Friday, 20 April 2018

Cholera and Dhamma




Cholera has long been one of the world’s most feared diseases. Especially in close unsanitary conditions, it spreads very rapidly, and can kill a healthy person in as little as three hours if left untreated (though more commonly it takes one or two days). Even today, around the globe, about 100,000 people die annually by this disease, according to the World Health Organization; before the advent of modern medicine, it was even more of a scourge.

Emanating from the Ganges Delta, cholera was endemic in Burma from at least the early 19th century. From the late 1800s to early 1900s, about 6,000 Burmese died from cholera annually, in particular along the country’s various watercourses. (From "Disease and Demography in Colonial Burma" by J. Richell) In those days, there was little in the way of infrastructure separating drinking water from sewage, especially in the countryside, and consequently cholera took its heaviest toll during the monsoon months when rain and flooding worsened the already unsanitary conditions.

Jumping forward to today, and to an enterprising foreign yogi, Jochen Meissner, (Meissner is the owner of Uncharted Horizens Myanmar, an organization that arranges bike trips in the area (www.uncharted-horizons-myanmar.com) who carries out various volunteer projects in the more impoverished parts of Dalla. One of these as been the donation of three Life Straw purification systems that filter twenty-four liters of water per hour. His wholesome deed of providing clean drinking water evokes the area’s suffering of over a century ago. Of course, cholera was what led to the tragedy of Saya Thet Gyi losing his daughter and ultimately dedicating himself to the Dhamma…which eventually led to his student Sayagyi U Ba Khin learning the practice and setting up International Meditation Centre…which led eventually to Meissner himself becoming an IMC student in Austria…and now this student in the U Ba Khin tradition completes the circle by giving the gift of that clean water back to that community.