Myanmar: Thabarwa centre and Yangon

Myanmar Oct 21 – Oct 26, 2015

You may not expect info of going to any tourist spots like: Bagan, Mandalay, Inle lake, Shwedagon pagoda since I’ve not been to any of them.

Each person has different purposes and enjoyment in traveling. Someone may say: “I’ve seen lots of beautiful places”. Some may say: “I’ve eaten lots of good foods”, some may say: “I’ve bought lots of good stuffs”. But for me, by the end, people may enjoy the most people, experiences and stories. And those were what I myself enjoyed the most in this trip.

This post is mostly about my experiences in Thabarwar center and Yangon.

Preparation:

+ Air fare: I booked Vietjet Air airfare and paid on Aug 22

HCMc – Yangon (10:25am – Oct 21): 1,124,000 vnd

Yangon – HCMc (12:00 noon – Oct 26) : 978,000 vnd

Total 2,102,000 plus 100,000 vnd for collecting service. So I paid 2,202,000 vnd. It’s around 100USD for round trip which is an amazing price. Some others booked since July and just paid around 75USD.

+ Accommodation: It was my first time not get a host from Couchsurfing but via expat-blog.com (soon will be expat.com). However, I stayed mostly in Thabarwa center which I got info from Couchsurfing.

+ Money: There was a Vietnamese who worked in Myanmar previously had some remaining kyats, so I exchanged with him with the rate of 1 kyat = 16 VND which is good rate for me. (I know this guy via Facebook page of Vietnamese living in Myanmar). And I brought some USD with me.

+ I did prepare few Burmese sentences, wrote down Burmese numbers. But finally I just mostly used “Mingalapar”. I prepared long sleeves clothes.

+ I wore a sandal when I came here, but it made my foot painful, so later I bought a pair of slippers for 1,500 kyats.

+ Few facts before going: staying with local isn’t allowed by law here; motorbike isn’t allowed in the center of Yangon.

Impressions in general:

The weather is much hotter than in Ho Chi Minh city. Although I’ve heard that in October the weather is already cooler.

Traffic and driver seat (on car) are both on right side, which is new for me.

Man and woman wear longyi, even if they drive motorbike.

Lots of birds flying around in Yangon, mostly doves and

Free drinking water is being offered everywhere.

Pan balance is still being used

In Yangon, almost texts and even numbers are being written in Burmese. I experienced it clearly when I tried to find an address here. For example: Mr. Lee hotel at no. 129 Lanmadaw street or Golden Pho at no. 62, Yaw Min Gyi street. I completely wasn’t able to read the Burmese signboard for name of the street and number of each house. I asked people around, they seldom speak English well, but they were very enthusiasm to show me. However, some show me this way, some show me that way, which I totally accept in traveling, as I have chance to discover different corners of the city. Getting lost is enjoyable sometime.

Plate number of cars are in Latin letters, while plate number of motorbikes are in Burmese letters.

I don’t know what did the woman carry on her head, but she was very cooperating when I wanted to take her picture.

I’m impressed with people here a lot. They are just so pure, mostly honest and helpful. They weren’t that smiled a lot as I’ve read about before I came, but I never worried about my safety and the safety of my belongings here.

(Few people said that I’m look like Burmese and few other said I’m beautiful ;P)

Food here is much more salty and spicy for me.

Actual schedule:

Day 1 (Oct 21)

I met few Vietnamese taking the same flight in Tan Son Nhat airport. One of them was Kim – she came back to Myanmar to work again for her aunt in Cyclo restaurant. This is same owner with Mr. Lee hotel. And Hung – he is invited to work for Golden Pho – Vietnamese restaurant.

There were 3 forms I need to fill up in the airplane as well as upon arrival in the airport. But I didn’t have any problem with immigration there, no one asked me to check how much money did I bring or any other single question.

The flight arrived around an hour late. My host picked me up at the airport, then bring me to his home. His place is just walking distance to Yangon University and Hledan Centre.

Afternoon, I walked around Hledan market, passed by Hledan centre – a mall (3:24pm). I was outside of No (2) basic education primary school, Myanmar – Japan Legal Research centre. Then I entered Yangon University (3:58pm).

Day 2 (Oct 22)

I left my host’s house to go to Thabarwa center. They instructed how to go to their place from the airport clearly. But I started from Moe Sandar street, so here is what I did: I wrote “Sule pagoda” on a paper, showed it to bus conductor, then whoever nod his head, I got into that bus. Bus fare is 200 kyats. When dropped at Sule pagoda, I did the same, wrote “Thabarwa. Thanlyin” on paper then got into bus, paid 200 kyats. Travel time and distance: from Moe Sandar street to Sule pagoda: 40 minutes (8:40 am to 9:20am due to traffic) and 9 kms; from Sule pagoda to Thabarwa: 50 minutes (9:30am to 10:20am) and 22km. Then I paid 200 kyats for a motorbike to bring me to the center from the main road. (200 kyats = 3,500 VND = 0.156 USD – just so cheap).

Day 3 (Oct 23)

Early morning: Followed the monk to ask for food.

10:19 am: Followed sayadaw and his team (two vans) to several place in Yangon.
11:03 am: was near zayar phyo dental care center, having lunch.
11:40 am: started teaching.
1pm: finish.
1:15pm: at Ocean super centre.

That was my first time to eat Lafet – a mix of pickled tea leaves, peanuts, sesame and some other nuts.

Then I stayed in Yangon in my host’s house.

Day 4 (Oct 24):

I took the bus to Sule pagoda, since I promised with Kim and Hung that I would visit them, so I walked to Lanmadaw street first to find Mr. Lee hotel. Then from that, I walked to Law Myi Gyi street to find Golden Pho.

+ Cyclo Vietnamese restaurant at no. 133 Lanmadaw street. Phone no: +95 (0) 125 1062. Email: cycloresto.yangon@gmail.com

+ Mr. Lee hotel at no. 129, Lanmadaw street, Lanmadaw Township. Contact person: Mr. Anh Hoai Le. + 95 (0) 9250298654. Email: manager.mrleehotel@gmail.com

+ Golden Pho Vietnamese cuisine at no. 62, Yaw Min Gyi street, Dagon Township, Yangon. Phone no: 01-254957. Email: goldenphoyangon@gmail.com

Then I took the bus to go back to Thabarwa centre.

Day 5 (Oct 25):

I followed the monks to ask for food again. The van was broken on the way.

After come back to the center, I went around it, and entered a pagoda then met Jo jo.

Afternoon time, I went to the library and started a conversation with Aram.

We had a conversation with Sayadaw by 5:30 pm.

Day 6 (Oct 26):

I woke up by 3:50am to take the earliest bus go back to Yangon, so I will have more time to spend at Yangon before I leave.
4:05am, I walked out from the centre, in the darkness, people already awake to prepare for the new day. I walked toward the intersection near the market to get the bus. Only me with few cars passed by in the darkness. I forgot to ask and remind the bus conductor, so by 5:30am the bus dropped me in the middle of I don’t know where (while I was supposed to go to Sule pagoda). Okay. Great (or anyway, that’s fine). Another corner for me to discover. Few minutes later, I identified that I am at Merchant road corner 29 street.

I asked someone the direction and walked toward Shwedagon pagoda. On the way, because of remembrance to Aram (a guy who I will tell about him below), first time in my life I bought a (Burmese) cigarette (50 kyats) for myself intentionally. I don’t know what would I use with it, but I feel good to have it with me.

Thabarwa center:

You may read more about this center via its website: http://www.thabarwa.org/

They also regularly update their activities on their FB page.

The brief info I can give you is: this center was created by Sayadaw U Ottamasara . In Burmese, Sayadaw means abbot of a monastery.

I’ve known about this center via CS profile of Kevin. Although I’m not able to find Kevin’s profile on CS right now anymore, but you also can get in touch with Soe Win Htut. He is incharge of helping and teaching, instructing foreign volunteers/meditators to meditate. He also can help you to arrange meditation visa which you will be able to stay one month in Myanmar. He also wrote for Lan (a Vietnamese girl) and me an introduction letter so we can visit Shwe Dagon pagoda for free without need to pay the entrance fee of 8 USD. Lan didn’t need to use it, since no one asked her and I didn’t entered the pagoda so we both don’t have experience if it works but his help was amazing.

His contact info: soewinhtut1977@gmail.com, FB: Soe Win Htut. Phone no: 099 7060 9478.

He told me that this centre always try to find a way to help people. For example if you have problem with your ticket, and need a ticket to fly back, they will try to find a way to help you. Then I asked him: what if people cheating. He said: even cheating, they still help, they may not give full, but will give portion. They accept to help anyone, even alcoholic people.

Accommodations and Activities for foreign volunteers/meditators/visitors:

There are separate male and female dormitory. The male dormitory is a 2-floor building which the male foreigners stay with some monks on 2nd floor. They are lent mat and mosquito net, then they can spread the mat on the floor and sleep.
The female dorm is a 1-floor house. There are 4 bedrooms, nun Shi Da Zhou (from Taiwan) and Mya Mya Yee stay in one room, female foreigners stay in 2 rooms. The one remaining room, there were some female Burmese. In this dormitory, there are mattresses which you can use, just get a blanket to cover it. And you may want to use mosquito net when you are here. The first night I wasn’t able to sleep almost the whole night. Claudia urged and helped me to use the mosquito net, but since I was so tired, I didn’t take care of it very well, so the mosquito still get inside and bother me a lot. (It happened the same with Claudia). And in the middle of night, lots of dogs were barking. Early morning, there was usually radio voice from neighbor in Burmese which I don’t understand.

Mya Mya Yee is in charge of arrange accommodation for female foreigners/volunteers/meditators.

Foods:

Meals are being served 2 times per day here: breakfast and lunch. All monks and almost people here are fasting in the evening (no dinner). Few of them (mostly young age like students) have dinner, but not so much. And foreigners also aren’t being served dinner here.

There is a board in English saying that:

“Breakfast: 6am-7am. Lunch: 11am-12 noon.
Please attend meals within these times for the convenience of the servers. The servers need to know ahead of time how much food they should prepare. Please inform them in advance whether you will attend for the next day or not. Thank you!”

I was surprised when I was being served my first lunch at the centre. I didn’t start to eat, when people asked me, I said I would wait for more people because it’s a lot. Afterward, I understand that I just can get few from the food, the remaining they still keep to reuse for other people.

It was also my first time experienced eating meat in a pagoda. And the monks here also eat meat which is a surprise for me. However, what I have learned will be explained below.

I even was able to borrow a Buddhist longyi here which has brown color. The problem was the longyi was too long for me, and I’m not get used to wearing longyi yet, the way wearing it … not safe, it can easier to fall down. I need to fix the longyi regularly.

Meditation class:

In this meditation class, from left to right, in white shirt is Soe Win Htut – meditation teacher/instructor, next is Simon from Switzerland, next is Danae from the US, next is Joan from Spain and last is Claudia from Germany.

Here is few of what Soe Win Htut taught us in meditation class:

Meditation is to purify our mind, because our mind is unpurified. Nature was created by its own condition. No one is creating, controlling. Meditation is practice of: (1) right understanding; (2) morality; (3) mindfulness, concentration.

You can basically read them here.

Experiences with foreign meditators here:

Simon gave his tablet (separate keyboard) to Mya Mya Yee (the regular volunteer in the center) for free. Her computer was broken and Simon was happy that he can get rid of the tablet, since he has his big laptop (for editing pictures) with him. And Mya Mya Yee said Simon comes from heaven. So it is a win-win situation.

We then wandering around the village.

When you are here, you are totally free with your time and what you want to do. Although they have alms round and meditation activities, you are free to join or not, no one force you to do anything. They also never demand or express demand of a donation from you, although they are open for it. No matter how long or short you want to stay here, you are totally free, everything is on your own will.

So just accommodate yourself.

Facilities

There is a 4-floor “office” which I was just at 2nd floor (general office) and 4th floor (library)

I don’t fully understand this huge complex but there is a store selling pictures, banners, CDs of Sayadaw. He became like a star.

There are so many different houses which are all named with “hall”, like: Phyu Hall, Ar Zarni (Martyr) Hall, Taung Nguu Hall, Sein Pan Wah Hall, Handover of donation Hall, Goodbye hall, Dhama Nadaw Hall (Charity Group).

Then Harmony Hall “2-storey hall which costs 155 lakh kyats (=15,500,000 kyats = 12,166 USD) donated by Malaysian Association in Myanmar 7-2-2015”

“hall” makes a feeling of something huge and beautiful, but some halls here aren’t.

After seeing this, I’m really thankful that they give big favor to foreigners. The dormitory where foreigners stay has much better condition. What I can do right now for them is spread out their message for other people to know, to come and to help.

Đi khất thực – Alms round

The location will be changed differently each day in one week. So every Monday, they go to same place; every Tuesday, they go to same place … and so on …

The monks  were the one who get the food and donated money from people, the volunteers just help the monks to transfer the food from people to the van. And there is someone use a speaker to announce and inform people that the team has arrived (in Burmese). The van is moved accordingly near to the alms round team.

Everyone has to walk by their bare foot, include the monks, volunteers and people who give.

The “silver” bowl on the hands of the guy who wear white shirt is for donation by cash.
I saw people “queued up” along the street to donate.

At first, I followed the monks, but then people were seeing that I was hardly walk on my barefoot, plus the inconvenience of the longyi, so they asked me to go back to the van, and said to me: “No problem”, so I helped to categorized the foods and things received.

They used different plastic containers to store and separate the food. Normally, they will put pork with pork, chicken with chicken, soup with soup, egg with egg, rice with rice and so on.

This kind of Buddhism is Southern Buddhism. (the Northern Buddhism is more being affected by China). In Southern Buddhism, monks seeking alms since they follow Buddha. When Buddha sought for alms, since he was asking for favor, he had no right to request of having vegetarian food or not, whatever people give to him, he had to eat. So here they practice the same. They are allowed to eat meat (with limit) as long as: they don’t see, don’t listen that an animal is being killed, they don’t force other people to kill the animal.

People donated whatever they can, whatever they have, and whatever they want. Beside money and different food, people also donated fruits (banana, papaya), dried tea, nuts, soft drinks, cooking oil, washing powder, uncooked rice, dried onion, dried noodles, tofu, a set of (notebooks, pens, pencils, ruler, toothpaste, body soap, towel)

Oct 23, 2015: The van departed by 7am with 7 monks, 10 people, one boy (around 12-15 years old). And I was the only female there. By around 7:40 am, we were at Taung Htate Pan street, Ward 41, Yangon. We finished by 8:50am, some monks got into a car to go back due to the van was full of things. The monks were given a pack of Ovaltine and a pack of coffee. The volunteers were given some cakes. 9:18am, the van stopped to recharge gasoline for 20,000 kyats. 9:40am it arrived at the center.

Oct 25, 2015: The van departed by 7:15am with few monks, volunteers, Lan (the Vietnamese girl) and me. 7:29am, we were at Bo Min Yaung street, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, Yangon. Finished by 8:26am. Arrived at the centre by 8:35 am.

7:56am the van was broken, the engine didn’t work. We had to push the van, then when we reach a bridge, the van became a barrier for other cars and trucks, so the driver asked people around to help push the car to a nearby space to release other vehicles. At the same time, another guy on the van hired a motorbike to bring him to somewhere to get repairer. Later, 2 repairers with the equipments (engine) came and repair.

Buses to the centre

Catherine is working at Canadian embassy (in agriculture field), but she stays in the centre. She rides bus everyday to go to office and go back. She told me that the earliest bus from here is around 4:30am. The bus stop is at the intersection near the market. When reach to the main road, turn right and keep walking until reach the intersection. And the latest bus to here from Sule pagoda is around 9-10pm. The bus station is at Pansola street, near Samson store. She said there are around 6 buses stand there, and all of them go here, all of them, you even don’t need to ask.

People & places:

I. My host:

I’m usually lucky when I travel and this time isn’t an exception. My host accepted to host me even we haven’t met, and he didn’t host a stranger before.

My host is a Filipino who has been working in IT field in Yangon since last year. He is a very generous and helpful person. He waited for me in the airport for an hour (the flight was delayed). He lent me one room with my own key. He also gave me a tourist map. He even bought sim card for me. He treated me for lunch and dinner and cooked breakfast for me. He was driving to tour me around downtown Yangon.

I’m totally grateful for all of this.

II. Yangon University: This university made me feeling of entering UPLB in the Philippines again. It’s huge with lots of tree.

I met Su Htet Htet Nwe when we were sitting on a “bench” at Convocation road, opposite to Convocation Hall inside the University. She is working in a local NGO daytime, while studying Master of Economy here night time. When the sim didn’t work well in my phone, she helped me to contact with my host by her phone.

She told me that starting end of last year, the city became more traffic. And there are more Vietnamese nationals come here to do business than any other nationals.

Markets:

One of the thing make me enjoy to spend time to learn about the most is a public market. And public markets here have lots of new thing for me to learn. Seriously, from this visit, I want to spend at least one month living here (maybe next year) to learn about all kinds of vegetables (and street foods) here. There are many vegetables are totally new for me.

I wish to understand all kinds of vegetables here.

Even the fruits and vegetables which are available in Vietnam are usually much bigger here.

Hledan market:

Bogyoke market: I didn’t spend lots of time at this market, just pass by it to have a look, then process to Golden Pho. My host said that Bogyoke is not a market for food, it’s more on a bazaar – a wholesale market for souvenirs and things. At the back of Bogyoke market is Pha Yar Lan railway station.

Markets in Thanlyin: nhà bán gạo, chim sà xuống ăn gạo

Market along streets in Yangon:

I love this purple corn, definitely when have it when I come to Yangon again:

I bought an order of sticky rice (purple and yellow color) for 100 kyats

III. Monk Khoa: 01228697281

Monk Khoa is from Phuoc Son temple in Vietnam.

He was born in 1977.

1998, he was an university student, due to crave for fruit to eat, he went to pagoda to get some blessed fruits from the monks, then being attracted to pagoda. He usually come there to study and stay, since it’s silent, no one bother.

He graduated Ho Chi Minh city University of Science, majored in Chemistry. Due to no job opportunity by that time, he worked in a statue factory as an accountant then sale person. Because of that, he need to understand about the portrait of the statues. Having no one to ask, he need to ask in pagoda, which lead him spend more time in pagoda. Due to this business doesn’t have lots of customer, one customer per day is considered successful, he has lots of free time to read and research about Buddhism. He was assigned to pick up children of his boss and bring them to extra class. So he had reason of going out of office earlier, then he just spent time in pagoda. When he picked up the children, they need to wait until the extra class open, having nowhere to go, he brought them to pagoda (which was easily accepted by his boss).

He also collected documents and teaching of Buddhism, recorded into CDs then gave to people for free.

Setting fishes free: one time he was riding motorbike, he saw a woman carry some small fishes and shrimp on her motorbike. And those animals were jumping up and down like asking help from him. He approached the woman and asked if she would sell those animals to him. He asked 3 times, and 3 times the woman said no, she carried them to someone else who ordered. Wasn’t able to save those animals, he was regret afterward, he told himself if he tried to pay higher price, he would be able to save them. From that time, every early morning, he went to public market nearby his house, find animal which he can save, bought them and released them (then go home to continue to sleep).

At that time he spent all of his earning to help his parents build a house and to save the animals.

He felt happy anytime he went to pagoda. Once he see the pagoda, the Buddha, he felt happy, he didn’t need anything else.

He became a monk since he wants to live for other people more than for himself. That was his internal fighting and a long process to prepare.

He was very open, when I asked him that now he’s a monk, what if he see a beautiful girl. He said it happened that sometime he still have feelings with beautiful girls, but the thought rising then disappearing. Even there are moments he like them, he already knows the result, that it leads to nothing. He’s easily change his mind about them. For example: he was impressed by beauty of someone, and when passing by her place, he eyes sought for her, but when he saw her has a pimple on her face, he would not be interested in her anymore. Same with someone has beautiful hands, but then she colored her nails red afterward. Even when he wasn’t a monk, he dated a girl he liked, then he found out that she had to wear thick glasses, she wasn’t attracted to him anymore.

At Phuoc Son temple, he was the one who helped to taking care of construction of people’s houses, then road, so he was being well-known by lots of people. He was also clever in treating people, so people also love him. He is also able to invite monks from other countries go to Phuoc Son temple to teach, find funding resource to pay for their trip and arrange for their trip.

Then I asked him if he feel satisfy with his life. He said since the time he know and aware and follow Buddhism, he never get sick any single time. And he can basically have whatever he want. He currently has 6 mobile phones, include newest iPhone. He said that: people think that monks need to be simple, but the followers of the monk also want the monk to become modern, understanding, updated with socio. So people who follow him donated to him things which isn’t right for him to refuse.

I asked him some questions about life, how this universal, this life was created, and if Buddhism can explain them. He told me a story: Buddha ever got dried leaves from a ground onto his hand and asked people: “Leaves in my hand is more or leaves on the ground is more?” which imply that there are lots of knowledge which he wasn’t able to teach all, he just taught necessarily things.

Aram:

Aram is someone who at first I thought that not easy to approach. He looks like upset and want to be with himself only. As in breakfast and lunch, he went to dining hall silently, and not communicate with anyone.

Luckily I started the conversation with him in the library and found out that this guy is awesome. He might be the person who I’m impressed with the most in this trip.

Aram told me that, he wanted to focus and be with himself so “words come out not so cheap”.

Aram is the one who I wish I started talking with him earlier. The time I started talking with him, my remaining time in the center was so little. Although I didn’t fully understand what he said and his voice was small. I also didn’t remember or take not about everything he said, at that time I just wanted to listen. But I enjoyed and learned so much from the conversation with him, his insights. I also love his body language: the way he see, his eyes, the way he moved his head, movements of his hands. I’m glad that after the meditation class, although it was late, I went to his place to meet him again. Then since the male dormitory is closed by 10pm, we were standing inside and outside the fence to talk. He smoked. I asked him: “Do you think smoking is good or bad”? “Both good and bad”. “So more good than bad, that’s why you select to smoke”? “Doesn’t matter”. Then he told me that he smokes just because he likes the feeling of … inhale then … He asked me if I want to try. So it was not only my first time to smoke, but also first time I didn’t feel/have a mental barrier with a smoker.

Aram is 25 years old. He has been traveling for few months, and will continue for few months more. His trip started in Vietnam.

He studied engineering for 6 months since he thought that’s what he wanted to do since he was a child. Then quit. Then he studied design for 8 months since he thought it would give him a career. Quit again.

His father is mix of Arab and Turkish, while his mother is from mandean-aen subbi culture/religion. That culture/religion has 6000 years history, while Buddhism is 2560 years and Brahha is 8000-9000 years.

But he grown up in Swede – a country which he said people are mostly surface, he was not confident with his background so he usually wore “masks”. “Depress was my friend (5 years ago)” – he said. He started to wonder, to read, research about life and different religions when he was around 16 y/o. (I wish I would started as early as that time).

He told me that there was time in his life, about 3 years, he had no thoughts in his mind. I was excited and asked him: “How did you do that? Can you show me? I want the same. Sometime lots of thoughts running around in my mind”. Then he said “But we are in different kinds of smart”.

He talked about we do and should do all the things because of we want, not because of we need. “Do we need to breathe? No, we don’t need to. We want to breathe since we still want to live”.

He talked about THE POWER of BELIEVE. That we don’t need to know, just BELIEVE then we create.

He had a set of 7 stones which he can feel and get energy from. Wood isn’t alive but Stone is alive. Stone is actually can connect to our chakra.

Knowledge and learning is one important part, but to believe is more important. We already know about all things in the past in our body, system, DNA.

To not believe is to blind.

“I see himself in Buddha story. Meditation is medicine for my mind”.

And here is what he showed me in an ebook:

Take away the words of the devil

O God, take away the words of the devil
That mix with my prayer-
If not, then take my prayer as it is, devil and all.

Rabia al Basri”

The first time he met Sayadaw, there was something happened inside him, he was so scared. “Sayadaw is so pure, he lives in present” Just see in his eyes, no communication. Aram said that he saw Sayadaw then cúi đầu xuống, didn’t dare to see him anymore. He felt like Sayadaw can read him very well.

Then I told him that his insight is really interesting, does he plan to write a book to share to others. He said he has no idea for now. But he loves singing and would make songs for that. But he would not prepare in advance, he would just let the emotions, feelings and insights come out naturally.

Then he said to me: “I like your mind. I like it when you asked me: “What do you mean by this”?”

(The guy in blue shirt, with long dreadlock is Aram)

When I told him that we can meet and talk with Sayadaw now, and ask him: “Do you want to join?” He said “No. I don’t want to”, but still walked toward the room. In the meeting, when he was being asked to say something with Sayadaw, he started with: “ Thank you for having me here!”. Then continued with “Right now, I’m very scared”

While I felt funny and enjoyed, the others didn’t understand and just continously asked him: “Why do you scare? What do you scare about? You can tell Sayadaw, he will help you”.

He continued with “You are helping lots of people and also helping me being aware. I feel my ego right now, I know that my answer is short”.

Since I had a conversation earlier with him in the library, so I asked his permission to help him to explain on his side.

Sayadaw:

Unlike Aram, I didn’t feel being connected with Sayadaw, which I wish to have that kind of feeling with people. But I’ve been listening LOTS of good stories about him from DIFFERENT people. And just see what he did: thousand of people stay here in any age, any background, any situation. Many of them are old, sick, mentally disorder, were homeless, were rejected by family and socio.

I have several questions and concerns about Buddhism which I’ve asked several monks but non of them gave me an answer which I feel satisfied with. So I brought those questions to ask Sayadaw by 5:30 pm of Oct 25. To tell you about my questions, I need to write another blog post, since I need to start with several background story, so you can just read the answer from Sayadaw first, then you may guess what was my question.

He took a while (around 10 minutes) to prepare his answer in his mind. Then he gave the answer slowly. Then he didn’t need to correct any sentence of his speech. I liked it very much, like Aram said “for words come out not so cheap”. It took us around an hour to both ask and answer the question. In my opinion, I like his answer so much. I personally feel connected with him, know who he is, and respect him because of that. He didn’t answer my questions directly, but indirectly. Not answered, but answered. Answered but not answered. I don’t say that I would take his answer as the core value of my life, but it is just wonderful.

And here is his answer:

I don’t know about the decease.
I don’t know about medicine.
I’m not a doctor.

I’m not an engineer.
I don’t know how to build a house.

I don’t know about the life of old age.

I’m not a farmer nor gardener.
I don’t know about the land and the tree.

But I know what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s good, what’s bad. I know about good deeds. I know how to help the people and animal. I know cause and effect.

I teach everyone who meet me to do whatever is right and good. Right and wrong action is not change depending on the age. If all people do what’s good, there will be good results. Doing bad deeds will be the same to young&old, male&female, healthy&sick. Therefore actions are very powerful. If we want to change ourselves, our lives, we need to change our physical, verbal and mental actions. Thinking about yourself, your past life, your present life, your future life isn’t the right thing to do. Everyone can change their lives depending on their own actions. If there is a cause, there will be effect. No cause, no effect. Thinking about who am I, where did I come from, where I go – these questions are not the right actions. Because of strong attachments, we are always busy with our daily activities.

With this right understanding, I started this center. This place is not for one person, one family, one religion, one nationality, not only for the meditators. This place is for to do all good deeds freely without limit. This place is free for any kind of good deeds. This place is to abandon any kind of bad deeds. This place is free to keep the mind stable and pure. This place is to do what’s right, not to do what’s bad. And beside this center is to practice vamatha and vipassama Bavana (giới định tuệ, thân thọ tâm pháp). So anyone is free to keep the mind stable and pure. We are mean what’s good and also helping others to do what’s good. Here we try to abandon our habits to help others who came here to do the same. We use the practice of mindfulness to have stable and pure mind. Beside we help others to do so.

Most of people in society aren’t doing good, abandoning what’s bad. They don’t practice mindfulness and detachment for the benefit of stable and pure mind. Beside, they will not help you to do this kind of good deeds. Anyone is easy to do this kind of good deeds freely. You should try how to get our helps. You should try how to do good deeds with our help. And you should try to help others back. Learning and teaching this kind of good deed are the best thing you can do. In this way, we will be able to use the best of life.

I was donated this land. I don’t know about the land. I don’t know about the tree. But I am able to use this land to do the best kind of good deeds. Also the same to the patients and old age and anyone. I don’t know how they are decease but I can teach them to help the others as they can to be mindful and to detach. In this way their mind can be stable and pure. They don’t know how to use their lives with decease and problem. But because of listening to my teaching, staying here, their lives surely will be change. In this way, they can stop their own mistakes. Many people are living here in the beginning of their arrival, they were thinking about their lives, their family and experiences. That’s why they have suffers. The same like you are thinking now. But the more listen to my teaching and staying here, the more they will not think about themselves and their experiences. Doing good deeds, mindfulness and detachment will become their daily activities. In this way their mind and body will be healthy and wealthy. Good actions of their own change their mind.

Note: I hope I got his words correctly, and some of the words, I just copied from the woman sit next to me. It was so lovely that there was someone behind me, as I feel she may not understand English well, but tried to help me by repeat what Sayadaw said, so I can write better.

IX. Few other people:

+ Nun Phuoc Duc:

Nun Phuoc Duc (Burmese name: Kusula Theri) is a female Vietnamese monk who was sent from Phuoc Son temple in Vietnam to here to learn.

She said that she wanted to become a nun since she was in grade 1. However, she is the eldest in a family which have only 2 children, so she wanted to fulfill her responsibilities with her family first. She studied in an University, got a job and at that time, half of her salary went to support her family. The other half for her own spending and donate or join activities in pagodas. She became a nun without telling her parents. Her parents suffered because of it. There was time they “imprisoned” her, forced her to stay home for more than half of year. But now, she is still a nun despite all things happened.

+ Exuan Chew. pamavatichew@gmail.com, FB: daydrilchew@yahoo.com.

She is a Malaysia who was friended with a Burmese woman for 12 years. She got to know Sayadaw from this Burmese friend and listened to his teaching when he went to Malaysia. She has visited this centre for few times, and the last time was with her mother. She quitted her study to come here to learn about Dharma.

+ Kyaw Kyaw Htun (Jo jo): I met him in the abandoned temple. He went there to meditate since it’s more quiet there. He worked in Korea for 17 years as a CNC engineer. Has been meditating since 2008 when he first watched to teaching video of Sayadaw. For him, Sayadaw is the real teacher for meditation. Some other monks they spoke Pali – Buddhist language so people don’t understand. But Sayadaw teach by Burmese, so it’s very easy to understand.

He answered my question that Burmese people eat Betel nut (Kwan) due to being affected by Indian colonization. And mostly non or low educated people eat it. No benefit from it.

He told me to not eat at small restaurant here, since they use lots of msg in cooking.

I asked him about pan balance, he told me that it’s not correct – it’s a way of cheating.

He gave me his contact info and tell me to contact him next time I come. He said hopefully at that time he already build a house here at the centre, and buy a car, so he can accommodate me and tour me around.

He told me few things I can buy as gifts from Myanmar: Lafet (Myanmar tea leaf), honey: cheap and organic, around 4500 kyats for a litre = 4 USD, dried pawn (shrimp).

X. Pagodas:

wrote in his blog: “Let’s face it. If you’re not seeing a pagoda a day when touring Myanmar, you’re doing something wrong”. I totally understand where is he coming from. Myanmar has too much pagodas. But my first time entered a pagoda in Myanmar on Oct 25. That is a pagoda belong to Thabarwa centre which at first, I thought it is still under construction. However, Catherine told me that that pagoda is actually destructed quality because no one take care. Someone gave it to Sayadaw.

I feel funny when there is a small version of Golden Rock here. Beside, there are also reclining Buddha and standing Buddha statues.

Train ride:

Since I really want to experience the train ride as I’ve read few posts on tripadvisor, seat61 and few blogs, so I decided to take the train ride to go to the airport.

Yangon central railway station is at Kyun Chan street. At the opposite side is Capital supermarket and bus offices to go to tourist spots in Myanmar. When I saw this station, I felt in love with my trip.

I was shown to pass the bridge to go to another side of the railway to buy ticket and depart. I paid 300 kyats for the ticket and said I want to go to Wai Bar Gi station since I want to go to the airport (as per Google). The ticket officer told me that there is no way to go to the airport from Wai Bar Gi station and I should go to Kyauk Ye Twin station instead, then get a taxi from there. And he told me to be around so he would inform me which train I need to get into.

I met 2 Japanese who went to the railway station to do survey. They said they walked along the railway around 10km everyday (for few days) to check it. There is a project to upgrade this railway system which is funded by ODA loan of Japan. Currently it’s in design phase, will be started next year, and may take one more year to finish.

In the train ride I met a Burmese tour guide who is supporting a group of people come from UK to visit Myanmar. I found him helpful and enthusiasm (I’ve asked him several questions), the UK group is the same. Here is his contact info in case you may need a tour guide here: Name: Aung Myatlin. Email: aungaungmyatlin@gmail.com. Phone no: 09261728232.

I got off at Kyauk Ye Twin station (9:48am) and I know that it’s still far to go to the airport (around 4km). There were some motorbikes there and I showed them the airport on the map then asked them the price. They said 1000 kyats. I’m okay with that price but still want to check other options. I asked some trishaw, they said they can’t, only taxi. So I went to a taxi driver to ask, and he said 2000 kyats. I have no problem of spending Just 2000 kyats (=35000 VND = 2usd) to go to the airport. But at that time I didn’t have enough 2000 kyats. Before I left Thabarwa centre, I calculated how much did I need to go to the airport, and for my food, the rest I donated to them. So I selected motorbike, both me and the motorbike driver took the risk. Since motorbike isn’t allowed to go to the airport. So he dropped me at opposite side of the airport and said: “You are lucky. No police”. You may do the same like me in mandatory situation, but if not, respect the law is better.

There is NOT Latin written signboard right at the railway station for you to know which station are you at now, but there are Latin written signboard before and after the R.S, so you just can pay attention to it. I had a map with me, and after each station I just wrote name of station on paper, then check on the map to make sure I drop at correct station. Beside, the Burmese tour guide and people on the train also remind me.

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