Over the last few weeks we have made our way to Upper Burma and back to Yangon, but this is first time we’ve had strong enough internet to make a post. Yet, despite the fact that we have internet, it is still very slow.
Writing this one has been a real challenge. There’s no shortage of interesting experiences to share. No, on that front our cup runneth over. Rather, our problem is choosing what to tell. Burma is also a difficult place to do justice to in writing. The smells, the sounds, the changing light, everything around you gives the country a special quality. It’s a place one has to visit to understand.
For us, this is an especially important place because it’s the country of origin for modern Vipassana meditation practice. In fact, our journey north to Mandalay, Monywa and Ingyinbin was a pilgrimage to the significant places associated with the the early Vipassana teachers here in Burma, Ledi Sayadaw and Webu Sayadaw. These were visits of respect, so to speak, as well as good intentioned curiosity about the lives of the teachers who made it possible for us to learn meditation.
The road to Mandalay
The kindness and generosity of the Burmese is inspiring. Everywhere, people go out of their way to help. And no one could go hungry while traveling here. At every monastery, every family home, every stop there is inevitably a table laden with food. People go out of their way to help you. It is more than being kind, there is an inherent understanding here that to help others is to help oneself. That being generous, even at their own inconvenience, benefits the giver as much as it benefits the receiver. It feels good to help, and give, and be generous to others. A monk we met in Monywa on our first day there adopted us for three days and guided us to every significant site in the area. The friend of a guide we met in Mandalay met us at the bus station outside of Yangon when we arrived from Mandalay and drove twenty kilometers out of his way, in morning traffic, to drive us to our hotel. He wouldn’t accept any money, even though gas prices are as high here as they are in Canada and this is a poor country. Daw Mizu and her family in Monywa have spent three generations serving monks every morning, on some days that means over 200 monks, nuns and novices! When we met her at her home, she had just hosted travelling meditators for the better part of a week. And they do this without any expectation of repayment. Her home, much like most families in Burma, has a wide open door to welcome people in. As we were leaving her home with our monk guide, she gave us a large gold laquerware piece because we had admired the fine craftsmanship of the local laquerware. This is normal in Burma. It is a very special place.
We’ve uploaded just a handful of photos we’ve taken while traveling here. And we’ve tried to provide some good commentary.
We will soon see many of you back in Canada…