Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Burma Pilgrimage #14, Day 14: The Bull and the Cow

The following excerpt was written by an American yogi about the pilgrimage in Burma. The first pilgrimage has ended, and the second one has just begun! To read about the previous day, go here. To see an outline of the day's events, see here.

You can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma.

The entrance to Sitagu Academy in Sagaing

"Sitagu Academy grounds are quite grand. It's large and clean and organized. Coconut trees are laden with fruit, and trees are blooming. The dogs here are not as skinny (and much more interactive than elsewhere). Even the mosquitoes are twice as big!

The activities today included a visit to two nunneries in the Sagaing Hills. The first of these is a patipatti nunnery - it's a small place, but it seems like the nuns do get at least several hours of meditating a day [the head nun being a disciple of Saya U Than, who studied under Saya Thet Gyi]. Alms rounds are twice a week. We are told that one can practice whatever tradition while staying at the nunnery, and that it is possible to leave for meditation courses. As a co-pilgrim noted, the energy of the place was quite different than that of a monastery - much more gentle and 'motherly' of a place.

Sayalay Daw Nu Ka Ti takes questions about the nuns' life from pilgrims. Click to enlarge the photo, and behind the nun you can see a variety of posters that include Ledi Sayadaw, Saya Thet Gyi, Saya U Than, The Phyu Sayadaw, and herself at a young age. The white Buddha statue to her right was given by a German yogi who is now a nun at Pa Auk.

The second nunnery is a thriving place with over 150 nuns. It's run by three nuns and generously supported by a Japanese donor (who also made a documentary of the nun's life here), including a mother/daughter couple (their entire family ordained together!) As a pariyatti nunnery, there is minimal time set aside for patipatti, but they apparently are well known for the quality of their education and discipline.

The daughter, who self initiated the family ordination at the age of eight (now in her early forties), answers questions with surprising grace and adeptness. As to why they've chosen to focus on pariyatti, she notes that teaching women the words of the Buddha is something important that needs to be done. And while working for liberation can help oneself, keeping patipatti alive can give benefit beyond one's lifetime, and so they've chosen to dedicate this life to this for the benefit of all. 

Excellent facilities and generous donations have given the young nuns an ideal place for study
The discipline found at the second nunnery visited can be seen even in the way the sandals are carefully arranged before entering a building

Another example they used was that patipatti is like a bull, whereas pariyatti is like the cow, and if no more cows were present, there would be no more calves.

It was a touching way to think about pariyatti, and struck a chord amongst some of the women.

We ended with a tour of the grounds. The young women were reciting, and while a few peeked the odd looking foreigners, most continued to be quite focused. Both nunneries were cleaner than many of the monasteries we had been to, but this one was especially so. Their large Buddha statue was behind floor to ceiling glass, and one of the men remarked on how spotless the glass was..."

To read about the following day in the magical Sagaing Hills, see here!

The pilgrims pay respects to the large Buddha statue at the second nunnery

These three buildings on the compound are aptly named Sila, Samadhi, and Panna

While waiting for their transportation back to Sitagu, pilgrims talk about their event-filled day