Sunday, 5 January 2014

Burma Day 5: The Road to Mandalay

The pilgrimage group takes a final photo at Thoke a Monastery before departing for Mandalay by bus

Kory Goldberg continues his Burma pilgrimage journal while on the Pariyatti yatraYou can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

"The morning began at 5:00 am with another offering of alms to the Sangha. By this point everyone had already had the chance to serve the monks, nuns and yogis. It was beautiful to watch each one of us make space for the other, not being greedy for the chance to serve and make merit. During breakfast, Ven. Komala, the monk who hung around to answer our questions before going off to a cave to meditate for the next several months gave us instructions how to eat mindfully. He said when tasting the food we recognize without prejudice or preference that we are merely tasting and that this moment like all moments is impermanent. If anything, this pilgrimage is deepening the understanding that meditation is not an on the cushion, off the cushion experience, but a continuous exercise 24/7. Sure we slip and slip some more but the effort and determination is a practice in itself. Maintaining this awareness we made our way to the last meditation session in the ordination hall, feeling anicca in our minds, on our bodies and in the sounds of novices and the two young orphan children laughing and running around outside. Our last offering is of Burmese Dhamma books by Goenkaji, robes, and financial support to the monastary and the various charitable projects overseen by the Sayadaw was a touching moment for all as Ven. Komala demonstrated a sincere desire to help us in whatever way he could to continue our dhamma practice. Like all Sayadaws, he too had a particular zeal to disseminate the Buddha's teachings worldwide and for the first time in Burma's recent history the doors have swung wide open making that wish a possibility.



U Komala, a forest monk, graciously delayed his return to his private meditation cave to answer foreign yogis' questions about Burmese Buddhism 

A few of us took the luggage by truck to our bus waiting for us about 5 km away because the road was too narrow for our wide, super delux coach. While waiting for the others to arrive we spotted a line of about a dozen young monks walking along the road on alms around. We quickly got out a crate of tangerines and a tin of crackers to offer them. Curiously, most of them accepted our gifts, but a few of them did not. We all followed the standard protocal so I was surprised to eperience this rejection, especially since we were foreigners clad in Burmese attire and probably the first outsiders to ever have been there. Monks are supposed to accept whatever food that comes to their bowls, partly to cultivate a sense of detachment and equanimity, but even more so to create an opportunity for laypeople to gain merit. Did we do something wrong, or was improper practice from the monk's side? A healthy lesson that while they do wear the robes of the noble ones, they too are just human beings riddled with imperfections. 



With great happiness and rejoicing we see that our dhamma group has performed the wonderful merit of feeding an entire monastery for one meal

The road to Mandalay was fairly smooth and easy, giving us ample opportunity to restfully prepare for the next few days loaded with activity. And the hotel we are staying at also contributes to our rest. Incidentally our group is the first cutsomers to ever stay here . The owners, devotees of Pa Auk Sayadaw and who just donated a one million dollar monastic complex on 200 acres in Pyin Oo Lwin, provided us with brilliant hospitality and are very excited to receive the merit from serving a group of foreign yogis."


To see Day 6, go here!


The monastery kindly provided mosquito nets for the pilgrims to use during group sittings, and turned over use of their Sima Hall for such purposes during our stay