Sunday, 19 January 2014

Gratitude after a Burma Pilgrimage

The first pilgrimage in Burma has now ended, and pilgrims are sharing their feedback about their experience. (to read one Canadian's journal entries throughout the yatra, start here!) To hear about current pilgrimages, see here.

Two young boys find the foreign pilgrims meditating in a pagoda and silently sit to join them

One American yogi wrote his own impressions:

"This was a wonderful trip in many ways and I have deep gratitude for all three [leaders] for bringing all of us into this wonderful world of the Triple Gem in Myanmar! Here are a few things about the trip that I briefly wrote down.

1. Inspiration from Relics:
In the West, and from the U.S. where I live, the idea of arahants is often very distant. I do not know anyone, nor had I even heard of any people who attained this stage from the West. The stories of arahants that I heard were mostly from books about monks in Asia, and mostly from the time of the Buddha, two and a half millennia ago.

Coming to Myanmar on this yatra, we were able to see many relics, the crystalized remains of the bones of arahants, some from unknown dates, but others from monks that had passed away as recently as a couple of weeks before. And seeing relics was not unique to one time or place during our yatra, as many monasteries lovingly keep them. We could examine them under a magnifying glass, photograph them, and most meaningfully we could meditate near them. Seeing that people are practicing Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha, to it's full realization in this present time is very inspiring. It is tactile proof that it is possible in this lifetime to come out of suffering, and it is further motivation to dedicate myself to this path.

Foreign pilgrims pose for a group photo with nuns and a forest monk in Hmawbi before departing to Mandalay

2. Deeper Gratitude and Respect for U Goenkaji —> Strengthening the volition to support the spread of Dhamma in the West:

The more I've learned about Buddhism, and the Buddha's teaching in Myanmar, the more gratitude and respect for Goenkaji I've developed on this trip. His mastery at teaching Dhamma so simply and clearly, astounds me. As our Myanmar guide explained, U Goenkaji gives meditators around the world the "fruit", tangible benefit to their lives, from a single week and a half-long meditation course. And this is enough for so many people to continue meditating throughout their lives, and to later understand the meaning that it was the Buddha who taught this Dhamma, and it is the Sangha that has preserved it and continues to practice it.

We had the repeated experience of Sayadaws, teacher monks, at monasteries tell us to keep practicing what Goenkaji teaches. And not just to keep practicing it, but to help spread it in our home countries. Experiencing how the Triple Gem was preserved here, and that it is now spreading around the world with enormous demand and potential, drives home the urgency of supporting Goenkaji's mission, which many here seem to feel is Myanmar's mission, for people everywhere to have the opportunity to learn and practice and live it.

3. Dana

Pilgrims prepare for offering lunch to a line of monks at a monastery in Hmawbi
One reason I wanted to come to Myanmar, is that people have told me that seeing the Burmese people here, changes not only our perspective as foreigners, but how we live our lives after going back home. A common statement by people on this yatra, especially in the first week when it was all so new, was how many Burmese people understand and live according to the teaching of the Buddha. There really seems to be an understanding of kamma and of "parami". Especially poignant is how so many Burmese people give—giving just to give. It's started to rub off on me, and I find myself more and more wanting to give, and with the understanding of the importance of it both for others and for myself.

One foreign yogi joyously takes part in Sangha Dana at a monastery in Mingun
Thanks again for all you did and continue to do,
May you all get maximum benefit from your actions,
May you all come out of all suffering."

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