Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Maha Bodawin Museum

Near Shwedagon Pagoda, meditators may wish to visit the Maha Bodawin Museum, which is underneath the Western Entrance. Not to be missed outside the museum are the original teak posts that King Tharrawaddy used to make the Southern Stairway in the mid 19th century. One section is funded by the Goenka family, and overall this museum teaches visitors about the Buddha’s life and the Dhamma that he imparted, as well as more recent Burmese Buddhist history. The museum features a combination of paintings, murals, statues, dioramas, and other artistic and educational exhibits. 

This section on Bodhgaya was funded by the Goenka Family

One of the many paintings to be found at the museum

"The Practice at the Beginning"

The following narrative continues the story of a Mexican meditator who has been in Burma for many years. This is the third entry, and the beginning post can be found here.

"Before arriving in Myanmar, I completed a three-month retreat in Thailand where I learned about the four Application of Mindfulness. The reason why I chose to come to Myanmar was mainly for safety, and not because of any particular teacher in the country. I did not know anything about the teachers here, actually. Since the very beginning when I became introduced to Buddhism, I was told that I first need to find a good teacher. I was told that I should not follow a monk or nun just because they wear different clothes. What is important is the quality of mind that the person has, but the form of the person does not matter. If he is a monk, nun, layperson or even a person from another tradition, it does not matter, because what is important is the knowledge that the person has. It is important to make sure that the qualities of the teacher are of a very high standard, because you will develop as the teacher is. So it is important to make sure you become like someone that you find inspiring! For that reason, the first months I spent at Shew Oo Min I was testing the teacher, to see how skilful he was, how kind, how he was communicating with the students and how well he was answering the questions.

Moreover, my teachers in the past told me to focus mainly on a primary object. Normally the breath is a perfect object in order to gain some stability of mind, and they were very interested in helping their students to practice samathā. That was one point that was a bit confusing for me. Since long ago I listened to many dhamma talks where they explained the benefits of samathā, and now, the new teacher at Shwe Oo Min was mentioning that samathā was not needed for the practice! That was confusing. I did not know if I believed him or not… His instructions were not very clear to me at first. The way he was explaining, the method that he was teaching did not seem so well structured compared with what I was used to. I felt like he already knew a lot of the practice and because of that, he was taking for granted many small explanation about the practice that perhaps could be useful for beginners.

I read the books they gave me in the monastery many times to make sure I was understanding correctly the practice. But my progress was very slow. I had a lot of doubts about what the teacher was saying. However, I continued to follow his instructions. One thing is that I found it very suitable to allow the mind to choose any object. That helped me not to use much energy, because the mind was doing it anyway. At the beginning most of the time what the mind was choosing happened to be the sensations in the body. I remember I used to have a lot of pain in the head because of the heat. So that was my primary object as well as the breath. It took me a while to stop following the breath because I used to be very confident when I was following it. For me the instructions were not fully clear and I was constantly confused about how to practice."

Read the next entry here.

Ajahn Panna: 2. Life Story

The great British monk Ajahn Panna was ordained in the Thai Forest Tradition, and was blessed with the revered teacher Ajahn Maha Boowa. Ajahn Panna was one of the first known Westerners to ordain, and was widely believed in his lifetime to be an arahant. Although his life intersects little with Burma, his inspiring, five-part biography is being shared here. May this offer inspiration to meditators and monastics everywhere.

This video shows the life of the future monk while he was still a layman living in the United Kingdom. Part One can be watched here. For the next one, go here.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A California Sangha Dana in Honor of S.N. Goenka

One year following the passing of the great lay meditation teacher Sayagyi U Goenka, a Sangha Dana was organized in his honor in Azusa, California, at the Dhammakaya International Meditation Center. U Goenka had visited here in 2002 on the Meditation Now tour. This time, over one thousand guests attended, including many bhikkhus and nuns. There to photograph it was Mitchell Walker, and he has kindly allowed his images to be shared on this blog. Many of these photographs will be included a book that will come out in the following months.

These placards indicate the diversity of Sanghas represented at the event

The Vietnamese table

One regional group from Southeast Asia poses for a photo

Sangha Dana is served before noon

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tourists to the Present Moment at Dhamma Dhara

Sayagyi U Goenka has successfully made the liberating activity of Burmese meditation available throughout the world, and to countries where the Buddha's pure teachings have never reached in the 2500 years since Gautama Buddha himself taught the Dhamma. In this essay, author John Fallot describes his own experiences of attending such a course in America for the first time, which took place at Dhamma Dhara. For those well-accustomed to practice as it is found in Buddhist countries, is account may be intriguing to read.

Here is an excerpt from the post:

"The day’s remainder wasn’t too important, beyond the stating of the rules and the start of the Noble Silence. Indeed, it would be in poor taste for me to expound on it too greatly, since there is something very sacrosanct about first steps — nor will I describe the discourses of S.N. Goenka in detail. But as I will say repeatedly, it is to be experienced."

Guide for Dhamma Servers at Vipassana centers

This wonderful instructional video was made to help guide Dhamma Servers at Vipassana centers in the Sayagyi U Goenka tradition throughout India. It is from several decades ago, and demonstrates the great care and concern that is taken towards all students to provide maximum comfort and support for their ten-day course experiences, so that they may all be successful in learning the technique properly. Although the video may be dated, what remains just as relevant today is the attentive service that is provided to meditation students at all the Vipassana centers to be found throughout the world today. This instructional video provides a wonderful insight into the attentiveness to be found behind the scenes of running a course.

For those interested in taking (or serving on) a ten day course, please go here.

Sayadaw U Tejaniya in Kalaw 3

In this third of eight parts, Sayadaw U Tejaniya continues his Dhamma discussion in Kalaw. He is answering questions at the Shwe Oo Min Monastery in Kalaw, from a group of foreign meditators and monks. This is precious footage that can now be shared with those all over the world who endeavor to follow the Buddha's teachings of peace.

To begin at the first part, go here.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Jack Kornfield honors S.N. Goenka

Monks stand before a photo of S.N. Goenka, with his final remains in a glass case, at the Vipassana center in Mandalay

On his website, American author Jack Kornfield has offered these words on the passing of S.N. Goenka:

"In every generation, there are a few visionary and profound masters who hold high the lamp of the Dharma to illuminate the world. Like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, Ven. S.N. Goenka, was one of the great world masters of our time. Brilliant and charismatic, tireless advocate for the transformative power of meditation practice, supporter of retreats encouraging hundreds of thousands to have a direct experience of wisdom, founder of 172 meditation centers worldwide, and man of virtue, samadhi and understanding, Goenka has passed away at age 90.

He always taught meditation as an inner exploration, urging students to simply 'Come and see for yourself.' Born and trained in Burma, Goenka was an inspiration and teacher for Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, Ram Dass, Daniel Goleman, and many other western spiritual leaders.

His style of Vipassana practice, awareness of the breath and mindful awareness of the vibrations and energy field of the body brings deep understandings of impermanence, inner purification and freedom. This practice has been used in health care, prisons, schools businesses and meditation centers across the globe.

From Spirit Rock and the whole movement of the Dharma in the west we offer bows of gratitude and respect for all he has offered, prayers of blessings for him and continuing appreciation for all who follow his example in Dharma practice and selfless service."

More photos from Sangha Dana at Wei Har Ree Nunnery

Ma Khaing has shared more photos of their Sangha Dana on October 16 at Wei Har Ree Nunnery in Mandalay, in honor of Ko Kyaw Ngwe. More information can be found here about the event.

Ma Khaing and family sort through offerings prior to giving them to the Sangha. Bhikkhu Agga can be seen standing on the right side

Ma Khaing stands at the head of a line of nuns as her daughters look on while smiling

Ma Khaing gives a collection of requisites to a young nun as her family looks on

Ma Khaing and her daughters prepare to offer requisite bags to nuns

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Photos of Sangha Dana at Wei Har Ree Nunnery

Ma Khaing has shared photos from the Sangha Dana that was given in memory of our dear Dhamma friend Ko Kyaw Ngwe, and as was described by Bhikkhu Agga, who attended. Following are photos from event:

Ma Khaing presents robes to Bhikkhu Agga

Ma Khaing's family follows the traditional yay sat ceremony of pouring water at the end of the monk's Dhamma discourse

Bhikkhu Agga mindfully eats the Sangha Dana that was presented to him

Ma Khaing wanders through the nuns' hall refilling their food 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Sangha Dana at Mandalay Nunnery for Kyaw Ngwe

Bhikkhu Agga was in Mandalay and able to participate with the family in Ma Khaing as they offered dana at Wei Har Ree Nunnery in Mandalay, in memory of Ko Kyaw Ngwe. He offers his reflections on the event, to share with all those Dhamma friends who were there in spirit, if not body:

"I don't know what I can tell that might be interesting, everything went almost exactly as it should have gone :) 

Ma Khaing was nicely in control, without much stress, having time to meet and check up with everyone.

There were about 30 laypeople, 60 nuns, and 6 monks.
Monks were offered food at 10:30 a.m., a few minutes later the nuns, and when the monks finished their first course, the food was served to all the lay people in attendance. Around 11:15 the lay people took refuge in Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha) and then took the five precepts, followed by a Dhamma Desena (or Dhamma Talk by the Sayadaw), after which some more requisites were offered to the monks and nuns. When this all was done, merits were shared in U Kyaw Ngwe's name, and the visitors slowly departed.

One thing which struck me, was that even though the whole event was organized to share merits with U Kyaw Ngwe, it felt that in a way it worked also the other way around: it was because of U Kyaw Ngwe's good actions (kusala) in his human life, he was able to get now all these people together to get merits. Because of that, I there was a lot of Mudita and gratitude towards him :)"

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Introduction to Vipassana in the tradition of Sayagyi U Goenka

This collage offers footage from various public talks hosted by Sayagyi U Goenka. The great lay meditation teacher gives some very inspiring discourses that may be of help to meditators around the world who are working and walking on the Path. For anyone considering taking a ten-day course at one of the many Vipassana centers around the world, this video is a wonderful introduction.

May all grow and glow in Dhamma!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Photos of Sister Dipankara's Nunnery in Pyin Oo Lwin

For more on Sister Dipankara's center, Brahma Vihara, see here.

“Sister’s arrival reminds us of the arrival of Venerable Arahant Sanggamittha many centuries before. That incident paved the way for the release from this circle of ‘Samsara’ for the Sri Lanken women. Therefore, your arrival also will be like her great service for the present Sri Lanken women-kind… Many times in my life, I have seen some Buddhist nuns. You are different from them because you are very disciplined. And your solemn behavior not only touches my heart but also that of others, greatly. Also your meritorious smile shows your modesty. Actually you are a great daughter of Lord Buddha.” Letter from a Sri Lankan disciple of Sayalay Dipankara

"The Nuns' Alms Round: A Good Time to Practice Equanimity"

The following is a beautiful reflection from a Chinese meditator who practiced in the tradition of S.N. Goenka before coming to Burma. After taking just one ten-day course in Malaysia, she found herself with the overwhelming desire to seek a life of purity, even if only temporarily, where she could devote herself to spiritual practice. She left her job in finance in China, and made her way to Burma after taking a second course at the Chinese Vipassana center. After staying at Shwe Oo Min monastery briefly in Yangon, she took robes as a nun at the highly esteemed That Kya nunnery. In the stunning narrative that follows, she describes how her mindful practice has informed the alms rounds taken as a Buddhist nun. Her description offers yet another example of the profound Dhamma experience that await those foreign yogis who come to the Golden Land for serious practice. 

A photo of the ordination of the Chinese meditator/nun at That Kya Nunnery, which took place in October 2014

"I learnt from Venerable Goenkaji's discourse that when the monks or nuns go alms rounds, it is good time to practice equanimity. Whatever they get, they need to keep equanimous.

Suddenly I got chance to go alms rounds. Oh I felt excited not because I intended to practice equanimity but to experience a totally new thing. Not many can do it in this life.

My friend Ma Rupasiri borrowed nun's umbrella and alms bowl for me. I borrowed Ma Devamani's longyi which was made in Vietnam with the upper end tied by an elastic rope. This was very helpful for a new longyi dresser. After breakfast, we started in queen well-armed. :)

Just when we got out of the gate, Ma Rupasiri following behind me murmured to me Ma Khemartheri don't make friction sound between the slippers and the ground. Oh actually I could not move fast wearing longyi. The longyi was too long and tight to make a big step. But I got to be careful not to make that sound and tried my best catch up the queue.

It seemed we walked for a long distance till we got our first alms offerings. I saw monks holding their bowls walking on the road. Most of them are very slim. Some monks went alms round in group. Some others did it alone. I felt respect for them from the bottom of my heart. Every time we received givings, Sayalays chanted paritta to send merits to the giver for Dana. Most of the offerings were raw rice. Sometimes people offer cash, candies, cakes or other requisites, such as soaps. I kept high enthusiasm along all the way and observed my mind to some high extent. Well I have to say that I recognized myself as a new person with some evil wills and shameful prejudice. There is a big 'self' related to every thought flow. Especially during the first time, I judged all the way. The mind was like a naughty baby. It is swift and conditioned in many negative ways. I am lucky in that I started to learn mindful meditation. No matter what happens, just observe it. If I took all the ridiculous thoughts as 'my', I guess I would not want to go alms round again!

I paid attention to how much rice people offered and labeled with' less' or 'more'. Also when people donated cash, I noticed the denomination or sometimes when donator gave every nun cash, I thought this man is so generous! Sometimes we waited at the gate and the householder just sit in the yard, she did not move. Oh in my mind' she does not move'! ....When we came back to the nunnery the first day, I was told that all donations except for rice and money belong to you now. Oh that was a big surprise. I thought we were supposed to hand in all donations. So the second day when going alms round, I was thinking 'why no people offer cakes today'. But I found I did not care about the rice and cash as much as the first day. And the cake relevant thought came to my mind once or twice. Then I did not pay much attention to the donations. It seems I began to feel grateful for their Dana. At my third time, when we got full bowl, I was thinking oh this is enough for one week. It was no easy to carry the donations with nuns special dress under big sun walking for hours. Sometimes I felt drowsy just following the queen moving without thinking too much. Or probably I did think a lot. Just the mind is too swift and subtle to see.

There were not only negative feelings or thoughts. Sometimes compassion arised when seeing poor families. Or I felt quite happy for little children who did Dana with the help go their parents. They are brought up at such a religious environment worth of veneration. I sincerely wished that they have a happy and peaceful life.

We stopped for twice or three times to unload the donations and gained some energy by enjoying the householder's traditional Desserts (juice in the afternoon). The golden hearted nuns took care of me as their baby. And they said so: I was like their daughter. :) 

There is no lacking of happiness and smiles here. We are happy nuns.
At this very moment, I feel gratitude to all givers. As Buddha's teaching shows we should recollect on the donations both when receiving it and using it. I hope I can be a better one. 

May all beings be happy. :)"

Taw Tai Monastic School

Taw Tai Monastery in Yangon is an exquisite educational center that also offers regular meditation retreats, teaching Vipassana practice. The monastic school has about 350 novices and 100 monks. Buddhist courses are offered five days per week, with Saturday and Sunday free. Its meditation retreats are approximately ten days long, and are usually attended by about 100 people. 

The Dhamma Hall at Taw Tai where the Vipassana courses are held

Foreigners are welcome to join the meditation courses, where they can learn the traditional Burmese Buddhist meditation practice. Also, those who have the volition may serve the meditation courses of the monks and novices, or that of the Burmese lay people. Yogis can also join the classes, and even teach those such as English, where their help may be quite welcome. 

For any Dhamma practitioners who are making their way through the Golden Land, a visit to Taw Tai is surely a must-see!

The monastery sign

A tropical monastery

Monday, 13 October 2014

Sangha Dana at a Mandalay Nunnery for Our Dhamma Friend Ko Kyaw Ngwe

In two days time, Ma Khaing and her family will donate generously at a Mandalay nunnery in honor of our dear Dhamma friend, Ko Kyaw Ngwe. He passed away on October 16, 2013 after a long battle with cancer. Ma Khaing wishes to inform meditators around the world so that they can do any of the following
  • Join the ceremony on October 16 in Mandalay 
  • Contribute to dana that will be given on this day 
  • Send metta and keep their family in your hearts and mind on this day 
  • Share stories or photos of Ko Kyaw Ngwe

May all beings be peaceful, happy, and liberated.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sayadaw U Tejaniya in Kalaw 2

In this second of eight parts, Sayadaw U Tejaniya continues his Dhamma discussion in Kalaw. He is answering questions at the Shwe Oo Min Monastery in Kalaw, from a group of foreign meditators and monks. This is precious footage that can now be shared with those all over the world who endeavor to follow the Buddha's teachings of peace.

To see the first part, go here. For the third part, go here.

"Social and cultural differences"

The following narrative continues the story of a Mexican meditator who has been in Burma for many years. This is the second entry, and the beginning post can be found here.

"When I arrived at Shwe Oo Min monastery I did not understand anything. I asked a foreigner Sayalay to tell me the rules and regulations of the monastery but she only told me to keep eight precepts. For me it was very obvious that I should not kill anyone there, I should not steal, lie, take intoxicants and so on. What I did not know was how the monastery operated in the daily basis. I did not know that I needed to line in the women side for breakfast and lunch, how to do cleaning, if it was ok to stay in the room or not, how I should get a sit in the meditation hall etc.

I figured out all this step by step and making a lot of mistakes that sometimes made others a bit upset. For that reason, the beginning of the retreat was not very pleasant and calm, because I was constantly worried about if I would do something wrong. Little by little the intensity of this fear subsided, I watched what other yogis were doing and I tried to imitate them. However, I must say that getting familiar with the rules of the monastery was very confusing and chaotic. Usually I have been informed about the rules when I was going to a new meditation center.

The dress code was also very strange to me. In the others retreats I did, I was dressing in a more conservative style. But at Burmese monasteries the standards were even more conservative than what I was used to. So these clothes I was used to wearing were not suitable here. For me this was shocking, because at the monastery they were constantly asking me to dress more conservatively. However, in my own perspective monks were not dressing very conservative. Their shoulder was uncovered and sometimes it was even possible to see the complete torso. This is something that I’ve never experienced before.

The behaviour among women and men were very new to me as well. It is not encouraged for men and women to spend much time together. For Mexicans especially, such an experience is so weird. In Mexican culture these problems are not present, it is not something that we ever encounter. So for me it brought a lot of tension because I was not fully sure how I should behave. Whatever was very natural and innocent for me according to my own background, in Burmese culture was now considered completely different. But I tried adapted my behaviour to the conditions that were suitable for Myanmar culture.

The relationship between monks and women are so formalized that I found it a bit scary to know how to relate to them. Sometimes I felt they were paying too much attention to something that it was not that important. I also found that a good teacher will have an incredible ethical conduct with his/her students.

Burmese culture is very concerned about right ethical conduct, and tries to avoid as much as possible lustful speech and behaviour, which is very proper for any religious person. However, sometimes it felt that some people were trying so hard to be free from greed that they were developing aversion instead, which is not a solution for the problem. I felt that it was better to give importance to developing a wholesome mind and proper volition in any given interaction.

I experienced something similar when we were asked, later on in the monastery to wear longyi. Before everyone could wear any kind of loose clothes. However, the use of pants in a monastery is something unusual in Myanmar, they asked us to wear longyi. I was told by yogis that this rule came to the monastery because the novices were experiencing lust by seeing how the foreign women dressed, so they decided to change the dress code. For me this was also very new, because in Mexico wearing loose pants is considered to be a particularly conservative and safe clothing choice for women. I think women in the mid 20th century in Mexico were scolded if they did not wear dresses, but our times have changed. I guess it is just different timings for different places."

Saturday, 11 October 2014

"For a future, let's work together!"

Two Sagaing nuns have joined together to create a small organization called Yaung Chi Oo, which teaches "Civic and Ethical Education" and English language classes. These two nuns spend their free time by going to poor, rural parts of Myanmar and teaching classes on English language, as well as giving Buddhist meditation instruction.

In their own language, the group has ten main goals:
  1. To introduce the Buddha Dhamma in their daily lives.
  2. To instill a sense of good behavior and encourage mental development through the Buddha Dhamma.
  3. To improve their reading skills through familiarization with books.
  4. To build self confidence and overall well being of future good citizens
  5. Buddhist ethical education and civic education for basic and progressive levels.
  6. Sharing and discussion on application of the Buddha Dhamma in Daily Life.
  7. To purify the mind by practicing meditation.
  8. To teach the Buddha Dhamma in English.
  9. English language and grammar for basic and intermediate levels.
  10. Basic computer course.

 They are only able to travel to such regions and give school materials and short meditation courses based on dana. For those that would like to support their efforts by giving dana or donating their own skills in workshops or classes, please contact us and we can put you in touch with these wonderful nuns.

As the slogan of Yaung Chi Oo is, "For a future, let's work together!"

Kyaikkasan Pariyatti-Patipatti Nunnery

Kyaikkasan Pariyatti-Patipatti Nunnery is in Thinganyun, and home to 150 nuns. The head abbess, Daw Dhukhavati, has amazingly been in robes for 75 of her 97 years, and has a look of deep serenity in her face. They are open to hosting foreign women with proper visas, and in the past foreign nuns have stayed here. They also host 7-10 meditation courses for their own nuns, to be taken after they have passed their examinations (the nuns study five days per week, and also have cooking and cleaning duties). There is a beautiful Dhamma Hall where one would be able to pursue one’s own practice. The grounds are kept in good condition and a large monastic school is housed in a multi-story yellow building and also double as dormitories for the nuns. Note that males are not allowed to enter this building at any time.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Ajahn Panna: 1. Intro

The great British monk Ajahn Panna was ordained in the Thai Forest Tradition, and was blessed with the revered teacher Ajahn Maha Boowa. Ajahn Panna was one of the first known Westerners to ordain, and was widely believed in his lifetime to be an arahant. Although his life intersects little with Burma, his inspiring, five-part biography is being shared here. May this offer inspiration to meditators and monastics everywhere.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Sayadaw U Tejaniya in Kalaw 1

Once per year, in winter, Sayadaw U Tejaniya goes to his Shwe Oo Min monastery in Kalaw. Usually he brings a retinue of monks, nuns, and meditators. Included in this group are foreigners from around the world. As they enjoy the dense pinewood forests and fresh mountain air, the Sayadaw generously provides his time for Question and Answer sessions to these yogis. This series of videos show some of U Tejaniya's responses to a recent winter trip. Recorded on video, they now offer a priceless opportunity for meditators around the world to hear the wisdom of U Tejaniya

To see the second talk from Kalaw, please see here.

(More of the Sayadaw's talks can be heard here)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"How I Got To Myanmar"

The following story is the beginning of a tale by a Mexican yogi who has been in Burma for many years. This tells how she first arrived in the country. The next post in the series can be found here.

"I came to Myanmar as a tourist with my parents. Before my arrival I was doing retreats in Nepal and Thailand and I was looking for a suitable meditation centre where I could keep practicing. However I knew almost nothing about Myanmar. I just went there because my family wanted to travel.

One of the first places we visit in Yangon was the pagoda next to the Theravada Buddhist University. In the pagoda they had some relics from the Buddha and Sariputta. I was very excited to have access to these relics because in Mexico, every time that some relics come, there are long lines of people that want to see them. In this pagoda, there were very few people.

The tourist guide asked me if I was Buddhist and I told him that I was interested in meditation. He took us to his Spanish teacher who happens to study in the Theravada Buddhist University (ITBMU) and told us about Shwe Oo Min Meditation Centre. He told us that it was a suitable meditation centre for foreigners. That evening we went to visit the meditation centre and we met Sayadaw U Tejaniya, who explained us how the monastery function and gave me a sponsor letter.

I left Myanmar and went to Cambodia. Before my visit to Myanmar I had planned to ask for an Indian visa to look for a meditation centre in Dharamsala. Suddenly, I heard about an Indian girl who was raped by six Indian men in a public transport. That news made me not to go to India and chose Myanmar instead. Even though I did not have any information about the teacher Sayadaw U Tejaniya, my experience in Myanmar was very pleasant. The city was very safe and people were extremely gentle and kind, so the conditions for the practice seemed to be ok. So I decided to move to Myanmar.

In my arrival to Myanmar, local people helped me a lot. The tourist guide who had introduced me to U Tejaniya picked me up and brought me to a monastery outside of Yangon where I could rest a little bit before going to Shew Oo Min Monastery. I was the first foreigner who was visiting that monastery. People were very curious about me and they wanted to talk with me. I found it very charming. A local nun was looking after me and gave me a shelter, food and company. Now this monastery is my home in Yangon. Every time I need to go to a new monastery in other district, I stop with this Sayalay (the Burmese word for nun) to say hello, spend some time, gain some energy and love to start a new retreat."

We remember Ko Kyaw Ngwe

A reminder that October 16 is the one year anniversary of the passing of Ko Kyaw Ngwe, a dear Dhamma friend of so many of us around the world. Those that wish to give dana to the Mandalay nunnery may do so via Ma Khaing, as details here explain. Meditators may also remember his family in their meditation and send metta on this important day.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Good Throughout Samsara

“What the parents give their children as a legacy will do good to them only for this life. If the parents give them the teachings of the Buddha, that will do good to them throughout all of Samsara. Character building should start early in life, from childhood. You can’t learn to build good character when you are advanced in age. It’s not easy. Even though young children may not be able to understand the first characteristic of saddha (faith), they can perform good deeds in emulation of their elders and teachers. They can pay homage to the Three Jewels of Buddhism, offer alms, and do service to others. While doing such good deeds they enjoy the fruits of the second characteristic of saddha, clarity of mind.” 

Thadingyut at Sektha Dittha nunnery

That Kya is one of the more famous nunneries in Myanmar. It is also known as Sektha Dittha. Sektha refers to the clan name of Gautama Buddha, and dittha is daughter, so the nunnery may be known as “Daughters of the Buddha.” The story of its founding is inspiring. One daughter greatly wished to become a nun, and three days after she did, both her parents did, followed by her brother sixteen days later. Except for her brother, the rest of the family has stayed in robes. In 1998, she, her mother, and her close friend wished to create a high quality nunnery. They connected with Dr. Hiroko Kawanami from Japan, who purchased land for the monastic site, and the renowned Sayadaw U Thiloka became their mentor, helping them to get the nunnery established. A beautiful photo of the three Burmese nuns hangs today in the room where visitors are received. Past visitors have remarked the degree of cleanliness found here, seen in the most careful of details such as how the sandals are perfectly arranged outside a hall.

The holiday seen in these photos is called Thadingyut, which marks the end of Buddhist Lent. Thadin refers to an observance, in this case, the observance of 8-10 precepts sīla; gyut means to be completed for finished. Thus, Thadingyut refers to the fact that the stricter following of 8-10 precepts during Buddhist Lent is over, and people begin to observe 5 precepts again. During this holiday new robes are again offered as they are at Waso, because by this time the intense rains have likely worn many of the old ones out.

Held on a full moon day that typically falls on September or October, it celebrates the time when Buddha descended from the heavenly realms to preach Abhidhamma. He had been teaching Celestial Beings—among them his own mother—in Tāvatiṃsa (the Abode of the Gods) for the duration of Lent, and as he ascended back to the world, the devas created three staircases made of gold, silver, and precious gems that spanned the sky stretching to earth, and lit up the entire universe. For this reason, the three-day holiday is today marked by illuminating the entire country with candles. Families will go to shrines, monasteries, caves, and pagodas and place candles on every surface, hence its name as Festival of Lights. In general, lights are thought to bring about a greater intellectual prowess, and during exam times in March many pagodas also become full of candles.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Internship with Compassionate Travels Myanmar

Compassionate Travels Myanmar is announcing the following opportunity:
"Myanmar Travel Agency Outreach Internship 
If you're interested in an internship and your interest and focus aligns with the following three areas pertinent to our internship needs; those being, 1) you like to write and/or create media for marketing purposes, 2) you appreciate and practice the teachings of the Buddha, and 3) have interest in travel to Myanmar, have traveled to Myanmar, or are researching Myanmar/Burma and Burma Dhamma culture, you may have found a valuable internship opportunity with us at Compassionate Travels Myanmar.

Description of Internship: With this internship, one (or maybe two) individuals will learn of our corporate travel venture, find out about current and future outreach plans, and access untold narratives which have been collected by CTM for years. The primary role of this position is to outreach, identify and multiply consistent, respectful connection with Buddha-Dhamma newsletters, blogs, email chains, stores, and associations worldwide. The aim is to attract visitors to Myanmar through our company by distributing write-ups, creating posters, submitting publications which portray Myanmar in a realistic way, and making creative media projects to broaden our visibility. This internship is mostly computer based which makes it possible from anywhere in the world, though with a second intern, physically going to places and presenting CTM and Burma Dhamma related material may be possible. It will involve creation and use of shared documents (i.e. Google Docs, etc.) to make records and keep a clean stream of information for the whole CTM business team to utilize. 
In this role, one can inspire others to travel to Myanmar where the Dhamma is abundant in opportunities to offer Sangha Dana, take meditation (even take monastic life for the inclined), participate in a pilgrimage with us, or much more. This light, 10-15 hour/week pace isn't paid, but for the right candidate, it will easily become Dhammic inspiration to outreach on our behalf regarding the Burma Buddha Dhamma. Who knows, if there is enough growth through the position, a future with CTM isn't necessarily out of the question.
This current, seasonal position is ideal for honest writers/marketers who can create and take things on alone, and who can put in up to 15 hours/week. 
Contact us at we'd like to schedule a Skype interview and follow-up for this position. We are looking to bring one (or two) people up to speed with CTM as soon as possible! Credit for internship and references provided upon satisfying collective expectations and time frames."

Connect with Burma-Dhamma on Twitter!

To keep informed about Burmese news related to Dhamma, meditation, monastic issues, and other Buddhist activities, follow our twitter account, or find us @ShweLanGaLay. Blog entries are announced here, and other real time information, including photos and videos, may also be shared. 

Shwe Oo Min Monks return from alms round

At Shwe Oo Min Monastery, monks return from their alms round. Rain or shine, they walk every morning at around 7 am for one hour in their neighborhood. They are given rice, curries, and snacks from village homes and stalls. The monks seen here show the diversity found at Shwe Oo Min-- there are Burmese monks, of course, as well as others coming from various Asian and Western countries.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

S.N. Goenka in Holland

On the "Inner Peace for a Better World" European Tour in 2002, S.N. Goenka gives a Dhamma Discourse and answers questions in the Netherlands.

The Many Uses of a Burmese Egg Shell

This is bathroom of Sayadaw U Paññāvamsa's parents' home, photo by U Sarana.

U Sarana has shared the following interesting information:

"Egg-shells are, in Myanmar, used as a kind of non-soil fertilizer. They take a "used", empty egg-shell and cover with it a growing orchid (!!) so that it grows bigger and more beautiful. This is why you may see upside-down egg-shells in flowerpots when you visit some people's gardens. The egg-shells are actually washed and in pieces placed around the growing plant. These kinds of natural fertilizers are common in private houses, because it's cheap. In commercial agriculture, though, are used the commercial fertilizers."

A Face-to-Face society

Myanmar is very much a “real-time” culture, meaning actual interaction with people in person goes a much longer way than remote coordination. Face to face discussions can often resolve matters fairly quickly, while extensive discussions from a distance may not always be as effective. For this reason, for those wishing to stay at monasteries or make other requests, you will always be best served by presenting yourself in person to the Sayadaw and stating your wishes clearly at this time.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Some Inner Relief and Peace in the Sagaing Hills

“When she climbed the hills, with the yellow blossoms and glossy green eaves of the frangipani trees, and looked at the winding river with its foaming white currents, she did feel some inner relief and peace.”

--Ma Ma Lay, Not out of Hate

[from scene where the female protagonist has left her loveless marriage in Rangoon to join her mother, a nun, in the Sagaing Hills]