Friday, 28 February 2014

The Yogi Bear Diary #3: "The Flying Pink Nun"

The author renouncing the world as she takes ordination

Australian yogi Nobuko Nakano has spent an extended period living a dhammic life in Burma, and continues on her reflections on her experiences. Her first entry can be seen here, and previous entry here. This is the third and final entry (for now).

"Dear faithful yogi bear diary readers,

After a year and one month staying in Yangon, nine months at The Phyu Tawya as a yogi, I went to Dhamma Sindhu vipassana centre, Gujurat, west India in late November to sit a 45 days course. It was really really great to have finally been able to sit a 45 days course.

Certainly, you go much deeper than a 30 days, almost where it finishes on the 30 days mark, and the 30 days students leave, the rocket keeps going, into a deeper meditation of awareness. On completion of the 45 days course, I came back to Burma alone, with the intention of ordaining. I had been in a committed relationship for almost a year by then, based on the decision of wanting to ordain, it was decided it would be best for us to break up.

Athough I was very heartbroken having to do this, I also knew in my heart, if I were to take the choice of really ordaining seriously, I had to let the relationship go, I knew I could not do both.


Chan Mya Nunnery. The White Building is the author's residence.

Through a sequence of events, my original plan of either going back to The Phyu Tawya where I was before or Pa Auk monastery in Mon state (south Burma) were completed shifted into a different direction.

The dhamma winds led me to the second senior Sayadaw at Mingala Sukkha Pali University in Tamwe, Yangon (a brother monk attends the university and lives there on a whim I was able to meet this Sayadaw).

This Sayadaw was 82 years old, but very genki (energetic) and present in his mind, and he really enthusiastically suggested I go to Mandalay, where there is a very big monastery where they teach Abhidhamma, and the Sayadaw there can speak English, and teaches Abhidhamma classes in English.

So actually I received this guidance exactly the night before thinking of coming back to The Phyu Tawya. The next day, my plans went a totally different direction and I travelled to Mandalay, accompanied by the monk brother, who lived at Mingala Sukkha.

Although my plans had experienced anicca on what seemed like on a whim, this felt like the most clearest choice and right in my heart.

Having studied the intensive 3 and half month Pali course at Dhamma Giri (in 2010, I had enjoyed it very much, although I had found it very challenging. The pace and the amount of material to be studied was really full on.

I had somewhere in my mind, wished to continue the studies of Pali somehow, but not wishing to do the Pali course again.

This was my chance to reconnect with Pali studies, and on top of that, I could also have a chance to study the Abhidhamma (the profound teachings of the Buddha).

So, as soon as I arrived in Mandalay, through contacts, I was brought to Chan Mya Ran Thi, in Yankin Hill in Mandalay, which is a very big nunnery where it specializes in Abhidhamma teachings and classes.


Sunrise over nearby Mandalay Hill

On January 26th, I ordained here, and I really couldn't have asked for a better place to be ordained and surrounded by such heartfelt, metta filled, generous and caring sisters. and a wonderful, nurturing sayagyi (head nun).

Ordaining and becoming part of the sangha and living the life is something I’ve wished to do for a very long time, and it took me time to really feel like I was in the motion of it actually happening.

I think it was at the time, the sayagyi was cutting and collecting locks of my hair off my head, and they were being gathered on a cloth in front of me. I could feel my hair was becoming very short, and was starting to feel very exposed, and from seeing my chopped off hair laid in front of me, it was very tangible evidence it was happening! :)


The author has her hair cut before nun ordination

The next day, I came to the very big Abhidhamma monastery Oo Yin Garden Monastery, also known as the International Institute Of Abhidhhamma, which is about 12 minutes walk down the road from Chan Mya nunnery.

It is a campus of Yangon University, International Institute of Abhidhamma faculty.

There are about 400 monks studying here all under the guidance of Sayadaw U Jotika, (who is a different sayadaw than the famous author),

And wow, when you come here during the class times, you can hear the roars from different classrooms, of the recitations and chanting of the different Abhidhamma chants and Patthanas being learnt off by heart by the novices and monks. It is such very great vibration, and very deep, and also very inspiring to be in this environment.

I met the head Sayadaw U Jotika, and arranged to have daily Abhidhamma classes with him. So now my daily life has changed from practising the patipatti so much to more so the pariyatti, which really suits me fine. I feel I’m able to get the balance of the other side more now, after having lived in the dhamma bubble of Goenka vipassana centres and giving service for about 6 and a half years and sitting full time at The Phyu Tawya for more than nine months, and topping that off with a 45 days days course, studying the Abhidhamma is a change which is really wonderful.

The author at Oo Yin Monastery with novices

Everyday i keep up the practise of sitting at least two hours of Goenka vipassana meditation, which is also a feast of reharmonizing and peace inside.

Studying the Abhidhamma, many say it can be dry and boring, or it goes over the head, but I feel if it is taught to you in such a way that is tailored to your pace of understanding and with a teacher who wants you to really understand, then it is really amazing to take on.

What I’m discovering about the Abhidhamma is that it is a philosophical understanding of how our consciousness operates. Actually I studied biological science at university (biology based science) and somehow, when we study into our layers of consciousness, the way in which the philosophy is explained in very fine detail is like a dissection, very similar to the dissections which I used to do in plant science or animal science labs.

You learn on fine detail the layers and factors which constitute a wholesome mind, unwholesome mind, the magnificent mind existing in the various 31 realms of existence, and so much more...

I really enjoy these daily classes I get to have with the Sayadaw one on one. He is very knowledged in his field and his teacher was the well regarded Dr Nandamalabhivamsa in Burma, who now gives dhamma and Abhdhamma talks around Myanmar and on Buddhanet, the cable TV.

And here at the monastery, i also have an opportunity to give back somewhat, by teaching the head Pali and Abhidhamma monk teachers English classes, which is really fun.

Actually, Sayadaw U Jotika is really forward thinking. in construction now is a large 7-story accommodation building, due to be finished in a year.

the Sayadaw foresees this to be a global Abhidhamma centre, to invite and encourage yogis and Sangha all over the world to come and study the Abhidhamma and Pali here.

During the week I get two days off to study and relax, which I requested, and as the Sayadaw is very flexible and open, he was really more than willing to offer this.

During the evenings, I go back to Chan Mya nunnery, to sleep and relax where I keep up the homework studies, and also have a chance to reconnect with feminine sisterly energy, and connecting.

As most of the nuns do not speak English, one can speak some slight English, I am turning to learning Burmese... at last! :)

Learning at The Phyu Tawya where I lived for nine months, learning Burmese was only short words here and there, mainly because most Sangha and yogis were in noble silence, but now, communicating inwardly and also with others is what its all about.


The author formally takes the precepts

Here at the monastery, I can also get to watch Skynet, Cable TV, so I can watch BBC news or CNN or NHK and keep connected to what is going on in the world out there. Dukkha and more Dukkha it seems like :p

I try not to watch it as soon as I come here after breakfast from Chan Mya nunnery.

If I’m eating snacks, and also watching the news, it'll feel like I’m digesting the dukkha also...

I read from Sayadaw U Jotika, the author, that its actually best not to watch the news or read the newspaper first thing in the morning, you should surround yourself with good news, or happy news or news that inspires you especially first thing in the morning.

So now officially, the diary of the yogi bear has come to completion… it is much later than what I intended, but actually, “kalam agamiye,” let the time ripen... and it has.

Over and out… may you all attain the magga (the eightfold noble path), the phala (the fruits developed from following the path), and nibbana.

With much metta, Sayalay Mananda Mala"


The author, right, and her roommate