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Friday, 01 January 2016

Nirvana’s Horizon: Discovering the Soul of the Golden Land as a Buddhist Monk in Myanmar - Page 4

Written by Kevin Dimetres
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As I settled in, I was greeted by a cheerful monk named Sai.  Sai was a part-time monk; sometimes he would stay at the monastery for a week or two living a devout monastic lifestyle, then return to his home life in the city.  I was unaware that Buddhist monks could float freely between the two lifestyle dynamics, but as I came to later understand, the degree to which one embraces a Buddhist way of life is ultimately up to the individual.  It’s a spiritual approach to life open to anyone in any capacity- even as a part-time Buddhist monk. 

Sai knew how to say two simple words in English, and he couldn’t wait to try them on me.  He clutched an empty mug and extended his hand in my direction.

“Hello! Hello… Coffee?  Coffee!” 

I was surprised by the gesture, but I gladly accepted.  

I nodded my head, returned the smile, and enthusiastically said “Yes!”

Sai mimicked my body language, nodded his head, and responded “Yes. Yes? Yes!”

He now understood a third English word, and he couldn’t have been happier.

The oldest monk, whose name was Kyin, introduced himself to me as I drank coffee with Sai.  Kyin sported impossibly dark navy-blue eyes and was immensely proud of the fact that he was nearing his 70th birthday.  He attributed his long life to his affinity for meditating up to 6 hours a day.  He spoke a small amount of English, which he had crafted during his previous career as a businessman prior to becoming a monk.  He had lived in the monastery for only a few years, and he had a family living in another part of the city. He planned to remain a monk for the rest of his days, and professed that he was as happy now as he had ever been in his entire life.

Zaw took me to a local café for dinner a few blocks from the monastery.  He recommended a spicy curry dish and sat with me while I ate, however he could not eat himself, as the monks typically did not eat after midday.  Once we returned, I spent the rest of the afternoon playing chinlone- a traditional game visually similar to hacky-sack played with a woven rattan ball amid a circle of people- in the courtyard with the novice monks.  

As the sun was setting, I was summoned to meet with Dahmapalla in his private quarters.  

I sat on the floor across from Dahmapalla, my legs crossed awkwardly in a feeble attempt at the lotus position.  A few other elder monks, all wearing burgundy robes with burnt-orange ties around their waist, stood around us.  Images of the Buddha and framed pictures of the monastery’s former bhikkhu’s adorned the walls.  My eyes beamed with anticipation, as I was as curious as I was excited- a philosophical conversation with a Buddhist master in a Buddhist temple had remained near the top of my travel bucket list for years.

“You happy here?  Everything okay?”  He asked me in a relaxed, caring manner.  I assured him that I was content and gracious for his hospitality.

“So… You want learn Buddhism. Yes?  You like Myanmar and Buddha knowledge, yes? ”

I nodded eagerly, unsure about where the conversation was headed.  

“Okay, okay… what you want to know?  You teach English, I teach Buddhism,” he exclaimed in a jovial tone.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to say; I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

“Well,” I stammered, trying my best to articulate my thoughts clearly but not sure where to begin, “Everything…  I want to know everything about Buddhism...  I want to see life through your eyes.”

(Page 4 of 7)
Last modified on Tuesday, 05 January 2016

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