Monday, 29 September 2014

The Burma Dhamma Facebook Page

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The Golden Land of Myanmar

The Golden Land of Myanmar from Drow Millar on Vimeo.

This is a film made by Daw Sanda Wadi, an American nun who has been living in Southern Burma for some time, with help by director Drow Millar. A copy also appeared on the website of Tricycle magazine, with this introduction:

"The Golden Land of Myanmar journeys to a place in the world called Suvanabhumi, the Golden Land in the Mon State of Myanmar. This beautiful and auspicious land has remained a hidden treasure, unseen and untouched by the modern world. The film explores several ancient Buddhist pagodas that have only recently been rediscovered and renovated. Surrounding these beautiful historic sites are the monasteries and communities of simple village people who have scarcely changed their way of living over the centuries. It remains a true sanctuary, protecting and nurturing the practice, devotion, and principles of Buddhist doctrine and philosophy. Travel to a timeless place of peace, tranquility, and compassion for a rare glimpse into the majestic depths of an ancient Buddhist land, the Golden Land of Myanmar."
Daw Sanda Wadi has also authored the short book of her experiences From One to Nun, and she has added the following short film synopsis:
"After having traveled to Asia in 2002, and spending time at a remote monastery in the south of Burma, (Daw Sanda Wadi) Shoshana Cathy Korson accepted an invitation from a Venerable monk to ordain as a Buddhist nun in his monastery. She now considers Burma her home and this film has developed over her many years of living in the monastery.So much has been reported about the politics in Myanmar while the sublime and serene life go under reported. It is her love for the simplicity, beauty and refinement that Myanmar so exquisitely exemplifies that drew her to the creation of this film.

The film journeys to a place in the world called Suvanabhumi, the Golden Land the Mon State of Myanmar. This beautiful and auspicious land has remained a hidden treasure, unseen and untouched by the modern world. The film explores this magical land with rare, never before seen beautiful footage of the communities, country side, and the many ancient Buddhist pagodas recently rediscovered and renovated by the abbot of the monastery, the Venerable Kyaithisaung Sayadaw."
The film is being screened at various festivals, including BuddhaFest, Buddhist Festival 2014, Buddhist Film Festival Europe, among others. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A Voice in Svay Pak (Myanmar)

This beautiful collage of music and image shows precious and graceful scenes from throughout Myanmar. It is made by Tony Anderson.

"They are humble, ordinary folk."

“In Burma the nuns do not dress in orange like the monks, but in a color, which might be described as apricot or pale salmon pink. No special respect is paid to them as it is to monks, and they are not members of the Sangha or Order as they were in Buddha’s days. They are humble, ordinary folk. Perhaps for this very reason, those we met were altogether charming. They slept only three to four hours at night and spent the rest in meditation. But during the day they meditated for only short 20-minute periods after worshipping at the shrine. They occupied the rest of the time mainly reciting the Abhidhamma.” Marie Byles, Journey Into Burmese Silence.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A full day on a pilgrimage!

Day 15

This white board shows the schedule of Day 15 of a three week Burma pilgrimage. On this particular day, the meditators visited important nunneries in Sagaing, learning about inspiring women in contemporary Myanmar, and asking questions about Burmese nuns in society.

For those wishing to have a similar experience themselves, see Muditā Works.

One Year Anniversary of Ko Kyaw Ngwe's Passing

In January 2014, meditators gather for a group photo at Ma Khaing's restaurant after eating a vegetarian meal on the pilgrimage. Ma Khaing is in the middle, wearing purple.

For those yogis who have been coming to the Golden Land for Dhamma practice, Ko Kyaw Ngwe was much more than a guide and driver-- he was a dear friend and Dhamma brother. While the upcoming guidebook about Dhamma practice in Burma will be of benefit to thousands of yogis from around the world, Ko Kyaw Ngwe will always be remembered as the original guide who first led so many of us to these sacred sites, changing many lives in the process. Many hold a deep gratitude because of this. Dozens of meditators around the world sent their thoughts and metta to his family as he was battling cancer last year, and he passed away last fall.

In the time since, his family has continued to be a great support to any and all foreign meditators who pass through Upper Burma, whether it be making travel arrangements, helping with sudden emergencies, or simply providing a simple and nutritious vegetarian food. In the pilgrimages last year, meditators remember their meal as one of the best dining experiences of the three week trip-- not only because of the divine taste, but also for how much metta was cooked with it! (as can be remembered here, here, and here!) 

Ma Khaing with family outside her home

The one year anniversary of Ko Kyaw Ngwe's passing will be on October 16, and on this day his family will donate a great Sangha Dana to over 120 nuns in Mandalay at Wei Har Ree Nunnery. For all those who remember the kindness of Ko Kyaw Ngwe, or that of Ma Khaing and the extended family, they welcome anyone who wishes to join in the kusala actions and share in offering dana on this meritorious occasion. Any financial donation offered will go towards the giving of food, requisites, and other items to the nuns on this day. For those who wish to do so, donations can be made to Ko Kyaw Ngwe's friend in Yangon named Ko Htay Aung, who can be contacted here: teo.birmania(at) He will provide you with further details about how to transfer the funds, and small donations are gladly accepted for those who wish to join in this special occasion.

Young Burmese nuns recite the suttas at Shwedagon Pagoda

Friday, 26 September 2014

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on Pilgrimage to Burma

In March 2013 Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and 30 pilgrims visited pilgrimage sites in Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka. While Tibetan Buddhists were extremely rare to see in Burma in previous years, monks can be seen from time to time in more recent years.

The group toured sites in the ancient Burmese city of Bagan, including Mahabodhi Temple, Kuthodaw Pagoda, and Mahamuni Temple.

Simple Lives

In this post, Jinith De Silva describes a pilgrimage to the sacred sites of Burma. Here is a brief excerpt:

They lead simple lives according to the teachings of the Buddha. In this country the religion is practised in its true form and temples and sculptures are protected and well maintained.
For those that wish to take a pilgrimage in 2015, more information can be found here.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Pilgrimages to Burma

A photograph of the Western meditators while on pilgrimage in Shwedagon

Janice Polizzi took a Buddhist pilgrimage in Burma in September 2013 through Dharma Journeys with Venerable Robhina Courtin, and wrote a small excerpt about her experience here. Here is a short excerpt:
"I feel that I benefitted immensely from going on this pilgrimage. Spending three weeks with Venerable Robina reminded me of the importance of Buddhist practice for daily life. Hearing her insightful teachings was a wonderful introduction/of the lam-rim for those new to Buddhism and a great review for those already familiar with it. Ven. Robina was also available to meet with me and others to discuss personal questions and issues that came up for us. She is an amazing guide and her deep knowledge and years of practice are evident in her teachings."

Similarly, Muditā Works is also recommended.

Donald Stadtner - Sacred Sites of Burma

Donald Stadtner's groundbreaking recent book, Sacred Sites of Burma, does a phenomenal job in getting under the many myths and legends surrounding the Golden Land's holiest pagodas, and in tracing back and connecting how these tales were influenced by contemporary views and politics. In this lecture, he reviews the salient points from his book and gives an overview of the important pilgrimage sites of Burma.

While this is a scholar's view of the pilgrimage, one can also learn about how a meditator experienced three weeks of holy sites in Burma. And for those wishing to go on a 2015 pilgrimage, see here.

A Swedish pilgrim on tour in February 2014

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Burmese Buddhist Art in the back of a Canadian Truck

Earlier this year, the folks at Dhamma Surabhi shared this inspiring photo, showing a classic Burmese Buddha image in the back of their Dhamma van, perhaps inspiring the local villagers about the wonderful Dhamma practice to be found at this Vipassana center in the Sayagyi U Goenka tradition.

Dhingan Monastery (formerly known as Bauk-Taw Monastery)

This Sun Lun center was initially established by U Nu long ago, as he personally invited Sun Lun Sayadaw in 1950 to stay here and make radio broadcasts of his dhamma talks to Buddhists living in Rangoon. Sun Lun Sayadaw arrived here in March 1951, and the following six days delivered these requested Dhamma talks, alternating his stay between here and the main Mahasi center (where he was personally invited by Sir U Thwin). With 24 other monks, he consecrated the Sima Hall, and as the local neighborhood started to expand five additional acres were donated by local supporters, giving it the seven acres that it contains today. This was also where U Vinaya was ordained in 1953. Of all the current Sun Lun centers now in Yangon, this is the only one where the original Sayadaw actually resided.

Today, yogis may be interested to meet Dr. Sundara, a Burmese monk who has a PhD in Buddhist studies and speaks fluent English. Remarkably, he is also one of only a handful of Tipitika-dhara in contemporary times, meaning he has memorized all of the Tipitika. There is also a beautiful Dhamma hall on site, and many new buildings have been constructed since Sun Lun Sayadaw’s time. Every evening a Dhamma talk is given by a monk who has memorized all of Buddha’s teachings, and is widely attended by local devotees.

The Sun Lun center is located about three miles from the Yangon International Airport and not far away from Aung Yadana Clinic and Hospital besides Waizayantar Road and Yadana Road. There is a prominent signboard on the Yadana road and in front of Yadana Market. The Centre is situated behind the Yadana Market. The registration counter is opened from 5 am to 10 pm, and the main gate closes at 9 pm after meditation time. Address:16/2 Block Thingun Kyun Yatana Road, South Okkalapa Yangon, Tel:95-1-56562 / 95-1-564654

For more information about Sun Lun Sayadaw, one may read here, or for information about his time with Webu Sayadaw in Kyaukse, go here.

Morning recitation at Burmese monastic school

“The education in their religion is very good, very thorough, not only in precept, but in practice; for in the monastery you must live a holy life, as the monks live, even if you are but a schoolboy.” Harold Fielding, Soul of a People

Students at a monastic school recite suttas from the Buddhist scriptures to start their day. One may see how the nuns are in the front of the classroom, thus an early respect for those in robes in established from a young age. Behind them are school children wearing the formal white and emerald green uniforms. Filling up the rest of the room are orphans and local village children. Lessons will commence after the recitation is completed.

An American monk bringing Burmese Dhamma to the US

Bhikkhu Cintita with Burmese monks and novics

A recent article in Wisdom Quarterly describes the homecoming of Bhikkhu Cintita to the Sitagu vihara in Austin, Texas. 

The blog quotes from another article in The Statesman by Eileen Flynn, a friend who visited the Bhante while he was still in Burma. The American monk is hoping to bring a culture of monasticism back to the US, as Flynn writes:
   The ritualized interaction also nurtures humility and reverence among the lay people who bow before the monks. They're bowing to the robes, not the person, Cintita said. The monastic lifestyle allows monks to pursue spiritual understanding Buddhists associate with wisdom and compassion — ideals worth bowing to.
   In Myanmar, he said, monks are "the most visible sign of Buddhism."
And this is how Cintita believes monasticism, whether Christian or Buddhist, can help Americans find their spiritual moorings.
   "Monastics stand for the laity (and for each other) as exemplars and also as reality checks," he told me. "As such they have a subversive influence on the laity, to curb its natural tendency toward unskillful indulgence of various forms.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A foreign monk at Chan Myay Yeiktha

A senior Burmese monk shaves the hair of Rupert Arrowsmith


In 2013, CNN went to Burma as part of their "On The Road" series, and ended up at Chan Myay Yeiktha Monastery in Yangon. While here, they met Rupert Arrowsmith, who was ordaining as a monk.

In this CNN excerpt, he describes briefly his time in robes. Here is a passage from the article:

"I slept on a pillowless wooden board, and my morning began at 3.30 a.m. with an icy bucket shower and the scrape of a razor over chin and head. I then meditated with the other monks for two hours before a breakfast of rice and dal -- a stew of pulses such as lentils and beans -- at dawn. After that, it was back to the mediation hall until 10.30 a.m. when the second and final meal of the day was served."
For other excerpts of foreigners who have ordained in Burma, one may see this account in Ingyinbin, or this one at Shwekyin Monastery in Mandalay. There are also the Yogi Bear chronicles, written by an Australian nun.

The ordination completed: in Buddhist robes.

Dhamma Garden Web Page

A photo from the Dhamma Garden Site

For those interested in more news and information about Buddhism in Myanmar, Dhamma Garden is a wonderful site. Much of it is in Burmese, but for those Western readers, one may be able to use Google Translate to learn in detail about the news and information.

Meditation on the Full Moon Day at Kun Lay Monastery

Kun Lay monastery, where U Agga is currently spending Waso (Rains Retreat), is a very special village where traditional practices may still be found today. Nowhere can this be found more than during full moon days, where children can be found playing while mothers finish the cooking and do other good kusala deeds.

In this short clip, one sees the lay people meditating together in the Dhamma Hall. This is after the cooking and cleaning has been completed, after the Sayadaw has given a Dhamma discourse and led them in re-taking the precepts, and after suttas have been recited together. One may notice that there are far more lay women in the audience than men, which tends to be common among Burmese Buddhists. As this is happening, many lay men are just outside, as are the younger children.

For those who have never visited the Golden Land, and even for those who have only seen a glimpse of it, this video gives a fascinating look into traditional Burmese Dhamma.

Novices eat their food before noon

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Notes from Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka

The following message concerns a site that features notes from Sri Lanka's Buddhist and Pali University.

In the words of U Sarana, a Czech monk at Shwe Oo Min monastery in Yangon, "Welcome at the crossroad of education. You will find here notes from Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, First Year. I hope that this site will help you to improve your knowledge (for students) and to make the burden of teaching lighter (for teachers). I sincerely invite you all to point out any improvements that can be done here and especially grammatical and factual mistakes in the notes which I publish here. If the lecturer or submitter of a note is not known to me or if he is wrongly mentioned, then please point it out also....You can download whole the collection of all available corrected notes for the first year at Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka. It was written by me, ven. Czech Sarana. There are also some old notes from previous years and also excerpts from books. You may use as you like. All the things that are not from books, that means all the things that I have written or just the notes, all that is VOID OF COPYRIGHT."

The site may be found here, and there are numerous downloads available.

Panditarama Forest Centre

Built on more than 100 acres of forest and containing three natural lakes, this center, presided over by Sayadaw U Pandita, has beautifully landscaped gardens and other areas (including one long terrace) conducive to walking meditation. The site was originally covered with bamboo groves, and then replanted as a rubber plantation. Some of the buildings are a bit rustic, although renovations are currently underway that will allow each meditator his or her own individual room or cabin, with an adjoining bathroom.

The area of where this center now sits was quite important to U Pandita’s own early spiritual training. He first studied as a young monk at the nearby Mahabodhi Forest Monastery. For many years, he thought of building a forest meditation center in this area, and in recent years he was able to fulfill that dream, creating a center that now welcomes large numbers of Burmese and foreign yogis. As one yogi shared, “The stillness, clean air, freshwater springs, and fertile land create almost perfect conditions for a meditation center.” 

Monks on alms round in Hmawbi

The center serves nutritious vegetarian fare and freshly made local juices in the evenings. Hse Gone Center usually conducts 60-day silent meditation retreats each winter, during which the Sayadawgyi himself stays at the center to monitor progress and deliver daily Dhamma talks. In the words of one yogi, these are “based on Sayadaw U Pandita's deep practical experience and understanding of the Theravada Buddhist canon… [they] provide yogis with the practical and theoretical information they need for intensive satipaṭṭhāna vipassanā meditation practice.”

Yogis can get to the Hse Gone center by taxi, and can inquire about other transportation options from the center. For public transport, take the public bus towards Bago and get off at Sae Mi Gone Hill around 10th Mile; the center is just under two miles away from there. The telephone is 0949450787, 095300885, 095302500.

Novices study the scriptures

Friday, 19 September 2014

Full Moon Sunday at Kun Lay Monastery

Full Moon Days are always a special event in Burma, but they are especially sacred at Kun Lay Monastery. This short clip takes the yogi on a virtual Dhamma tour of three minutes on such a day, showing the many activities taking place around the monastery grounds. Whether young or old, male or female, monastic or lay, there are a variety of roles that happen within the space of a day.

Two nuns from Sagaing discuss Dhamma with resident monks at Maha Gandayone Monastery in Amarapura, as large rice buckets dry out after lunch

“People would have a fine time meeting friends at the monastery. ‘Apart from being a happy outing, a day at the monastery is satisfying in many ways, social, cultural and spiritual.’ I heard my grandmother used to say, never failed for all time. I concluded my diary the day at the monastery by the end of a perfect day.” Junior Win

“[My grandfather] usually had an interesting time discussing Buddhist scriptures with other retired gentlemen, who, like him, had found a useful vacation in the study of the scriptures in their retirements. Sometimes the discussions were spirited and they would often take their arguments to the head monk for decision. [My grandmother] would have a fine time meeting friends and she had an opportunity to do deeds of merit like sweeping the grounds. Children happily helped with chores and were taught the sacred duty of keeping the monastery grounds clean… Late in the afternoon we would come home, the end of a perfect day.” Khin Myo Chit (grandmother of Junior Win), Colorful Myanmar

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Children playing at Kun Lay Monastery

Kun Lay Monastery is located in a very traditional and conservative village in a place where little has changed in the passing years, and even decades. At no time is this more evident than on full moon days. While full moon days have an important significance in the Buddha's life and within Buddhist societies, the day is honored with more devotion at Kun Lay than can be seen in many other places in modern Myanmar today. 

On this day, villagers from all over the surrounding region come to the monastery. In this short video, one can see the role of the children. According to Sayadaw U Kumara, the Rector of Sitagu Academy in Sagaing, children are given free reign at monasteries from a young age, allowing them freedom to explore and grounds on their own terms. U Kumara also notes that this allows powerful positive associations between monks and meditation to form with playtime and fun. When the child begins to age, gradually they will be introduced to simple suttas, Jataka Tales of the Buddha, basic Pali, and introductory meditation techniques. But the basis of future spiritual development begins with, simply, having fun!

For the children shown in this video, they are still young enough that monastery visits are still firmly associated with fun and pleasant times. As this video is being shot, interestingly, the childrens' mothers are meditating together with the monks in the Dhamma Hall, after having finished their daily cooking tasks.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scattering of Goenkaji's ashes on the Ayeyarwady River

Nearly one year ago, the great lay meditation teacher S.N. Goenka passed away, as various posts in this blog shared at the time. Although Sayagyi U Goenka passed away in India, it was his final wish that his remains be returned to the land of his birth, Burma. The above video shows how his ashes were prepared in Dhamma Joti, the main U Goenka center in Myanmar. Excerpts from Dhamma speeches made at the center are partially translated, and the journey from the airport to the center and then the precious Ayeyarwaddy River are also shown in this video. 

Many local meditators and monks gathered for this occasions, as many will do around the world in the coming months when the one year anniversary of his death approaches, and people will meditate and give Sangha Dana in his memory.

Friday, 5 September 2014

A Special Tree in Ingyinbin

Three large trees are planted in a line at Webu Monastery in Ingyinbin. One is Lin Loon, and the other two are Bodhi trees. The largest one is in the northwest corner. Between the branches of the second Bodhi tree, Webu Sayadaw instructed Sayagyi U Ba Khin to place the hair that had just been shaven from his head for his 1965 ordination. With this, he also made the prediction that U Ba Khin would play an important role in spreading Buddha’s teachings, reportedly telling him that “Buddha’s teaching are in your hands.” U Ba Khin himself scooped up half of his hair and placed them in medicine bottles, putting them on his Buddha alter back at International Meditation Centre (IMC). Today, every IMC pagoda in the world has some of this hair enshrined in it. Before leaving the compound after disrobing, U Ba Khin offered dana to repair the walls and seating areas around these trees.

Pilgrims from the 2013-4 Pariyatti Pilgrimage can be seen walking around the tree. A travel diary from this trip can be read here, and information about upcoming pilgrimages can be found here.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Meal at Metta Shin

On the first day of the 2014 year, pilgrims from a dozen countries came together to share breakfast at Thoke Da Metta Shin Monastery in Hmawbi. This was part of a three week pilgrimage throughout Burma that visited important sites where the Dhamma has been preserved and is still practiced. One may also attend pilgrimages this year, and one full scholarship will be offered.

Pilgrims meditate inside mosquito nets in the Sima Hall at Thoke Da Monastery in Hmawbi

The Metta Shin Sayadaw is highly regarded throughout Myanmar as he coordinates a vast amount of humanitarian projects, ranging from health to education to sustainable development. He was very happy to host this pilgrimage group, who came with noble intentions to practice meditation in the Golden Land. Metta Shin Sayadaw has written over 20 books, and two were translated in English, and he regularly speaks to audiences in the thousands. He leads an annual New Year's course in which over 4,000 yogis attend! Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, he has just disrobed last month to become married, a rare occurrence for Burmese senior monks and Sayadaws.

Three American yogis from the following pilgrimage outside their room. One ordained at IMC in the 1970s, and another ordained the following month at Shwekyin Monastery

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

“There are indeed fully liberated ones living even in this age.”

Although the following story relating to how Webu Sayadaw acquired the Buddha relics has been thoroughly discussed with several people knowledgeable about the event, it must be stated that the circumstances surrounding the event are still not entirely confirmed. The video above shows the relics being wrapped by novices at Kan Oo Monastery in Ingyinbin.

The story begins in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where Italian monk U Lawkanatha was a personal associate of the Prime Minister, who was said to be a devout Buddhist. While several different people confirmed it was in fact the particular Ceylonese Prime Minister in question, the precise leader was not able to be confirmed by name. It is known that Webu Sayadaw visited Kandy in January 1958, and the acting Prime Minister at this time was S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, although one person did indicate they thought it was the previous Prime Minister, John Kotelawala.

As the story goes, the Sri Lankan leader was lamenting the fact to U Lawkanatha that there were no fully enlightened beings left in the world, to which the Italian monk responded, “there are indeed fully liberated ones living even in this age.” He went on to describe his experience in Ingyinbin and with the venerable Webu Sayadaw. The Prime Minister was so impressed that he voiced his wish to have the Burmese monk flown to Ceylon at his earliest convenience. Pictures of Webu Sayadaw’s visit to Kandy give some indication of his stay here, and it was during this trip that he was presented with original Buddha relics, which he brought back to store at his monastery in Ingyinbin.

The relics themselves rest in an ornamented lacquer stand in the shape of a white lotus flower. Mounted upon a dark wooden base, there is a small central cup in the middle, and the relics are spread out among the lacquer flower petals. This entire object is carefully sealed in a protective box (itself covered with gold leaf) and wrapped in many dozen of layers of fine silken cloths. Anpetu Yamut describes his experience, noting “they brought out what were said to be relics of the Buddha, which looked like very small crystal clear pearls in a ceramic lotus flower for me to place on the top of my head… After each presentation they would offer the container of the relics to me with both hands to place on the top of my head for blessing/inspiration.”

In his day, Webu Sayadaw would very carefully carry these relics with him wherever he went, and a more formal carrying apparatus is on display on the Paṭipatti side. These days, on special occasions, the relics will be carried in a procession around the monastery or village, and at select times may be taken out for devotees to pay their respects and meditate before. Some very fortunate yogis have even been able to meditate while the relics are positioned above their head. Because of the reverence towards these relics, please note that they are not taken out at every visit and should not be requested to be seen directly.

Paying Respects to Maha Gandayone Sayadaw

Two nuns from Sagaing pay respects to the statue of Maha Gandayone Sayadaw

Maha Gandayone Sayadaw was one of the great Burmese monks of the Golden Age of Burmese Buddhism of the post-war era, joining such other illuminaries as Webu Sayadaw, Sun Lun Sayadaw, Mahasi Sayadaw, Mogok Sayadaw, and others. He had great visions of transforming the faith, and was known for his outspokenness on issues of the day. He wished to see monastic education stripped to its core function of learning the suttas, without the emphasis on extreme examination preparation, and felt that many traditional Burmese Buddhist practices had little to do with the essence of the Buddha's teachings. While he died nearly 40 years ago, Maha Gandayone's voice still resounds powerfully today when concerning matters of the Dhamma in Burma. Several of his monasteries are still functioning today, including his main site in Amarapura, near U Bein's Bridge.

How Burmese Buddhists teach their children about the Buddha

While Japanese have their manga and Americans have their super heroes, many comics in Burma are used as mediums or tools for teaching the young about the Buddha. This comic is about Mahosadha, who is a Buddha-to-be from one of his previous lifetimes.