Thursday, 16 January 2014

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.