Friday, 31 January 2014

Sayagyi U Goenka venerates Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw

In the Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw commemorative book, one page is dedicated to Goenkaji's visits. The first shows him paying respects to the venerable monk, the second visiting his North Okkalapa monastery, and the third addressing a gathered crowd to discuss dhamma

From a photobook commemorating Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw's life are these three photos of Goenkaji. It was largely because of Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw, deeply revered in Burma and believed by many to be an arahant, that Goenkaji was given permission by the State Sangha to be able to run his courses from 1993. Goenkaji was therefore always deeply grateful to Shwe Oo Min Sayadawgyi, and during his visits back to Burma often made sure to visit him and pay his respects. Many of his early pilgrimages made a point to stop here, and Goenkaji would give a brief dhamma talk after paying his respects (on one such trip an American assistant teacher himself ordained at the Shwe Oo Min monastery!). Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw also strongly supported the children course initiative that the Goenka centers undertook, and they worked together with the Shwe Oo Min monasteries across Burma to be able to reach many thousands of children. Still today, it is not uncommon for serious meditators to visit the Shwe Oo Min Monastery, and there is a hut where one can pay respects to the memory of the former Sayadaw, and some will stay on here for some time.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Traditional Burmese customs

In the middle of a one-day meditation course at a 900 year old Sagaing monastery in Burma, pilgrims follow the age-old Burmese customs of monks, yogis, and felines by stretching out and falling into a nap after a hefty lunch.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Burma Final Days

The pilgrims pose with the famous Sitagu Sayadaw

One can read about the previous days in the Sagaing Hills and Mingun here. Kory Goldberg continues to record in his personal journal about the current pilgrimage now underway in BurmaYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

"We were supposed to have an early start on the road back to Yangon, but like always something came up. Sitagu Sayadaw, the most influential monk in Burma, returned to the Academy and wanted to meet our group. Sitagu Sayadaw said that he was like a brother to Goenkaji, so it was natural that he wanted to meet with his foreign “nieces” and “nephews.” This famous monk is famous not only for creating and supporting great centres of monastic learning, but has been a key figure in establishing a network of social projects involving healthcare, literacy, vocational training, access to potable water and disaster relief. Our meeting with the warm, yet tired celebrity was brief, but the rarity of such an encounter was worth the delay. 

In the Department of Meditation Hall at Sitagu Academy, Sayadaw U Nyanissara discusses dhamma with pilgrims

Day 19 in Yangon was really our last day together as a group as some were flying out that evening, many others first thing the next morning. After such a long bus ride the previous day, and from the intensity of the entire journey, many of us were feeling quite exhausted. Nevertheless, almost everyone joined the only activity planned that morning—a visit to the Kaba Aye Pagoda and a chance to meditate in the presence of the relics belonging to the Buddha, Sariputta and Mogallana. While some monasteries claim to possess such holy relics, these are genuine since they came directly from the Sanchi Stupa in India. The unique vibration, commented by many of us, in the room where they are housed also testifies somewhat to their authenticity, although I am certainly aware that the energy of the atmosphere does not constitute solid evidence. 

Kaba Aye Pagoda trustees hold the sacred relics above Kory Goldberg whilst chanting
A close-up of all three relics
That day we had a wonderful Nepalese lunch with Sayagyi U Ba Khin’s son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter. A very happy family they are, signifying what happens when a close-knit group of people live in wise and loving attention. They answered our numerous questions, trying their best to explain what it was like to be related to one of the greatest masters of our time. An enormous pressure, yet they seemed to handle it well. As we left each other they invited us to their home for tea, contemplation and sharing more stories together. Burma’s pace of life (in general) and generosity exemplified in the smallest details is unsurpassable. If there is one thing I hope to bring home with me is to become intimate with the characteristically Burmese joy of giving.

Our pilgrimage concluded with an evening loving-kindness meditation and circumambulation of the Shwedagon Pagoda, followed by a lovely farewell dinner. Snow, once again demonstrating her innate munificence, shared kind words to the group and offered five Teak Buddha statues to pilgrims whose names were picked out of a bowl. We then went around the table, sharing our insights and gratitude for the organizers, other participants and all our hosts. It was a delightful moment and a wonderful way to close the first—of many—Pariyatti pilgrimages."

The reader's journey need not end here! To read about the second pilgrimage that would start just days after this ended, see here.

A view of the illustrious Shwedagon from the rooms of the pilgrims.

Burma Day 9: Returning to our Roots

For Day 8, go here, and to read about the February pilgrims' experience on this day, go hereYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself. The following excerpt was written by Kory Goldberg and Jorn Materne about the pilgrimage in Burma:

Pilgrims meditating in Shwe Taung Oo Pagoda, where Ledi Sayadaw spent two years around the turn of the 20th century

"The early morning kicked off with an offering of breakfast to about 500 monks. It seemed as if all of Monywa’s monks came out to accept our offering. It was cold and dark out, but all appreciated the unique experience. The group interacted with local lay people and we introduced ourselves with our Burmese names in the Burmese language. Che no nameh Ko Pyo Bah. Che Germany Gabah. They loved our efforts and found our jumbled attempts at communicating hilarious.

After a nice rest at the hotel and treat of real Italian coffee we headed over to the Maha Ledi Monastery to. This monastery is where Ledi Sayadaw, the root teacher of our lineage and perhaps the most important figure in modern Buddhist, spent most of his years studying, writing, teaching and meditating. The monastery houses 815 marble slabs containing 115 books of his books, about two-thirds of his work. The rest of his works will soon be engraved on to marble slabs at the monastery in Sain Pyin Gyi, the village where the great master was born and ordained as a teenager. We had the good fortune to offer robes and books to the current Ledi Sayadaw and to eight other local Sayadaws. The current Ledi Sayadaw’s jolly face impressed everyone in the group. Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, he exemplifies the fluid integration of Pariyatti and Patipatti, intellectual and experiential insight. After the participatory experience of offering food, the Sayadaws led a brief ceremony where the merits of the offerings were transferred to water. In turn, people from our group were then offered the chance to take the water and offer it to the roots of trees outside so that the merits are then transferred to the Earth (or something like that, I’m not entirely sure--editor's note, see here for more details on the origins of and rationale for this Buddhist custom). Most of us have never experienced such a ritual, and many felt a little strange, even uncomfortable as this sort of behavior seemed to be quite opposed to how the Dhamma had been taught to us. Nevertheless, some seized the moment, either out of curiosity for a new experience or to “save face,” as they say in Burma. Afterwards we took another stab at introducing ourselves in Burmese resulting in roars of laughter and good times. Both pilgrims and monks took loads of pictures of each other on their iPads and Smartphones. Who knew that Apple and Samsung would help build these cultural bridges amongst the global Dhamma community!

On the way back to the hotel for our much appreciated rest period we visited a couple of pagodas and had a great spontaneous meeting with a group of 300 college students. Unlike the stereotypical partier college students in the West, this bunch of kids was gentle and child-like and infused with Dhamma—so much so that they wanted to take refuge in the Triple Gem and recite the Five Precepts together!

The day concluded with a group meditation with Goenka’s local students at a nearby monastery. Once again, connecting with people whose social, cultural and economic lived are entirely different, yet whose spiritual lives are deeply familiar. Sitting in silence not only with practitioners of the Buddha’s teachings, but with those who are in the same lineage, yet who have been raised in a different world, is a touching experience that reveals an intimacy unknown in any other context. We have never met, yet we are brothers and sisters who have lived together forever. A spiritual family reunion!"

Click here for day 10!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

"Tough Lot, Us"

“Visitors often see things in Myanmar that are totally at odds with what they have read in the international media and they want to understand what’s going on. When meeting people who no doubt have difficult lives, travelers find they are humorous, warm, proud, and dignified, spending what little they have on religious institutions. It is a conundrum, which some inhabitants of wealthy nations can’t understand. Perhaps visitors don’t see that we in Myanmar have an inner core of strength, which doesn’t veer toward aggression but is rooted in the equanimity with which they face reality. We neither give in nor give up: we have the ability, acquired through our religious beliefs, to refuse to let life get us down. Tough lot, us.

One elderly tourist asked me, in all sincerity and bewilderment, how, since the people he saw were obviously poor, could they look so happy? I tried to explain, but I doubt if he understood, the concept that anybody could be happy with such a huge lack of wealth.” 

Defiled on the Ayeyarwaddy, Ma Thanegi

Monday, 20 January 2014

An Auspicious Site for Meditation

A European monk sits in the San Kyaung building on the Patipatti side at Webu Monastery in Ingyinbin, Upper Burma. This was the building where for decades Webu Sayadawgyi himself would reside and receive visitors, and also the very site where he went into parinibanna in 1977. Precious old photos and Buddha images still adorn the old two story building, and recently the Pariyatti yatra group held a one day sitting on these sacred grounds.

The inspiring presence of Webu Sayadawgyi stares back in encouragement as the reality of in-breath, out-breath is observed.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Gratitude after a Burma Pilgrimage

The first pilgrimage in Burma has now ended, and pilgrims are sharing their feedback about their experience. (to read one Canadian's journal entries throughout the yatra, start here!) To hear about current pilgrimages, see here.

Two young boys find the foreign pilgrims meditating in a pagoda and silently sit to join them

One American yogi wrote his own impressions:

"This was a wonderful trip in many ways and I have deep gratitude for all three [leaders] for bringing all of us into this wonderful world of the Triple Gem in Myanmar! Here are a few things about the trip that I briefly wrote down.

1. Inspiration from Relics:
In the West, and from the U.S. where I live, the idea of arahants is often very distant. I do not know anyone, nor had I even heard of any people who attained this stage from the West. The stories of arahants that I heard were mostly from books about monks in Asia, and mostly from the time of the Buddha, two and a half millennia ago.

Coming to Myanmar on this yatra, we were able to see many relics, the crystalized remains of the bones of arahants, some from unknown dates, but others from monks that had passed away as recently as a couple of weeks before. And seeing relics was not unique to one time or place during our yatra, as many monasteries lovingly keep them. We could examine them under a magnifying glass, photograph them, and most meaningfully we could meditate near them. Seeing that people are practicing Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha, to it's full realization in this present time is very inspiring. It is tactile proof that it is possible in this lifetime to come out of suffering, and it is further motivation to dedicate myself to this path.

Foreign pilgrims pose for a group photo with nuns and a forest monk in Hmawbi before departing to Mandalay

2. Deeper Gratitude and Respect for U Goenkaji —> Strengthening the volition to support the spread of Dhamma in the West:

The more I've learned about Buddhism, and the Buddha's teaching in Myanmar, the more gratitude and respect for Goenkaji I've developed on this trip. His mastery at teaching Dhamma so simply and clearly, astounds me. As our Myanmar guide explained, U Goenkaji gives meditators around the world the "fruit", tangible benefit to their lives, from a single week and a half-long meditation course. And this is enough for so many people to continue meditating throughout their lives, and to later understand the meaning that it was the Buddha who taught this Dhamma, and it is the Sangha that has preserved it and continues to practice it.

We had the repeated experience of Sayadaws, teacher monks, at monasteries tell us to keep practicing what Goenkaji teaches. And not just to keep practicing it, but to help spread it in our home countries. Experiencing how the Triple Gem was preserved here, and that it is now spreading around the world with enormous demand and potential, drives home the urgency of supporting Goenkaji's mission, which many here seem to feel is Myanmar's mission, for people everywhere to have the opportunity to learn and practice and live it.

3. Dana

Pilgrims prepare for offering lunch to a line of monks at a monastery in Hmawbi
One reason I wanted to come to Myanmar, is that people have told me that seeing the Burmese people here, changes not only our perspective as foreigners, but how we live our lives after going back home. A common statement by people on this yatra, especially in the first week when it was all so new, was how many Burmese people understand and live according to the teaching of the Buddha. There really seems to be an understanding of kamma and of "parami". Especially poignant is how so many Burmese people give—giving just to give. It's started to rub off on me, and I find myself more and more wanting to give, and with the understanding of the importance of it both for others and for myself.

One foreign yogi joyously takes part in Sangha Dana at a monastery in Mingun
Thanks again for all you did and continue to do,
May you all get maximum benefit from your actions,
May you all come out of all suffering."

Friday, 17 January 2014

Bus to Pyaw Bwe Gyi

This video shows a half minute of the one hour trip to Pyaw Bwe Gyi village. To read more about Day 2 of the Pariyatti yatra, read here! For more on current pilgrimages, see here.

"The ferry ride to Dalla consists of local passengers. We loved it: people crowd and push to get on (always with a friendly smile on their faces), pick up small plastic squat-chairs on board and sit in clusters with their family or friends. Women and babies are covered in Thanaka and on-board vendors carry their wares on their heads. It is quite a commotion to be held: squatting on the crowded ferry watching about 20 vendors call out what they’re selling and their asking price. On board you can buy fried prawn cakes, betel, watermelon, pineapple, cigarettes, personal care products, toys, key chains, and just about any other number of random bits and bobs." Western traveler

Located across the river from Yangon, the small town of Dalla has been around for almost 1,000 years, when it was first established as the principal town in the delta region (located closer to modern-day Twante). At that time, Dagon—the village that stands where the present-day, major city of Yangon now stands—was known for one thing only: its Golden Dagon (or Shwe Dagon) Pagoda. In the 16th century, the Englishman Ralph Fitch noted that Dalla “hath a faire Port into the Sea, from where goes many ship to Malacca, Mecca, and many others places.” There are many interesting places around Dalla for the yogi to appreciate. Going to Dalla takes one closer to the Delta region of the country, whose famed fertility led it to be known as the “Rice Bowl” after World War II. Opened in May 1883, the Twente Canal provided daily service between the Delta and Yangon, and later brought passengers all the way to Mandalay. The canal is 22 miles in length and connects Yangon River to the Ayeyarwaddy River and Delta area. Until only very recently, this was still the fastest way to reach the Delta, as the roads were poorly maintained, even impassable for half of the year. The Ayeyarwaddy River also extends 750 miles north to Upper Myanmar, creating hundreds of narrow channels that enrich the soil as they snake their way down towards the Andaman Sea. As one nears the sea, fishing starts to compete with rice production as the major livelihood. As Cyclone Nargis revealed in 2008, these lowlands flood easily, as most of the area lies just 10 feet above sea level.

The journey to Dalla, itself, is very interesting, as it takes you over Yangon River, closer to the rice fields of the low-lying regions of the Ayeyarwaddy Delta, close geographically but increasingly further in lifestyle from Yangon. Despite vendors now hauling new flatscreens and cellphone accessories to sell across the river, much of rural life on the other side remains traditional, with many locals engaged in farming, and the ox-cart still a widely used mode of travel. This is the river that a middle-aged Sayagyi U Ba Khin crossed to learn meditation under Saya Thet Gyi in the village of Pyaw Bwe Gyi. The boat could only carry him half way because of the low tide, so he got out, and walked through the mud for the remaining distance. The area across from Yangon River has changed little since the days of Saya Thet Gyi, and even earlier.

Dalla township includes 23 wards and runs from Yangon River in the north to the Twante Canal in the west, and Twante Township in the south. Fifty thousand people are said to use the ferries daily, and to many first-time visitors it may feel that all fifty thousand are on the same boat with them! For many locals, this is the only way to travel between Yangon and Dalla. However, like so much else in Myanmar, this, too, is now changing, as a major deal has recently been reached with a South Korean company to build a “Friendship Bridge” linking the two areas. Once this is completed, major Korean firms are expected to make parts of Dalla Township into a major industrial zone.

B.M. Croker describes an amusing incident in her novel The Road to Mandalay (1917) where a herd of 60 elephants are encouraged to swim the entire one mile between Rangoon and Dalla, and upon reaching the shore are promptly hoisted onto a ship at the pier one by one. Although it’s not clear if this is a true story or not, Dalla served as a boarding site for the Burmese rulers’ elephants, so it is certainly plausible.

Burma Day 2: Saya Thet Gyi Day

Please click here to read about Day 1. Kory Goldberg and Jorn Materne collaborate on a journal entry about the current pilgrimage now underway in BurmaYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

The day began in the alley next to our hotel. Incidentally, the former home of U Ohn, a disciple of Saya Thetgyi, is currently on the Yuzana Hotel's property. The great meditation master resided at U Ohn's home in his last years of his life while receiving medical treatment. It's quite unfortunate that there is no indication of the site's historicity, other than a water well. Our group caught on to Joah and his enthusiasm for details and we decided then and there, if permitted, to donate a marble plaque so that the site will not be forgotten.

Our next brief stop was at the Martyr Mausoleum where Saya Thet Gyi was cremated and entombed. The cemetery itself is closed to the public, so we had to pay respect from outside the gate. In any case, STG was a living example of humility, and since he did not achieve full enlightenment he did not want anyone worshipping his remains. Across from the cemetery Sayagyi U Ba Kin built a small, unmarked pagoda in his teacher's memory, so I am unsure whether these past masters would have appreciated our visit there or not.

Pilgrims cram into the back of a lorry on the way to Pyaw Bwe Gyi Village
We took a shabby looking ferry across the Yangon River to Dallah, and from there we made our way on a dingy Japanese bus (see here!) to the village of Pyaw Bye Gyi, where Saya Thet Gyi was born, farmed, and taught Dhamma to both lay people and monks alike. Our time at Saya Thet Gyi's original meditation centre was limited because there were approximately 100 monks and 60 yogis participating on a 45-day course.We sat in the shrine room for an hour and took turns meditating in the cell where Saya Thet Gyi would sit when sending metta to his students, and meditating in front of a Buddha statue where it is believed Saya Thet Gyi reached his stage of anagami. It was a powerful moment meditating there as the group of bhikkhus were in the large hall behind us practising standing meditation (they alternate between sitting, standing, walking and lying down).

One pilgrim meditates in the cell from which Saya Thet Gyi sent metta to his students.

Some locals prepared a delicious lunch for us, after which we met with the centre manager and the Sayadaw leading the retreat. He explained to us how they practice focussing on the impermanence of the four elements, and also have a short discourse on the outward and inner cultivation while practising generosity. Snow arranged books, robes and other gifts which we offered one by one to the Sangha. Most of the group was unfamiliar with all the formalities associated with offering things to the Sangha, but the Sayadaw saw that our intentions were in the right place and he wished us to be happy and to be soon free from all suffering.

Robes are given as an offering to the Sayadaw leading the 45 day monks' course at Saya Thet Gyi's center
After that wonderful experience we briefly visited a rest-house that Saya Thet Gyi had built for traveling yogis and monks. The site was located amidst quiet paddy fields and the fresh country air contributed to everyone's well being. Many of us shared our desire to see this rest-house open again someday. For the time being this dream is unattainable for a host of political reasons, but this too will change. Our rickety bus then went off road, driving on a bullock cart path to get to our next destination where Saya Thetgyi opened a second meditation centre so as not to create further tension with a neighbouring monk who had a problem with the fact that a phenomenal lay teacher arose and broke convention. The centre's current head monk was very happy to welcome a group of foreign meditators. Only once before had foreigners visited this place and that had been eight years back. The highlight of the visit for some, however, was playing football with local kids, our women and theirs braiding each other's hair, and friendly smiles all around.

Pilgrims walk towards Eastern Monastery, where Saya Thet Gyi gave courses for 2 years

Pilgrims tickle local villagers

We did not have a chance to meditate at the second centre because we had to rush back to Yangon for a group meditation session with Saya Thet Gyi's students at the Yangon centre (called Hansarwaddy). We sat in silence with about 100 locals who come here for their daily evening sitting, and then took lots of photographs of each other. They want to have records of us just as much as we do them. The Sayadaw, a jolly elderly fellow, teaches a 7-day residential course each month and welcomed us all to join whenever we were free. Like him, many Sayadaws have a burning desire to share the Dhamma with others, especially those who are non-Burmese and who have not had access to a life infused with the Buddha's teachings. Of course, the visit could not end without tea, biscuits and fruits. We hesitated at first because we had a dinner reservation and man of us were tired after a long day of moving about, but refusing wasn't an option. It was all good because their volition to share was so genuine and honest that our fatigue was well worth the price to pay for such a special, non-Western moment."

Pilgrims take a group photo at Hansarwaddy Meditation Center in Yangon

Maha Bodhi Monastery in Mandalay

Maha Bodhi Monastery was founded in 1950 by Saya Thein, who was a disciple of Saya Thet Gyi and a contemporary of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. U Thein was born in 1898 and from Yahkaing Chaung Village (near the hometown of Saya Thet Gyi in Pyaw Bwe Gyi). He came to Mandalay after marrying a local girl and began to work as a trader. For most of his life U Thein taught meditation as a lay person, and towards the end of his life he took on robes and was given the name U Pyinnya Tharmi.

Monks and lay disciples came to this center, including U Own Maung and the younger U Myint Sein, who also trained under Mohnyin Sayadaw. U Myint Sein became a teacher spread Saya Thet Gyi’s teachings throughout Mandalay for many years until his death in 2005 at the age of eighty-two.

Bhaddanta Karunika Bivantha, the current Sayadaw, spoke about meditation courses offered at Maha Bodhi in January 2014. He said that there are no formal beginning and ending dates, and lay practitioners as well as monks may request to come at any time. The recommended meditation regimen is eight times per day for an hour each, with a 30-minute break in between. The Sayadaw meditates three times per day with meditators, and the rest on his own. When asked how he taught, he recited the very famous Ledi Sayadaw poem about the four stages of anapana. His view is that a student must pass through all four stages before going to vipassana: knowing if the breath is long or short, then feeling the whole breath, and finally becoming peaceful within calm observance. The teaching of anapana here is according to what many Burmese know as “ti, thi,” which means “touch, then know.” At Maha Bodhi, anapana is usually the first four days of a 7-day course, with vipassana being the final 3 days. When asked how he teaches Vipassana, he said that one should try to know what is happening with vedana and how it is changing. If the yogi understands that vedana is anicca, then one can move on to understanding the four elements. As with the Dhamma practice at Maha Bodhi, it is interesting to note that the four elements also have a central place in the practice in Ledi Sayadaw, Saya Thet Gyi, and U Ba Khin.

This information is from Day 7 of the Pariyatti Yatra. For more information on this day, see here. For more about current pilgrimage options, see here.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Burma Day 17: A Day in Mingun

One can read about the previous days in the Sagaing Hills here, and to see how the following yatra group enjoyed Mingun, see hereYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself. Kory Goldberg continues to record in his personal journal about the current pilgrimage now underway in Burma:

Pilgrims pause at the very well where the "floating knife" and the Vow of Truth took place in the life of Taung Phi Lar Sayadaw

"After a quick morning meal of congee and beans we were off to visit the sites in and around Mingun. We all piled into a pick-up truck-cum-mini-bus for the pleasant, yet bumpy country drive. On the way we stopped for our morning meditation session in a cave that once belonged to the 18th century monk Htut Khaung Sayadaw, the renegade monk who freed himself from monastic convention to pursue an unfettered and disciplined yogic life in the forest. The Sayadaw became famous not only for his dismissal of traditional obligation, but for his respect for nuns and willingness to teach them and provide a space for ascetic practice. This cave, where Venerable Htut Khaung resided for much of his life, still teems with energy as a handful of bhikkhus continue to practice here regularly. It’s incredible how fast an hour flies by at such locations.

One of the pilgrims pays respect to a monk at the original site of Htut Khaung Sayadaw's 18th century monastery
Our Sangha Dana today was at the monastery founded by the late Mingun Sayadaw, the first Tipitika-dhara in modern history. Mingun Sayadaw was made famous in the 1950s on a global scale for his ability to memorize the entire Buddhist canon, approximately 18,000 pages long. He was even admitted into the Guiness Book of World Records for this incredible feat. Today, nine of his students have achieved the same textual mastery, keeping the words of the Buddha close to their hearts and minds. At first glace, spending up to 10 hours a day for years on end to memorize each and every word that the Buddha taught may seem like a waste of one’s life. However, upon deeper reflection, we see that doing so leaves very little space in one’s mind for the mundane and the useless, and serves as a form of meditation practice that purifies the mind, making space for such unique activity to take place (although he did say that he does quiet the mind every morning upon rising and every evening before retiring). The Mingun monk we met today did seem a little robotic in his mannerism, yet he also seemed quite calm and other-worldly, not bothered by the day-to-day inane issues that plague the average person’s mind. Although he did admit that despite his super-human ability to commit the Buddha’s words to memory, he still does misplace his glasses from time to time!  

The group poses for a group photo at Mingun Monastery

After the visit we struck the Mingun Bell (the second largest in the world), visited a touristy pagoda, shopped and drank coconut water. To return to Sagaing we took a pleasant 90-minute boat along the Ayerwaddy River, seeing where Goekaji’s ashes were released and merged back to nature. The boat ride was very peaceful, affording everyone a moment to relax and recuperate from all the intense inner and outer journeying. Before retiring at the Sitagu Academy, we mediated at a nunnery overseen by a 50-something year-old saint named Daw Nu Kati who has been in robes since she was nine. She welcomed this strange group of travelers into her compound, smiling wide, yet unsurprised by this unlikely event. After meditating, she patiently and gladly answered some of our questions about the life of not only a nun, but of a renowned meditation master, a rarity for a woman in Buddhist Asia. She served us snacks, engaging all the tastes: salty crackers, sour amla, sweet bananas, bitter tea. Her presence was soothing and inspiring; totally present, yet not there at all. Once again, a rare and precious moment not to be forgotten! As one pilgrim put it, “it’s like Christmas every day!” Every day while on pilgrimage in such a holy land is certainly a gift. But alas, these daily miracles will soon come to an end, or rather, they will be replaced by other, less evident daily miracles. The challenge is to see these subtle blessings with appreciation and gratitude in whatever form they may take. Doing so will reveal how much we have really learned on this journey through the Golden Land. Let’s see…"

Pilgrims embark the boat in Mingun that will take them along the Ayeyarwaddy towards Sagaing, and over the place where Sayagyi U Goenka's ashes were scattered just months before
To read about the final days, go here.

After a long day, five smiling Burmese girls wait on the pilgrims at Sitagu Academy to offer an evening fruit plate

Burma Days 15 & 16: Pariyatti and Patipatti

For Day 14, see here. Kory Goldberg continues to share his personal journal about the current pilgrimage now underway in BurmaYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

A Sagaing Hills Sayadaw shows the relics of his teacher, a fully liberated being, to two pilgrims
"As with every spot we’ve gone to, but different, our days in Sagaing have been a real blessing. More important than the beautiful Buddhist aesthetic, the lush gardens, delicious food and medium speed WiFi, the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy has provided us with access to some of Burma’s most learned Buddhist scholars who speak fluent English. Both our days here have afforded us Q&A sessions with U Kumara, the university’s rector, whose deep knowledge of scripture and practice has quenched our philosophical thirst. Conversations have ranged from Abhidhamma analysis to meditative experience, from mystical journeys to political musings, from historical fact to mythological narrative. Between these intellectual sessions have been both guided and solitary wanderings along the trails of Sagaing, visiting 900-year old monasteries that gave birth to Buddhism in the region, caves vibrating with the energies of awakened beings, and sugar-cane juice stands that replenish lost electrolytes. On Day 15 many of us met with the very venerable Prekhemma Sayadaw whose quiet and loving presence was yet another living expression of the Dhamma. When not teaching his small retinue of dedicated monks, counseling lay people, and overseeing maintenance and construction projects, this 50-something year old bhikkhu brimming with humility and kindness walks around the forested, hill-side property practicing mettā-bhavana for approximately 3 hours. And it shows. 

View of a long cave in the Sagaing Hills where one arahant practiced for 30 years
After a brief discussion, most of our group went off to meditate in the cave where the Sayadaw’s predecessor resided for 30 years and became an arahant. Caves like these abound the Sagaing hills, which are believed to have the highest concentration of enlightened contemplatives anywhere in the world. Prekhemma Sayadaw then showed some of us his teacher’s relics, as well as those of an unknown arahant. Since being in his presence, the latter relics have multiplied and expanded, many of them growing from the size of a sesame seed to that of a chickpea. This phenomena is said to occur when the relics abide in the presence of stainless morality. After examining and photographing the multi-colored relics, we meditated with them for about half an hour. As with genuine Buddha relics and the Webu Sayadaw’s relics at Ingynbin, I felt a coolness flow through my body and a deep sense of peace in my mind. During moments like these, the mind is unhindered by the typical incessant storylines and commentaries. Some craving arises to prolong these profound moments; wisdom also arises, understanding that they too are impermanent and ultimately dissatisfying.

Pilgrims walk at a monastery in the Sagaing Hills before a cave door opening where an arahant was known to practice, eating only a few spoonfuls of beans in his later years.
On Day 16 we all meditated at the 900-year old Pa Bar Jaon monastery overseen by a humble 28-year old Sayadaw, the youngest we’ve ever come across. Some of us stayed here for three hours in the morning (many taking a brief nap following another wonderful lunch); others mindfully explored other sites in the hills. We practiced in the ancient ordination hall containing two large containers filled with arahant relics ranging from the size of a chickpea to that of my hand. Apparently the original relic casket that was dug up on the premises only 20 years back was the size of a coffee mug. Now at least two dozen coffee mugs would be needed to contain all the relics. 

Pilgrims learn about the importance of water in the Sagaing Hills. As one Sayadaw said, "to come and practice in Sagaing, you always needed two things: sila and water!"
Even more extraordinary than these relics, however, was what we came across at another monastery resting on top of one of the hill’s ridges. Guided along the vast trails by a 73-year old Sagaing yogi with deep blue eyes, gentle wrinkles and a permanent grin, we entered a small shrine housing the corpse of the Venrable U Narativi. After attempts by his disciples to cremate this arahant’s dead body failed, as it simply would not burn, they realized that the body itself was a relic to be preserved. Twenty-eight years later the corpse rests peacefully in a glass casket studded with gems. Parts of the body are slightly rotten and charcoaled, but for the most part it is quite intact. In fact, the corpse’s caretaker must shave the old bhikkhu’s head and cut the nails at least once every couple of months so that he continues to look like a respectable monk! Reflecting upon this corpse completely turns the Asubha contemplation on its head!

Even though we have all had our own unique experiences on this pilgrimage in general, and in Sagaing specifically, no one can say that they haven’t been transformed in one way or another. For the time being, it may be difficult to say how, or even what had happened since processing the experience will take weeks, if not months. But something did shift during our numerous, and sometimes exhausting, visits to pagodas, sangha-dana at monasteries, meditation sessions in caves, thought-provoking Dhamma discussions, day-dreams out bus windows, sleeping on hard and dusty floors, interpersonal relationship issues with other pilgrims, and interacting with people from a totally foreign culture whose worldview is completely unlike anything any of us are familiar with back home. All of these experiences have been etched into our minds, remaining there for years to come, coloring our perceptions in ways that are incomprehensible, yet whose transformative impact will be felt for the rest of our lives."

More can be found about Day 17 here.

Burma Day 14: Entering the Hills

For Day 13, see here. The following excerpt was written by Kory Goldberg in his personal journal about the current pilgrimage now underway in BurmaYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

"When Russell took robes the other day, many of us felt we were there right with him in solidarity, and lived the higher order vicariously through him. Today we not only left Ingyinbin, we left behind a travel companion. All attachments, the Buddha taught,  lead to dissatisfaction. Russell and U Sasana, the profane and the sacred, are mere forms, mere concepts, which must be let go of in order to realize freedom from the shackles bound by psychological fear, insecurity and delusion.

From Webu Sayadaw’s hot season centre to the place where he spent 37 rainy seasons, we had the chance to offer food to the monks of Shwebo and meditate in the Venerable’s room where he spend his days—every moment—in contemplation. Our session concluded with a discussion led by U Agga and the various types of ascetic practices such as not lying down that the Liberated One had endured. Doing so would certainly be an extreme way of living for any of us, but for him, such an engagement constituted a middle path approach to self-understanding essential for Awakening. We then walked around the Shwebo monastery’s grounds laden with tropical trees and gazebos for quiet sitting and Dhamma discussions. Some of us played games and shared snacks with some of the local kids, most of them looking quite dirty and unhealthy. Mixing seriousness with silliness gladdens the human heart.

Arriving in the hills of Sagaing was quite magical. We made a brief pit stop at Kaunghhmudaw, unreverentially referred to by the early British colonialists as “tit pagoda.” Upon hearing this it has been nearly impossible to see this massive Sanchi-like stupa and not think of this term. How our minds are plagued by a lack of control! While at the pagoda, Joah gave the group a brief introduction to the mystical landscape of Sagaing, preparing us for the unconventional hermitage monasteries that we would be visiting as a group and on our own. As we pulled into the town overshadowed by the small hills dotted with great pagodas, monasteries and nunneries, all of us were in awe and felt waves of good fortune pass through us. Our first experience in Sagaing, other than the celestial-like landscape, was the pick-up truck driving in front of us with a cab filled with boisterous spirit (nat) mediums erotically dancing to loud Burmese pop music. They were happy to bless us with their gyrating hips and we enjoyed the cultural experience, once again demonstrating the lack of rigid boundaries between what constitutes spirit and what is merely mundane. The Dhamma freely flows through every aspect of life and nowhere is fact of nature more evident and understood than in this Golden Land."    

To see what happens to the group in the Sagaing Hills, click here. 

Burma Day 13: Settling In Before Heading Out

The day before can be seen here! The following excerpt was written by Kory Goldberg about the pilgrimage in BurmaYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

Pilgrims take a group photo with the Sayadaw at the Patipatti side of Webu Monastery

"Today was atypical as people had the opportunity to really follow their own rhythm. Following meditation and breakfast, most of us chose to take the village and Pariyatti Monastery tour, but some decided to simply take it easy and meditate on their own. Some even followed bhikkhus U Sasana and U Agga on their alms round through the village, getting a glimpse into the 2600 year old tradition in a location that probably does not look like too much has changed since then. For those of us on the tour walking through the village with U Mandala and the visiting monk U Yassa was quite special. Ingynbin's people are renown for their devotion to the Sangha and walking along with these English speaking venerable monks afforded us an opportunity to interact with villagers in a way that seemed impossible the day before when a small group of us went out on our own. The previous day, we certainly got a few brilliant smiles and mingalabas, but with the monks people actually came out to meet us after they had finished bowing in reverence to the monks. 

The group gathers for a photo in front of the magnificent Dhamma Hall on the Pariyatti side of Webu Monastery
When we arrived in the village centre, we came across a large float built to hold a coffin. Venerable Yassa's aunt had recently died and he was back in Ingynbin from Mandalay to participate in the funeral procession and practice the Asubha contemplation. One of the pilgrims asked the monk of 25 rainy seasons how he felt. He admitted that he felt sad, but he did not cry since he had so much Buddhist practice under his belt. He said he felt happy also at this moment, for he had helped to teach dhamma to his aunt and he knew that she had lived a pure and virtuous life. Sharmaji, with full compassion, held the monk's hand, for he too is a human being. 

U Yassa then translated the conversation to the crowd of villagers who stood close by (in a respectful and non-imposing manner, unlike in India when locals are not shy to surround a foreigner and gawk at him as if he were an animal in a zoo). The villagers were all smiling, including Yassa's uncle, understanding that death is just another part of the cycle of life. Yassa continued that his aunt was a dedicated Buddhist whose morality was stainless and her meditation strong, so he was confident that she was bound for rebirth in a celestial plane. He then invited us to attend the funeral and practice the Asubha, a reflection on the fragility of human life and the repulsiveness of the human body. To his surprise, we all accepted with gratitude and excitement to watch a corpse burn to ashes.

Since the ceremony was not for another 90 minutes we returned to the monastery for an audience with the Buddha relics. As I was at Chowse, I was quite skeptical regrading their authenticity, despite knowing that they had been donated to Webu Sayadaw by the Prime Minster of Sri Lanka (Webu Sayadaw had visited Sri Lanka only on the condition that he was given some Buddha relics to bring back to Myanmar). However, as soon as I entered the Sayadaw's darkened room where they were kept I immediately felt that distinct strong activation of the awareness of the anicca along with a coolness flowing through my body, a very unique movement of sensation that I feel only when in the presence of the Tathagata's remains. The 82-year old Sayadaw sat there flanked by some younger monks, and in front of him was an open relic casket. Right there lay before me mustard seed sized pieces of bone in the centre of an ivory lotus flower. Snow had been in the room for some time already, and she called each one of us up to the relics and then placed them on our heads for a direct blessing. Once everyone had had a turn, Yassa translated the Sayadaw's Webu-inspired teaching on practising continuously in order to awaken in this very lifetime. None of us wanted to leave, but this moment too had to come to the end of its life as the funeral ceremony was to soon begin.

The procession itself was neither solemn nor sad, but rather festive with lots of joking and laughter as people banged on the side of the float shouting out the Burmese equivalent to "Grandma, Grandma, come on Grandma." The float was then disassembled, the body removed from the coffin and placed on to the pyre. We then all moved to a nearby site where we were all given lychee juice while taking refuge in the Triple Gem and 5 precepts, followed by an Asubha-based discourse, which fortunately Yassa translated for us. 

Initially, I felt bad that we were given the seats of honour at a funeral of person we did know and that the translations stretched out the event for our sake, but when realizing that all the locals were so pleased to have us there, all such thoughts vanished. As the chanting and discourse commenced, the smell of burning flesh wafted through the air. When the discourse was over, we met Yassa's cousin, also a monk, and uncle who we met earlier. This time, however, the elderly farmer was no longer grinning from ear to ear as the direct realization of what was happening began to sink in. His son, the monk, looked devastated, despite wearing the armour of a bhikkhu. We then walked over to watch the corpse burn and reflect on the vulnerability of life and inevitability of death. To our surprise, most of the funeral attendees skipped out on what seemed to me one of the most important parts of the ceremony. Those in attendance, besides the freaky foreigners eager to see a dead body, were a bunch of young novices with their fingers stuck up their noses, a few teenagers, the calm Yassa, and those responsible for burning the body. Every now and again these guys would use a long piece of bamboo to scrape the flesh and poke at the bones to make sure that every part got consumed by the fire.

Later that afternoon as most people rested, a couple of us completely changed gears as we dove into the mud with the Thai women and a group of novices to work on constructing the mud bricks for the adobe house. We worked out our muscles by mixing the clay, water and rice husks and then carrying heaps of these mixtures over to the frame for shaping the bricks. It was a lot of fun and gave us an opportunity to interact with locals in a completely new and engaging way. Translating words into English, Thai and Burmese while building something useful is a great way to establish communication amidst linguistic and cultural obstacles. After we were done and bathed at the natural hot spring, we came across some young, local farmers playing their end-of-day ritual of chinlone-volleyball. At first we hesitated to join because these guys were amazing, but their skill and positive energy magically raised our bar and we fit in not too badly.

After our evening meditation the relaxation for most continued until bed while some of us went back to meet with Thais to learn more about adobe building and their projects back home. What an incredibly diverse and spontaneous day! The constant surprises and blessings on a pilgrimage can only manifest when their is a willingness to remain flexible and open to change, comfort with not knowing what will pop out around the next corner, and honest about one's needs and limitations. The next step is integrate these pilgrimage lessons back home where every day, every moment is its own little journey."

The next day's entry, when the group goes on to the mystical Sagaing Hills, can be found here...

Burma Day 12: Diving Into and Emerging Out of the Burmese Silence

To see what you missed, read Day 11. To see how the following pilgrims enjoyed their own day of meditation at Webu Sayadaw monastery during the subsequent month, see here. The following excerpt was written by Kory Goldberg about the Buddhist pilgrimage in Burma.You can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

A view of the San Kyaung museum building attached to the central pagoda stupa on the Patipatti side

"Spending the day meditating where a person became an Arahant and passed away into parinibbana is certainly atypical. The pilgrimage's first one-day course was badly needed by all and the site's intensity brought up deep tranquility for some; mind-numbing chaos for others, indicating the diverse and divergent ways in which people are experiencing this tour. The peak of today's evening snack was an intense check-in process that revealed how people in the group are feeling about the pilgrimage and its inner processes. For the most part, people are enriching their contemplative practice, gaining an understanding of the complex Burmese Buddhist context in which our teacher constructed his secular presentation of the Buddha's teachings, and increasing their confidence in the Triple Gem. At the same time, sankharas are spewing out, and for some, spinning out of control as culture shock electrocutes the nervous system. The meeting tonight cleared many of the misconceptions and miscommunications away from the surface, but plunging deeply into radical and honest self-reflection is the only way to dispel the emerging challenges at their base. Onwards..."

For more, click for Day 13...

The old hall where Buddhist festivals and holidays were held, when the entire town and monastery would come to honor, celebrate, and make merit

Burma Day 10: Prophecy Fulfilled

If you missed Day 9, go here. The following excerpt was written by Kory Goldberg about the pilgrimage in BurmaYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

"Impermanent are all compounded things, and every moment on this trip is a living testament to this wise teaching of the Buddha. From cycles of health and illness, joy and misery, luxurious beds to hard wooden floors we have experienced anicca in all its forms. After two nights in a comfortable hotel, we now find ourselves sleeping on a dusty floor in a decrepit building with a freaked out barn owl wondering where all these strange humans come from. It doesn't really matter though because the despite the extremely rustic conditions that no one in our group is accustomed to we are at a very powerful sacred site that is hardly known today, either by foreigners or Burmese.

Ingyinbin Monastery, translated as Sal Tree Monastery (also known as the "Patipatti side"), is the second founded by the first (and most influential) Webu Sayadaw. Not only is this the site where he was born into this world and passed away from it, but it is also where the legendary monk fully awakened to the truth of ultimate reality. For students of Goenkaji and Mother Sayama, it is also an important, yet barely known, site as it is here where Sayagyi U Ba Khin ordained as a bhikkhu for 10 days in 1965 in order to engage deeply in meditation and as some rumours have it to teach subtle analytical points of practice to a group of celestial beings (apparently the only humans who could take on this unimaginable task are monks).

On our way to this special place we stopped in Sain Pyin Gyi, the small village where the Venerable Ledi Sayadaw was born in 1846 and ordained as an adolescent. As with Ingyinbin, we were the first group of foreigners to ever visit. The villagers were so excited for our arrival that they had even send a convoy to come meet us on the road to make sure that we didn't lose our way. Our visit began with a meeting with nine local Sayadaws (two of whom were smoking cigarettes when we arrived, a shock to some, amusing to others) and which was overseen by hundreds of villagers. The Sayadaws led us in a chant of homage to the Triple Gem and of undertaking the precepts. Once again our pilgrimage group fumbled the Burmese pronunciation and many of us had a good laugh, either outwardly or inwardly. Following our meal offering and partaking (we were served equally as well, if not better, than the monks) we were given a tour of the site by one of the monks learning English and an English teacher (and were followed around by everyone else--monks, farmers, mothers, children and everything in between). 

Legend has it that when the Sayadaw-to-be was born a rainbow formed between the birth spot and a nearby Tamarind tree, symbolizing that the baby would grow up to be a great master of knowledge. We were taken to both these spots, as well as to the place where he was ordained and the monastery he lived in. The old teak monastic building had a functioning refrigerator that was powered by kerosene, apparently one of five left in the whole world and which was donated to Ledi Sayadaw almost a hundred years ago by the Pali scholar C.F. Rhys Davids. After the tour, we were served even more food and told about their project to produce 220 marble slabs inscribed with Ledi Sayadaw's books that were absent from the Maha Ledi Monastery in Monywa. The people were so proud of their village, and having us global travellers visit their home was a highlight not only in their day but in their life. Even the party-crashing police and immigration officers suspicious of these foreigners (this village also happens to be the place where the military government attempted to assassinate Aung Sang Su Chi many years ago) fell into the good vibes and could not hold on to their negativity. The atmosphere was festive and joyous with smiles, laughter and games all around.

We left the pleasant vibe and hit the bumpy (and literally, rocky) road so that we would reach Ingyinbin before dark. Driving slowly through the country side, passing rice paddies and intricate irrigation canals, fields of sunflowers and cabbages, villages and markets, all dotted with teak, neem and palm trees was relaxing and pleasant. Farmers and road workers were all smiles as we passed them shouting "Mingalaba" out the window. The Burmese are not only happily surprised to see foreigners ( especially in these remote parts), even more so when we wear their clothing and attempt their language.

The foreign pilgrims have some fun in acting out the painting of Webu Sayadaw's prophecy (shown above them)
Shortly before Webu Sayadaw passed away he predicted that one day people from around the globe would visit this monastery in Ingyinbin. There is even a painting on the wall of a shrine room depicting Europeans, Indians, Asians among others, all dressed in their cultural attire marching through the monastery. However, once the great monk left this world, the monastery which once attracted several hundred monks, nuns and yogis gradually fell into disrepair. When we arrived, we intentionally wore our clothes from home to fulfill the prophecy and bring smiles to the faces of the local population still supporting the Sangha here. To be honest, I expected a large crowd of locals to come greet us as we had at Sain Pyin Gyi and other places along our tour. Needless to say, but I was completely wrong--in fact, no one had come to greet us all, and by the dirty state we had found our accommodations, it kind of seemed that we weren't expected, or perhaps, wanted at all. However, our brief meeting with the Inginbyin Webu Sayadaw dispelled any such thoughts by the way he later greeted us and offered English reading material as a gift. I guess there are diverse ways in which Burmese show their hospitality. In any event, the prophecy, whether made into a showy event or not, is fulfilled and the legacy of the legendary monk continues."

To keep reading on, Day 11 can be found here.

Burma Day 11: Mysteries Unravelling

If you missed Day 10, it can be found here. Kory Goldberg continues his daily journal entries while on the pilgrimage in BurmaYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

"We began our day with a sitting in the building where Sayagyi U Ba Khin spent 10 days as a monk. Listening to a recording of him chant the Tikipatthana in such a location was almost like guilding a lily, but not quite. At home in the West, listening to such a recording sometimes feels out of place, especially since the audio quality is quite poor and the words incomprehensible, even to someone who understands some Pali. But here, it all made sense.

The Ingynbin Webu Monastery is divided into two sections. The original part of the monastery is referred to as the Pariyatti side, or the academic side, and is where Webu ordained as a monk in his late teens. The newer compound is referred to as the Patipatti side, or meditation monastery, and this is what Webu had constructed when he returned to his native place after several years of absence. Our group is residing in the very tranquil, though run-down Patipatti side, but taking our meals at the Pariyatti side, which has much more buzzing activity and is in much better shape, physically. After our breakfast this morning, we briefly met with U Mandala, the second in command after the Sayadaw and who had ordained under Webu Sayadaw at the age of 7, or 43 years ago. Struggling with his English, he gave us an overview of the monastery and of his life as a monk and a Pali scholar.

After our meeting we had some appreciated rest, bathing and laundry time. All the men who needed to bathe and do laundry Burmese style joked and laughed, mostly about the awkwardness of bathing while wearing a longyi and then switching it for a dry one. We imagined we were village girls at the water tank, gossiping about the community. It was actually a really nice communal moment, and many agreed that these type of interactions were sorely missed at home. Afterwards, Joah and U Agga, a Dutch monk with three rainy seasons under his belt, gave us a tour of the Patipatti side. Among many of the highlights were the hut where Webu Sayadaw attained liberation, the building in which he resided four months of the year (he only spent the hot season here) and passed away in, the dhamma hall for devas and "aliens"??, and the Bodhi Tree at which U Ba Khin placed the hairs from his shaven head. One of the most memorable sites, for this group in particular, was in the building with the painting of the prophecy. We decided to replicate the painting by posing in the same marching manner as the people in the picture. We are from 10 countries: Canada, USA, Burma, Russia, Columbia, Sweden, India, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand; plus a small group of people consisting of three Thai women and a Belgian man and add U Agga, all together making representatives from 13 different countries. It was quite the historical and humorous moment.

In the afternoon, Russell, a New Zealander from our group, joined the noble order of bhikkhus, becoming U Sasana. He was the second foreigner to ever ordain in the same sima hall as Webu Sayadaw. It was a very touching moment to watch him enter into a new phase of life, even if it is for just a couple of weeks. U Agga refers to the robes as meditation armour.

For me, and a few others who saw Russell through the process and prepared a private hut for him to live in, the day ended with a fantastically concentrated meditation in Webu's nibbana kuti whose spiritual charge is difficult to match. If concentration was always that easy..."

For Day 12 see here. The following photos show the transformation from the layman Russell Quinn to the monk U Sassana (the New Zealander later wrote extensively about his experience in robes, and his very inspiring words can be read by all)...

Lather is added to the hair
The shaving begins. The hair was later placed below the very tree where Webu Sayadaw also placed U Ba Khin's hair during his ten days in robes

Local villagers watch spellbound as the ordination continues

The final shaving is complete
Opening formalities to become a samanera

Paying respects

A European monk kindly helps to show the wearing of robes to this new monk

The samanera process is complete, with full bhikkhu ordination awaiting