Tales of Burma
This is the eleventh and latest chapter of my autobiographical narrative Through the Looking Glass to attain draft completion. This will leave two chapters: 12. The Requisites of a Bhikkhu and 13. The American Monk. I will post chapter 12 next week.
Chapter 11. Tales of Burma
Shortly after my ordination and for the next twelve months life and Burma assumed a more leisurely pace that lent itself to contemplation, to settling into the patterns of Theravada monastic life and to observing the environment into which I had placed myself, quite entranced in this very foreign land.
Behind the Learning Curve.
There is a steep curve for the new bhikkhu who comes from a land that provides little opportunity to observe the attire, deportment and activities of Buddhist monks. Shucks, I never even saw monks on alms round until I came to Myanmar.
The very afternoon after my ordination, Ashin Ariyadhamma and the pilgrims were ready to move on southward. It was suggested that I might wish to stay at Pa Auk Tawya, a famous meditation center in Lower Burma, for the quickly approaching Hot Season. Saigang in particular was reputed to swelter during those months. After quick deliberation we boarded a bus for the ten-hour trip to Yangon. An immediate and ever present wardrobe challenge, my upper robe seem to shift with every bump or turn of the bus and at every stop needed to be wrapped around anew. I marveled that Ashin Ariyadhamma’s robe stayed so neatly in place.
We reached Yangon and rode a taxi to the Sitagu Center near Bailey Bridge. The center in Yangon serves as a kind of transit point as visitors to the various Sitagu centers and projects enter and leave the country. Fortunately for me, the famous Sri-Lankan-American Bhante Gunaratana, having left the conference in Sagaing just before my ordination, found himself stuck in Yangon, in fact in the room next door to mine, awaiting a visa to permit the next leg of his journey. In his eighties he was the hight of delight and as sharp as newly broken glass, with the same humor that shines through so effectively in his books.