Wednesday, 29 January 2014

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!

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