Monday, 9 December 2013

A Forest Nun in Burma




The following words are from a foreign Buddhist nun who lived in seclusion for three years in northern Myanmar, ardently following the Buddha's teachings and practicing serious meditation in the total silence of the forest. The following excerpt is part of a longer description she has written about her experience for the upcoming guide of Shwe Lan.

"When entering the Forest, the first thing that impressed me it was the deafening noise. I have been in many forests and mountains but everywhere it was silent in comparison with this. It was the full moon of April and all animals seemed to be out to celebrate the summer with loud voices. For months I had wished to go here, but it was not easy do to so as a nun. Eventually one day, unexpectedly, everything it was arranged in just a few hours. 
Huge trees, high and straight. We arrived at the place when it was already night. One kuti was made of wood and bamboo, and there was one latrine and a wooden ground area. This was all. I was not discouraged but firmly decided to stay there as long as possible.
At first I was dwelling alone in an open wood tent at the top of the mountain, where it took twenty minutes to trek from the common areas. There was not latrine here for some time, and “showers” could be had when one very kind local woman brought a fresh towel along with the daily food she offered me. Even when it was rainy, or old in winter, or when illness came, the woman never failed to arrive. Her generosity was beyond words.
During my childhood, and also later, I was afraid of being alone in isolated places. Perhaps there was some infantile fear of ghosts. But during this time I felt happy, really happy… there was a big freedom. Later I came to learn that local Burmese believed that many unfriendly ghosts were in fact in this area, and intentionally avoided it for this reason.
Besides for a necessary visa trip, I spent the following three years living full time in this forest. Most of the time I was totally in silence, only doing meditation in solitude… fascinated by the wild life there… enjoying the incomparable brightness of the stars at night.
Later, during some months I was in a little open bamboo hut. When the rain started it was necessary to use the umbrella to protect me and my bag. It was at this time that I was offered a real bamboo kuti and a "luxurious" bathroom. Of course there was still no electricity or running water, but I now had a roof and walls! Still, some times in summer the water for shower was more similar to mud than to water.
The energy in the forest it was extremely pure and fresh. Gradually I came to learn about all the beings sharing this place with me, such as noisy monkeys, big snakes, all kinds of ants, squirrels, precious birds, owls, first year wild elephants, and even tigers.
The rainy season was long—nearly six months and so much rain came that the all the roads became inaccessible. The winter really cold, and often it was entirely without proper shelter, and sometimes the best one could hope for was a fire during the night.
During the first year, the food was mostly rice and red beans for breakfast, but the warmth of the local villagers who gave love in cooking and offering this every day made it delicious to to me.
The forest is in a malaria area, and twice I became sick, the last time becoming really weak. The care, warmth, and kindness that I received at this time was far away higher than the huge trees.
The last night in the forest, many of the Dhamma workers came to my kuti and one translated the following: "When one person who has engaged in deep meditation leaves a particular place, it is good to give thanks to all of the beings that have watched over and offered their protection.”
They then started lighting hundreds of little candles and incense upstairs (where I used to meditate), downstairs (where everyday they brought food and offerings for me), around the kuti (where I walked daily), near the flowers (that with deep love they had planted for me), and under all the many trees surrounding the area.
First in silence and later with soft Burmese chanting the area became full of lights, delicious smells and so much love.
Deeply touching.

Some tears arose to my eyes and immense gratitude in the heart.”