During the debut trip on an exploratory humanitarian mission to Myanmar, we visited a handful of monasteries and centres. After judicious evaluation a monastic education centre was selected based on strict criteria and merits. An aid-programme spearheaded by Brother Yeap Cheow Soon with contributions from a group of regular donors and well-wishers kickstarted the programme.
Encouraged by the fecund progress following the debut trip in December 2015 we embarked on this follow up trip, from December 26th 2016 to January 3rd 2017, to review the progress of the various projects undertaken at Khin Gyi Pyaw (Innwa) Monastic Education School (administered by Sayadaw Sumana) and also to evaluate their future needs. It was also scheduled a visit to Yadanarthidi Parahita Monastic High School (administered by Sayadaw Agganyara) at Mogoke. However, due to security and safety reasons the trip was aborted.
The entourage comprised of Brothers Chin Kee Thou, Liu Yew Fatt, Min Po and Yeap Cheow Soon; and Sisters Cheng Seow Eng, Chin Nguk Kim, Chua Lay Hong, Lee Bee Leng, Ong Siew Choo and Tan Siew Hong, accompanied by Bhante Cakkapala who gracefully accepted our invitation as religious advisor embarked on the trip with vigour and enthusiasm. Brothers Hing Sing Huat and Raymond Yow joined at the later part of the trip.
We brought along a potpourri of goodies and gifts such as robes, stationery, soft toys, children pictorial books, confectionary, cash donations, and many miscellaneous items generously donated by well-wishers as well.
“Not merely by efficiency of the gift does one become especially productive of great fruit, but rather through the thought and efficiency of the field of those to whom the alms are given. Therefore even with so little as a handful of rice bran or a piece of rag or a spread of grass or leaves or a gall-nut in decomposing (cattle-) urine bestowed with devout heart upon a person who is worthy of receiving a gift of devotion will be the great fruit, great splendour and of great pervasiveness.” (Vv. No. 1).
Yadanarthidi Parahita Monastic High School
Our visit to the monastic school (administered by Sayadaw Agganyara) at Mogoke was aborted due security and safety reasons. Nevertheless, we presented the goodies and gifts to Sayadaw Agganyara when he called upon us at the hotel where we stayed.
Khin Gyi Pyaw (Innwa) Monastic Education School
It adopted 146 samanaeras (novices) with age ranging from 5 years to teenagers where they received education guided by the seven dedicated teachers engaged by the school.
The inaugural project on the wish list was the construction of a new kitchen with donors’ contributions of SGD2,000 towards the cost was completed in April 2016.
The next project that helped improve the sanitary level with the construction of additional toilets – thus a block of toilets commenced construction in mid-June 2016 was completed in mid-August 2016, a gift from generous donors costing SGD10,000.00.
Following closely was the request for classrooms to accommodate the rising numbers of samaneras to enable them to attend lessons under a more conducive environment. A block of three unit classrooms was completed at the later part of 2016. An opening ceremony for the new block of three unit classrooms was officiated on December 28th 2016 by Bhante Cakkapala, Sayadaw Sumana and Brother Yeap by the symbolic act of cutting the ribbon, thus marked the milestone of completion of the first phase of the project for the year.
In commemoration of this happy and noble occasion an offering of luncheon or sanghika dana to the sangha and samaneras as we rejoiced and shared in the merits and the partake of the food as “both devas and human beings always take delight in food. So what sort of spirit could it be that does take delight in food?” (SN 1:43).
Questions and Answers Session
Feedbacks and rapport with the staff are vital to improve and implement any project that will be most beneficial to them. Thus a questions and answers session was held after meal time moderated by Bhante Cakkapala provided invaluable information for future projects lining up in the pipeline.
We stayed overnight at the monastic school and woke up the next morning at 5:00 a.m. participated in the pindapata or alms round. “Alms food is any sort of food. For any sort of nutriments called “alms food” (pindpata – literally means “lump-dropping”) because of its having been dropped (pitatatta) into a bhikkhu’s bowl during alms round (pindapata).” (Vism 1.89).
The sangha and samanaeras went on alms round around Innwa town keeping alive the practice and lineage of the Buddhas. “Royal father, such a practice of receiving alms from door to door is the precedence set by an unbroken line of we Buddhas.” (Mahabuddhavamsa).
At the same time on this joyous occasion that gave us yet another opportunity to practise the Dhamma, we offered sanghika dana again for the monks and those samanaeras who are too young to go for pindapata. Keeping in line with the practice of delivering Dhamma talk after meal, Bhante Cakkapala delivered Dhamma talk to the samanaeras and other members of the congregation.
In addition to infrastructure improvements and amenities the general health and welfare of the samaneras and the teachers are also taken care within the ambit of the aid-programme.
Meal offering four times a week and on Uposatha day (new-moon-day and full-moon-day) of each month sponsored by donors and well-wishers or from the common pool of funds (when no sponsor) provided better meals for the samaneras, teachers and ancillary staff for their well-being. “In giving food, one gives five things. What five? One gives life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence. And in giving these things, one partakes in the qualities of life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence, both here and hereafter.” (A.lll.42).
Financial contributions as a monthly stipend to supplement purchase of better quality food stuff to provide adequate nutrition to the growing body of the children so as to keep illness at bay and also topped up the wages to retain the teachers to match the median salary of those working in government schools.
Myanmar is a country with a rich and long history and legend in Buddhism dating back to the days of the two merchant brothers Tapussa and Bhalluka trading in India offered rice-cake and ball of honey food to the Buddha after having fasted for forty-nine days gained Enlightenment, were the first devotees who took refuge in the Buddha and the Dhamma.
We visited several Buddhist archaeological sites monuments and enumerate just a few that are more significant.
Shwedagon Pagoda – It is the oldest stupa in the world, believed that the two merchant brothers having taken refuge made a request saying: “Blessed Buddha, give us something, out of compassion to us, for our worship forever.” The Buddha rubbed His head with his right hand and gave them his hair, conceding to their request. (Mahabuddhavamsa). The hair relic is enshrined in this pagoda.
Mahapasana Cave – A man made cave where the Sixth Buddhist Council was held in 1954 and the Burmese edition of Khuddaka Nikaya includes the Milindapana Pali as the eighteenth book.
Jade Pagoda at Mandalay – is made strictly with jade and no brick is used and is the world largest jade pagoda.
Chauk Htat Gyi Reclining Buddha is one of the most revered Buddha image well known for its beautiful face and captivating eyes and the footprints.
U Pain Bridge is popular with visitors during the evening to capture the mesmerizing sun set scene is iconic. (See feature photo).
Future development and project
Moving forward to uplift the hygiene standard further the construction of a new water well is envisaged with the remittance of SGD2,000 towards the cost. A dining hall to accommodate all the samaneras as well as another block of classrooms are provided for in the plan for the year 2017.
We shall return to Myanmar at the end of 2017 to review the progress of future project under construction or completion and to evaluate further aids, if any.
You are cordially invited to visit The Gallery to view more photos.
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Date: January 21st 2017
Unless otherwise stipulate text, photos and video clips by contributor who takes responsibility for any inadvertence factual or otherwise.