Saturday, 22 February 2014

Burma Pilgrimage #2, Day 11

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 read about the first pilgrimage group's experience on their own time in Ingyinbin, see here.

You can also consider joining a later pilgrimage in Burma yourself.

The pilgrims stayed in these two buildings. The large one on the left was given by Bago supporters, and as was Burmese custom, the men slept upstairs and the women downstairs. The one on the right was given by Mogok supporters, and this was where U Ba Khin and U Ko Lay stayed when they visited Ingyinbin. This became the pilgrims' meeting room and snack room.

It was on this six foot high platform that Webu Sayadaw was known to teach the devas and hungry ghosts in the evenings. The platform has no ladder and even today, villagers do not know conclusively how Webu Sayadaw scaled the platform. On this yatra, several pilgrims came here to meditate, and reported unusual experiences.

"How many special sites does one have the fortune of going to?

After a morning group sit in the place where Webu Sayadaw passed into parinibbana, Joah led the group on a tour of the patipatti side of the monastery. The pariyatti side had been a monastery before the arrival of Webu Sayadaw, but after his arrival the, patipatti side began and flourished.

Back in the hey day, multiple cities in Burma had given dana for the construction of buildings on the patipatti compound. Most of these are a shell of their former self. The kutis that remain, we are told, are not kept up, and the large dorm in which we are staying was covered in a thick layer of dust.

The site where Sayagyi U Ba Khin and U Ko Lay were ordained in 1965

There's a few people working on painting the old Dhamma hall, which is somewhat reassuring, until one tries to go down the steps to the cells and finds the place completely flooded with stagnant water. So is the rise and fall of all things...

The main Dhamma Hall has just been given a new coat of paint

Yet, not all is grim. There still are remarkable places on site that time and dust and disrepair cannot dull. The hall where we do our group sits. The bodhi tree where Webu Sayadaw deposited Sayagi U Ba Khin's hair after he took robes. And the kuti facing the lake of victory, where the Sayadaw broke all the fetters.

It was here, in this very Bodhi tree, where Webu Sayadaw deposited Sayagyi U Ba Khin's shaved hairs after his ordination, telling the government official that he would go on to play a major role in the Buddha Sassana. U Ba Khin gathered others of his hairs up and took them home to Yangon, placing them on his alter at IMC. Today, all IMC centers throughout the world have a small vial of these very hairs.

The mosquitoes, snakes, bats, dust, and
loudspeakers that blare all night long are no match for the strength of vibrations that still remain in this very special place. If anything, they remind of the fragility of existence.

Keep working, pilgrim, keep working...

This is the new Sima Hall, a beautiful building with a cell in the center for meditation, and an upper raised platform where the ordinations could take place, with lay supporters all able to witness and celebrate down below

The pariyatti side is still a busy working monastery. After partaking in Sangha dana, we had the opportunity sit and meditate with both Buddha relics and those of Webu Sayadaw. We then went on a tour of the pariyatti side. Some of the highlights of the afternoon included paying respects at the Sima halls where Webu ordained as a novice, then as a full monastic, sitting under the bodhi tree Webu Sayadaw planted, and meditating at the pagoda where, according to Burmese custom, the placenta from Webu's birth was buried. The latter, although not kept in the best shape, was quite a supportive place to sit.

A view of the monks' quarters at the Pariyatti side

Despite the neglect, there's still remarkable beauty - the flowering tree that serves as a refuge for butterflies, the lone bell on the old umbrella top that still chimes in the wind, the chanting that carries across the arid, dusty landscape, the devotion of a poor village.

The rate at which things change here is remarkable - within the span of a few minutes, one can feel nausea, malaise, dizziness, arise and completely resolve.

When you peel back the desolate and dusty facade, the strength in Ingyinbin is real and raw. Not for the faint of heart, but so incredibly instructive..."

To read on to the next day see here...

A group photo of the last pilgrimage to Ingyinbin now graces their dining hall
The dining hall has a line of paintings depicting important events in Webu Sayadaw's life. This one shows his initial emerging from the jungle to find the supernatural well water in Kyaukse.

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