Monday, 21 April 2014

"Shi Par Thi Lar: Eight Precepts"

A hillside path leading to a pagoda in Sagaing

“ 'Why are you taking 8 precepts' ”? 

I was asked by one of the Assistant Teachers (ATs) while serving a 20 day course at Dhamma Manadala just outside of Mandalay. As Dhamma servers we were only asked to take 5 precepts; to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants. The 6th 7th and 8 precepts involve abstain from taking meals after noon, physical decoration/sensual entertainment and sleeping on luxurious beds.

'To help me to develop in Dhamma, to develop my Paramis and to observe craving' I answered her.

The supportive atmosphere of the meditation center aided me in my strong determination to take 8 precepts for those 20 days. As other servers around me took their dinners I noticed a strong desire for the fruit juice and jaggery candy that I ate because they were permitted to those observing eight precepts. This desire seemed to vary from day to day but steadily dwindled as the end of the course neared. At first when offered food by the generous kitchen staff and the other servers I felt embarrassment and tension as I refused their kindness. I quickly learned how to express to them in Burmese “Ship ba thila” (“8 precepts”) and they seemed to understand well. They had a lot of respect for this sort of practice and quickly the tension evaporated.

Following the course I seemed to have a strong desire to continue this practice. I discussed it with my husband and we agreed to enjoy dinner together that night and then to refrain from evening meals from then onwards.

As at the center when offered food in the evenings I would explain briefly and was relieved that from the average Burmese person I would receive the similar understanding and respect as during the 20 day course.

I was able to practice developing my Paramis throughout the remaining 2 months in Myanmar. I experienced many benefits and noticed my objective understanding improving. I seemed to gain a subtler experience of the eight fold noble path.

I now feel such gratitude for the inspiration and support from the Dhamma that is so strong in Myanmar."

-- Sonya Griffin, Canadian Yogi practicing in Myanmar for six months. To read about an Australian yogi who becomes a Burmese nun, read here.

Two novices in the Sagaing Hills

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