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.

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