Thursday, 16 January 2014

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