Monday, 1 December 2014

Taung Phi Lar Meditation Center Monastery in the Sagaing Hills

In the same proximity as Padamyar Zedi Pagoda, Taung Phi Lar Monastery monastery is a site not to missed on any trip to the Golden Land, and may be worth extending a visa to arrange for a longer stay! The monastery is buried within the trees and offers a secluded and quiet atmosphere for practice. Taung Phi Lar Sayadaw was also known to reside here in the 18th century. The current Sayadaw is said to follow the weizka path.

The compound is larger than most found in the Sagaing Hills. It has a kind of mountain atmosphere to it, and its builders took advantage of the uneven ground to construct a number of residences and sites for practice that allow the meditator greater solitude. As there are rarely many yogis here, so noise is rarely a factor. The food served is strictly vegetarian.

A long set of impressive brick and stone stairs leads to the top of the compound, laid between rock walls. On the way up, one passes several caves built into the hillside. The stairway ends at a circular, open-air style meditation hall, with a small pavilion in the middle. Such a design for a meditation hall is extremely rare in Myanmar. There is a central Bodhi tree, around which yogis may meditate. Paintings are found on all the interior upper walls, including a series of life-sized scenes from the Buddha’s life. Breathtaking views of the expanding forest can be glimpsed from every side. Of particular note is a makeshift gong: on closer examination, one sees that it is a large American bomb from World War II, and a small inscription can still be made out that reads: USA Air Forces 11-43 (Burmese lettering seems to have renamed it as “Mettā Bell”). The sole windmill that exists in the Sagaing Hills is also found at this site. Finally, one can climb a meandering stairway up the slope, where two rather menacing looking cave entrances beckon off to the right, although permission should be requested prior to entering, as they may not be safe.

The Sayadaw speaks excellent English, and one can request permission from him to stay a while and practice. He can also teach and guide yogis’ practice, including the high jhanas. Aside from a Canadian monk who once spent a few months here, few foreign yogis have visited this site before. 

A statue of the original Taung Phi Lar Sayadaw

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