Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Five Years After Cyclone Nargis: A Reminiscence

The following is from an anonymous Burmese meditator:

"Meeting after 5 and a half years, To the Door of Light to be continued………..

Today at the middle of Inle Lake, at a restaurant I met with a girl whom I served at 2008 Cyclone Nargis was storming in Myanmar. We recalled our thoughts and memories. I have to say this will be one of my unforgettable moment of my life and also hers.

When she took her first ten days course at Dhamma Joti at 2008 April-May she was only a young girl in her late teenage years. Even though she was young her dedication to meditate was so strong. At this historic and unforgettable course, I was served as a course manager for 10 days Vipassana meditation course as taught by S.N Goenka and she was a one of 108 female meditators.

The Cyclone Nargis hit Yangon on early 3rd May morning. We did our usual procedures even the strong winds is distracting and trying to fall down age old trees in our meditation center. Meditators are meditating in Dhamma Hall, I felt really worried how I have to overcome this situation. All of us have no idea of what is happening outside, how big and dangerous this storm will be and announcements from Myanmar Radio or T.V as we were totally cut off from outside news. After sitting for 2 hours at 6:30 a.m. it was the time for breakfast. I known well that the dining hall is situated at a lower level and there are no big trees around, so it can be safer than the Dhamma Hall (which itself is surrounded by big trees). Moreover, the kitchen team was ready with preparations for breakfast, I still remember they were preparing "Milk Noodles", a dish that I will never forget in my life. But trees fell down on the covered walkway. We could not use this walk way so I had a decision to make. That is to cross in open air with stormy winds of 100 miles per hour (I learned how fast they were moving only later), or to remain there. I tried to find a way out first. Before doing all these things, I dedicated my life and body for the benefit and safety of all meditators. As a Buddhist we offer our life to Buddha and I thought if I have to be die to help all these meditators, let my life be, because I know well with this strong wind, rain and falling tress and flying roofs came I can die at any moment. But I was not afraid.

I personally led the first group to run from Dhamma hall to dining hall with 5 of youngest meditators as a test run. She was the one in this group. She voluntarily came into our choice. We reached there safely. So all the meditators followed us group by group until all were safe. We took our meal and started helping the kitchen workers, standing on the floor with water came in, rain water pouring in from the windows, we just kept cutting veggies and helping meditators to feel safe and shining lasers to keep the crows away. Helped some to go to nearby toilet, water came into the entrance, creatures crawl in, crows still away. We have 8 Dhamma Servers and all of us are like sisters for many years even passed.

Cyclone stopped around 12 noon and many people would like to go back home. Some were allowed to go back because of the dire situation. Now we had to share our bed, our clothes and water. This one girl is so young, her parents are worried and asked her to come back home three times. Her decision is so strong and sharp. She told her mum “no”, I would like to finish my course at first time. But her father kept insisting her mum to bring her back. But even though she is in her 16 she says she will stay. Her mum was in difficult situation. At last we asked permission from teacher to write her father to inform him she really want to finish her course before she go outside from Myanmar to do further studies and scholarship. She is from a well-off family and well-educated young girl. She stayed at Dhamma Joti for the remaining part of the course, when there was no running water and we had to get it from well by hand and pull it with buckets, no electricity and not even any candles for some time, with one room being shared by 4 people- double the usual amount, and a center filled with fallen trees and rubbish. But main thing I will never forget is their acknowledgement. Those volunteer Dhamma servers are serving for us and are the very reason why we can meditate and try hard, and work more diligently. After the cyclone Nargis hit, we have to move to the downstairs of the dhamma hall because upper hall is impossible to use. But the momentum of the course changed. We can see and notice everybody tried hard and no one complained. Some of the Dhamma servers I met again, they told their experience with great memory. When I have a chance to meet with my old meditators of this course, they told me this is the course they will never forget. Today her mother recalled how persistant her daughter was at that time not to stop her course. I feel so happy and my heart is warmly touched to see her again, and see how she is developed and grow up. Now she become a second year student at Singapore studying Bio Chemistry Medicine, such a real scholar. But she still remember her time at Dhamma Joti and shared this website.

I didn’t expected Cyclone Nargis to change my life so strongly. But with my amazement, it also changed my life stream. Before this event, I did only donation with my own saving but after this Cyclone Nargis to help more efficiently and effectively, I founded a new service and charity organization and can helped thousands of people. Unbelievable moment."