four in a room.

After lunch the storm finally passed and we allowed meditators to go back to their rooms and for those who were wet to move their bed. The centre had pillows, blankets, mosquito nets and bed sheets for the meditators and they could stay without problem. I borrowed some longyis, t-shirts, and sweaters and gave to those who needed them and were wet.

We re-started the course at 2.30 pm, for the group sitting. We now had 94 females and 58 males, as some had left. They had to go back home because the situation needed them; they had families to look after. We could play the CD and cassette players with batteries, but we had no generator. Only some candles and batteries. But for the discourse, we could still operate in Burmese, English, and Hindi. On Metta night there was no more electricity left in the batteries for even lighting anything. So only candles, mosquito coils, and some flash lights to be able to walk outside.

For drinking water, fortunately we had water filtering machines and 500 litre water tank, which was full. The problem, however, was the water to be used in daily life. The first day we had to use from the water tank, and all the meditators had to carry water bottles or buckets for toilet use and washing. From day to day we opened well covers and carried water with buckets to the bathrooms to take a shower.

Dhamma Joti was in good condition but in some meditating cells, the rain water came down. So from the ninth day we cleaned the cells and dried it up to use for next course.

All the big trees fell down from the very roots. Fortunately, none of these affected the main building. One tree fell hard towards the Dhamma Hall but was stopped by another large tree in its path. But on one hill we must build a retaining wall otherwise it will be a big problem in the future. Dhamma servers have to work for 18 hours for the first day of the storm, but everybody is happy and contented with what we can do for the meditators. We felt great gratitude towards Dhamma, our teacher Guruji, and teachers who keep conducting the course.

The storm is a natural disaster.

But we can pass this with Dhamma power.

We can help the meditators to run to the light of Dhamma.

Now our Dhamma Joti Centre needs a lot for repairing work and to run the course and proper facilities for meditators.


Anonymous Dhamma Server

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Great Legacy

French ascetic isiDhamma has been in Myanmar for some time, and in 2007 he made the film Deliverance, about a Swiss man who leaves behind Western society and eventually ordains as a monk in remote Burma. He has just completed his second film, The Great Legacy, which has the following write-up:

Aye Mi is an ambitious photographer eager to start a career in advertising but doesn't have enough money to buy a camera. Her only hope is to recover a lost inheritance, a valuable ruby. Aye Mi discovers that the jewel has been taken by some young evil witches who have menacing and corrupting powers. Facing her worst fears, she makes big sacrifices and will not stop for anything until she retrieves the stone. Will Aye Mi ever doubt the value of what is unexpectedly discovered along the way?

All his films use natural Myanmar settings and actors, and bring home the profound teachings of Dhamma through an inspiring artistic medium. You can see more about his work here.