Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Diary of a Yogi Bear #2

The Phyu Tawya monks line up for alms round

Australian yogi Nobuko Nakano has spent an extended period living a dhammic life in Burma, and continues on her reflections on her experiences. Her previous entry can be seen here.

"To complete the Diary of a Yogi Bear, Part 2, which I’m actually writing now after the entry of Flying Pink Nun was completed,

I thought I will write some things to really wrap things up about The Phyu Tawya. Firstly, one may ask what I had learnt about staying for more than nine months at The Phyu Tawya.

First and foremost, except for the ten days courses held once a month (starting every second Friday of the month and all the Sangha come and on average about 10 yogis come) all the meditation is almost self course-like.

There are no instruction tapes played, except for an audio dhamma discourse played in Burmese at 7.30 pm in the hall every evening every evening whether during course or not.

So actually if one decided to come to The Phyu Tawya, particularly in mind for long term, its such a great opportunity for a very deep seed of self motivation meditation to really be ignited.

I think you really need to understand the process of meditation and how to deal with it, when things come up. There are also monks you can talk to for advice, and even if they do not speak English, a translator may be available one time or another.

From personal experience of being in constant emailing contact with the outside world, I felt this really affected my meditation and hindered my aim of really being able to meditate as deeply as what I could have. I would really recommend, if you choose to be meditating there or anywhere long term, I would really refrain from keeping email/skype contact with the outside world to an absolute minimum.

The monastery bodhi tree
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There is a very big pagoda which has the enshrines the Buddha relics shared from the Webu Sayadaw Monastery up north in Ingyibyin.

Yogis can also meditate in the pagoda. It has many cells, particularly underground, there are a few levels, but if you choose to go and sit on the upper level right underneath the spire of where the relics are, it is really really peaceful.

Most of the time, the Sangha and yogis sit together in the main meditation hall, however if you wish to sit more in the pagoda, this would be fine I’m sure, simply by letting the head nun/monk know. I used to go everyday at about 5pm- 6pm, during the evening breaktime, and used to see two monks sitting there all the time.

Later I learned they were sitting there for 12 hours everyday, on guidance from the Sayadaw.

The land is on 75 acres, as I was told, and there is a myriad of well built walking paths, mainly created roads for vehicles to get around the monastery.

There are about 30 in house monks, and 7-8 in house residing nuns, and throughout the year, I met several other Sangha who were travelling and came to The Phyu Tawya to experience the practise of meditation of vipassana.

Actually the number of in house resident Sangha is very intimate and I found the benefits of living in a small group was the intimacy, and connection relationships you can create with the Sangha.

The Sangha there really look out for you and whatever you needed, they were so happy to help out. The maintenance monk installed a shower in my bathroom, so I wouldn’t have to take bucket bathes and it would be more convenient for me to live there. The maintenance monk fixed a very leaky roof and ceiling during the monsoon season also.


One of the residences where the author lived, which she called the "Addams Family House."

Also I was very fortunate to create friendships with some of the financial donors of the monasteries who provided me with support both financially, logistically and emotionally with many things outside of The Phyu Tawya, for example, visa extensions, taking me to visit many other monasteries in Yangon, and having the opportunity to meet many Sayadaws, and also opening me to experience different things also such as having an opportunity to meet with foreign business investors. Also having lunches with them, and being able to stay at their houses in Yangon.

I found the communication of English wasn’t a problem at the monastery. There would be a monk or nun or yogi who would be bound to be able to speak some English and translate. There was a yogi who was 80- years old who lives there and could speak English, however after some months of staying at The Phyu Tawya, I stopped turning to him for assistance, as I realized he didn’t fully translate everything I was saying, also his hearing was quite deaf, so I felt he wasn’t a very reliable source. Instead I turned to asking a nun, who I found out could understand and speak English much more than she revealed.

The Phyu Taw Ya Pagoda in Hmawbi on the full moon in May 2013
The Sayadaw of The Phyu Tawya is a looming mystery... only kidding :)

But his physical presence was like that of an apparition. Sayadaw U Panna Sota does not reside at The Phyu Tawya most of the time, as he was putting his efforts and time to get a giant pagoda built up north in Mahamyaing, the great forest in Sagaing Division.

When he did come down to The Phyu Tawya, which was approximately every four months or so, it was on very short announcement that he was coming.

And you knew he would be coming.

The Sangha would be on full alert cleaning and tidying up the monastery sweeping leaves, cutting back and trimming trees and vegetation, and you knew you were in for a really good experience with the Sayadaw coming.

So it is said for those who come to visit The Phyu Tawya, as the Sayadaw's absence is quite often, that should you come to The Phyu Tawya, it is only for your kamma that you would have the great opportunity to be there when the Sayadaw is also there.

I can say now, that the nine months of living at The Phyu Tawya has been so rewarding and defineless in being able to put it into words, for words will only create a box around which is not able to be defined. 

The author in front of a pink bush on the monastery grounds
I am grateful for being able to have spent every moment there, and now, after having returned from India post sitting a 45 days course at Dhamma Sindhu in late November 2013 to January 2014, I can say sitting for nine months, has really helped me put what is in the unconscious into the conscious.

Meditation wise and understanding the technique of meditation and how you as an individual works with it, I mean. And also perhaps clarifying what living a truly dhammic life means, and how to live one as closely to what the Buddha encouraged as possible.

The conclusion to yogi bear diaries is up next... Stay tuned."

See the conclusion here.