Burmese Miracle Stories

Outside of us monks, two things that help sustain Buddhist faith here
are (1) really big buddhas and pagodas, and (2) miracle stories. Both
are exemplified in Kyaik Tiyo, Golden Rock, Pagoda. This is the last
site the pilgrimage group visited before dropping me off at Pa Auk
Tawya Meditation Center on March 18.

The miracle of Kyaik Tiyo is the golden rock, a huge boulder, maybe 20
feet in diameter, perched on top of a sheer cliff, at the very top of
a tall mountain, in such a way that it has been just about to roll off
for maybe the last hundred thousand years. It is amazing. Inspection
from below invites one to try to pass a string, an accomplice holding
the other end, under the rock all the way across; it looks like it
would work, maybe by rocking the rock a bit. From higher up, one can
see that its center of gravity does keep it from rolling off the
cliff, but golly it seems that there must have been an earthquake or a
big dinosaur sometime in the last innumerable millennia that would
have toppled it. It is certainly a wonder of nature.

In Myanmar all miracles have to do with Buddhism. The story is that
some of the Buddha's hairs are contained inside of the rock and that
the rock remains in place be the power of the Buddha. Once upon a
time, there were some non-Buddhists tried to push the rock off the
cliff in order to undermine people's faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and
Sangha, but they were turned into monkeys. That'll show them! In an
inspiring, hopefully not foolhardy, display of faith, there is now a
nunnery directly below the rock, and the point of first bounce.

A huge pagoda and tourist attraction has been built at Kyaik Tiyo. A
bus (or actually truck) takes you up the mountain, and one needs to
walk for about 40 minutes up a steep path to reach the top and the
rock. We stayed at a hotel near the top. Hundreds of people were
milling around, looking at the rock, doing prostrations, lighting
incense and candles, and chanting when we arrived. We got up the next
morning around five-ish, before dawn, and I'll be darned if there
still weren't hundreds of people around. A group of around 20 Thai
monks did some marvelous chanting.

Many miracle stories have to do with relics that remain after an
arahant is cremated. There are many samples to view in Buddhist
museums here. The relics usually take the form of crystals. In one
museum they are kept in a jar and it is reported that they keep
multiplying by themselves. They can give samples away and the samples
will continue multiplying. A museum has been built in Amarapura, near
here, in the temple where a local arahant lived and died. Pictures in
the museum reveal he had very intensive eyes. Anyway, after he died
and was cremated, his eyes did not burn!

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