Monday, 6 June 2016

Ingyinbin Journal: Pottery Making and Vipassana Practice

John, a meditator from New Zealand, spends extended periods in Ingyinbin each year, the home of the revered Webu Sayadaw and with his friend Ashin Mandala. This winter, he has decided to keep a journal, which he has kindly offered to share with us. His journal alternates between observation and poetry, between meditation practice and commentary about Burmese Buddhist society, from his learnings and his questions. The full collection of his musings can be found here.

1 February 

Day trip to the pot-making factory Kyaukmyaung, near the Irrawaddy, west of Shwebo
Kyaukmyaung pottery: orange mounds of stone
crushed to fine dust, doused
& struck on the wheel: Vipassana.
Soon on to the Hanlin Museum commemorating the Pyu people’s civilisation, but before that the group is shown various artefacts and scrolls assembled in the upper monastery room occupied by the visiting Russian academic, researching nineteenth century Buddhist Sangha texts - co-incidentally the same person we met a couple of visits back in an ancient cave in the Sagayan hills where he was painstakingly taking photographs of images in the cave and appeared equally distracted. But Kyaukmyaung: a tiny aperture low at the rear of one of the five or six large brick kilns (each some 20 meters in length) allows us to view the fire capering over the pots, a wafting and deadly light. A worker feeds different grades of pre-cut firewood into another of the several kilns: one day to build the fire, having it burn for three, letting it cool a further three. The young woman who carries a few bricks at a time from a large pile of bricks wears cloth mittens, her clothes thick with dust. Children in the adjacent field containing piles of uncut logs carry and drop bits and pieces. In a bamboo chair, a worker, enjoying Uposata, watches a Burmese soap on the old tube television housed in a dusty box of wood. Women in yet another shed produce more than 50 small elegant clay pots each day: one shapes, taking only a few minutes per individual pot, while her companion spins the wheel in a regular motion by swinging her own leg to and fro with a push with each swing, reminding me of the boatmen on Inle Lake. The larger pots made elsewhere are transported using a 6 inch diameter length of bamboo pole, the pot suspended between two Burmen doing the carrying. Jamie can’t resist, and as carrier he does a fair job, just as he did swinging his leg and spinning the pottery wheel."

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