The Outreach External programme of Mangala Vihara Dhamma Fellowship (MVDF) in its first attempt organized a humanitarian trip to Myanmar from December 26th 2015 to January 3rd 2016.
The main organizing committee comprised of Brothers Raymond Yow, Hing Seng Huat, Yeap Cheow Soon, Chan Tuck Sing and Chin Kee Thou and Sisters Lily Chan and Suriaty Simon together with Bhante Cakkapala – as religious advisor, garnered thirty participants for the debut trip, making a total of thirty-eight participants in the entourage.
Objective of the trip
Chairman of MVDF, Brother Raymond Yow said,”The main objective of this trip is to assess and identify the needs of villages, educational centres, monasteries or orphanages in order to provide material and logistic assistance to up-lift their livelihood. Since this is a humanitarian trip, it is our intention to donate some fund and stationeries to three beneficial monastic education centres.
“The monastic education centres in Myanmar are more than a temple. The children of the poor are send there by their peasant parents from up-country, far and remote places (who can’t afford to keep them) and most of them are orphans (left behind by the many civil wars) picked up from the streets, the temple has become their home, offering them basic protection, education, stationeries, food, clothing, lodgings and their many daily needs,” he added, sympathetically.
Donations from Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple, well-wishers and participants
The Committee of Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple (MVBT), through its Chairman Dr Lim Ah Swan, graciously donated $3000 and 400 Kathina robes of which 70 were distributed to needy temples in Myanmar through another group of devotees who visited Myanmar last year November. The rest were brought to Myanmar by our group. Contributions from well-wishers in cash amounted to for $960 and 3 refurbished laptop computers from participant Brother Yeap Cheow Soon towards the mission. In additional participants and well-wishers contributed $330 towards the purchase of goodies on their own accord. The cost of the trip paid by each participant included donations to the various selected beneficiaries.
Siha asked the Lord: “Is it possible, Lord, to see the results of generosity?” And the Lord said: “Yes, it is possible to see the results of generosity. The giver, the generous one, is liked and dear to many. This is the results of generosity that is observable. Good and wise people follow the generous person. This is a result of generosity that is observable. The generous earns a good reputation. This also is a result of generosity that is observable. Once again, in whatever company he enters, be it nobles, brahmins, householders or monks, the generous person enters with confidence and without trouble. This is a result of giving that is observable. And finally, the giver, the generous person, is reborn in heaven after death. This is a result of generosity that can only be seen hereafter.” (A.III,39).
Donation lists of well-wishers
We registered a token of appreciation and acknowledged receipt from the following well-wishers for their cash donation:
Additional donations from participants on their own accord
Also a group of participants individually and collectively on their own accord collected a sum of $330 towards the purchase of candies, chocolate bars, biscuits, stationery, hair clips and toys for the children and orphans.
In addition there were donations in cash and kinds presented directly by individuals on their free accord to the recipients during the trip.
“In giving food, one gives five things. What five? One gives life, beauty, happiness, strengthen and intelligence. And in giving these things, one partakes in the qualities of life, beauty, strength and intelligence.” (A.III, 42).
The following selected beneficiaries were judiciously evaluated with the kind assistance of Bhante Cakkapala, Brother Min Po and Brother Yeap based on track record, authenticity, integrity and humanistic needs.
Pyi Gyi Dagon Monastic Education Centre with 40 orphans and 120 children received 70 robes, remittance of a gross sum of $1,314.15 equivalent in MMK, cash of $1,200, a laptop computer and a speaker system.
Khin Gyi Pyaw Monastic Education Centre with 126 ethnic novice monks received 130 robes, remittance of a gross sum of $1,970.80 equivalent in MMK, cash $1,600, a laptop computer and speaker system.
Makutarama Monastic Education Centre with 100 sangha, 195 students, 40 boys and girls received 70 robes (60 robes were donated to a monastery nearby Pyi Taw) , remittance of a gross sum of $2,079.70 equivalent in MMK, cash $1,900, a laptop computer and a speaker system.
A school at Lat Pan Village received remittance of a gross sum of $2,188.65 equivalent in MMK and a speaker system.
A four unit toilet was built at the cost $3,000 sponsored by devotees and well- wishers of Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple before the trip.
Historical Buddhist monuments and sites
The itinerary was planned in a leisurely manner that interspersed with places of Buddhist significant and historical interest and participants visited these sites along the journey.
Burma, as it was then known and now Myanmar, a Buddhist country is steeped in history and cultures inundated with Buddhist sites and monuments established by various dynasties that dotted throughout the nation. Palaces, stupas, pagodas and monasteries erected by kings, and many of them in ruins stood the test of time. We visited more than two dozens of such sites including Bagan archaeological zone which epitomized the saying: “If you are a real Myanmar, you must have been to Bagan.”
We visited numerous sites and due to space constraint could only mention a few sites among them Mahamuni Pagoda, Leaning Watch Tower, Me Nu Brick Monastery, Jade Pagoda, Ruined Mingun big stupa and Mingun big Bell, Sin Phyu Me Pagoda, Golden Palace Monastery, Atumashi Monastery, Mandalay Palace, Soon Oo Pon Nya Shin Pagoda, Kaung Hmu Daw Pagoda, Standing Buddha Statue (Bodhi Tahtaung), Ananda Pagoda, Htilominlo Pagoda, Dhammayangyi Pagoda, Ahlodawpyae Pagoda, Thatbinnyu Pagoda, Bagan Palace, Gubyaukgyi Cave Temple, Manuha Temple, Uppatasanti Pagoda, Kaba Aye Pagoda and Chauk Htat Gyi Reclining Buddha Statue.
The four most significant monuments that have direct bearing in the development of Buddhism or referenced in the Buddhist scriptures, texts and commentaries or legends are noteworthy to the readers.
Shwesandaw Pagoda – one of the tallest pagodas in Bagan with its height of 328 feet. It is said that some sacred hair of Gotama Buddha, which were obtained from the Mon kingdom were enshrined.
Shwedagon Pagoda – Legend has it that the Shwedagon was built during the Buddha’s life-time, making it the world oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. Two merchant brothers, Tapassu and Bhalluka, from Yangon went to India for trading. They met with the Buddha who had just attained enlightenment and offered food and became the first disciples who had to pronounce only two-word refuge (Devacika-sarana) with reference to the Buddha and the Dhamma. These two were the first devotees in whom the two-word refuge was established.
“Monks, chief among my disciples, lay-followers, of those who first took refuge (in my teaching), are the two merchants Tapassu and Bhalluka.” (A.I,26).
Thereafter, the two merchant brothers made a request, saying: “Blessed Buddha, give us something, out of compassion to us, for our worship forever.” The Buddha then rubbed His head with the right hand gave them His hair, conceding to their request and upon returned to their homeland built a pagoda, enshrining in it the hair relics kept in a gold casket. (Maha_Buddhavamsa – The Great Chronicle of Buddhas).
Kuthodaw Pagoda – was built by King Midon as part of the tradition foundations of the new royal city of Mandalay in 1857. It is famous for the 729 stone inscription cave stupas, each enshrining a marble slab inscribed on both sides with a page of text from the Tipikata, the entire Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism approved by the Fifth Buddhist Council held in 1871. It is figuratively called the World’s Biggest Book.
Mahapasana Cave modelled after the Sattapanni Cave at Rajagaha in India, where the First Council was believed to have been held shortly after parinibbana of the Buddha – is the largest man made “cava” where the Sixth Buddhist Council was convened from May 1954 to May 1956, in Kaba Aye in Yangon, 83 years after the Fifth Buddhist Council was held in Mandalay, to commemorate the 2,500 anniversary of the Buddha’s parinibbana. The entire text of the Pali Canon was reviewed and recited by the assembly of 2,500 monks from Burma (now Myanmar), Cambodia, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Laos, India, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.
So it was a humanitarian cum leisure trip, and indeed a very gratifying endeavour, not forgetting the frenzy shopping sprees that drove the economy of Myanmar. The spirit of camaraderie displayed among the participants from a wide spectrum hailed from devotees, Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Mandarin, meditation classes and Buddhist Pail College bonded the ties for future humanitarian missions that would enhance our practice of the Dhamma in our daily lives.
The trip was graciously supported by Chairman Dr Lim Ah Swan of MVBT for whom we are grateful and do hereby registered a token of appreciation.
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Date: January 27th 2016
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