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My Burma Pilgrimage Diary

September 05, 2011

By Marites Allen

For several magical days last July, I was with  my World of Feng Shui family led by my friend and mentor Lillian Too on a pilgrimage to Burma or what is now known as Myanmar. The Myanmar experience was truly breathtaking and magical.  I had been to pilgrimages in India and Nepal, and although both were wonderful experiences, I found the Myanmar activity was so different....its people, the history of the place, the wonderful temples and hundreds of thousands of awesome Buddhas and pagodas built through the years made the experience stand out among the rest.   Myanmar is like the sleeping beauty of the East.   Our 9,000 lighting ceremony at the Shwedagon Pagoda and the visit to the tallest Standing Buddha were among my best moments.  To top this all, with the powerful energy and lots of fun (and praying of course....) with His Holiness Choden Rinpoche, Ms. Lillian Too and our friends from all over the world .... this pilgrimage was simply the BEST!

Following are the highlights of this trip:

July 2, 2011

Arrived in Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar.  We were met by the tour organizers and brought to Park Royal Hotel where we spent the night.

July 3, 2011

Took a city tour around Yangon to view its outstanding pagodas and old architecture. Among its attractions are the Sule pagoda or the meeting point pagoda, the Chauk Htut Gyi Reclining Buddha with interesting religious icons on the sole of his feet, and the Botatug Pagoda which led to a relic chamber. A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda and a light offering  ritual capped our city tour. According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda is at least 2,500 years old; archaeologists, however, estimate that it was built during the Bagan Period between the 6th and 10 centuries. The tradition of gilding the stupa with gold started in the late 15th century with the then Queen Shinsawbu providing gold equal to her weight. The gold was made into gold leaf that was used to cover the surface of the stupa.

July 4, 2011

From Yangon, we took a one hour and ten minutes flight to Bagan, one of the richest archaelogical sites of Myanmar.  A visit to a local market provided a taste of local living, but this stop was made most memorable by the historic temples and pagodas, including the Shwesi Gone Pagoda that is known for its stupa with Buddha’s real tooth relic;  the Ananda Temple, an architectural gem for its four huge standing Buddha images; and  the Mahuna extraordinary temple with the suffocated Buddha and the smiling nirvana Buddha images. It was at this pagoda that we had a chance to view a magnificent sunset.

July 5, 2011

Took a morning flight from Bagan to Mandalay. From Mandalay, we drove to the ancient city of Amapura where we visited a monastery that houses over 1000 Buddhist monks. Later we were off to see the U Bein Bridge, the longest teakwood bridge all over the world. We were driven up a hill in a specially built truck to visit Umin Thoneze, a cave with 45 Buddha statues. This was to ensure our safety as only vehicles carrying no more than nine passengers are allowed to drive up the hill.

July 6, 2011

Visited Pho Win Taung and its roughly 700 temples manually cut by ancient people on mountain slopes using rocks. ThanBoddhay Temple revealed over 500,000 Buddha status of different sizes. We then viewed the world’s highest Buddha image standing at  127 m, which allowed visitors to go inside Buddha’s body.

July 7, 2011

Had an early morning visit to the Maha Muni Buddha image, the second most important religious place to Buddhists. There was a face-washing ceremony and devotees prayed while the ceremony was in progress. The magnificent image is covered with about 3 to 4-inch thick gold leaves on its life-sized body. Later we drove up to Mandalay Hill where we visited the Wish Fulfilling image and had a panoramic view of the city.  We also visited the Kutho Daw Pagoda, which houses the world’s largest book containing a complete set of Buddhist scriptures on marble stone slabs.

Did some shopping at jewelry shops and the jade market for some Buddha souvenirs

July 8, 2011

More shopping at Yangon after breakfast. Check-out time at the hotel and transfer to the Yangon International Airport and flight back to KL.

Everyone in our group held positive feelings about the entire experience. M.K.Sen of Malaysia considers it “the most enlightening pilgrimage with such a  revered and knowledgeable Choden Rinpoche.  The visit has made us actually realized how extensive Buddhism has existed and been practiced in Burma. The rich heritage of the Buddhist temples,  stupas and other spiritually motivating structures was an eye opener to me and my wife who have been very lucky to have this pilgrimage with Choden Rinpoche.”  Lee Hwang of Singapore gave this simple yet apt description: “Absolutely  amazing! A truly fulfilling experience!”

All throughout the tour, there was very little access to the Internet or telephone. Still, it was not an issue as we were there for a different purpose. As Dennis Tan of Malaysia puts it: “It's wonderful to leave my thoughts behind in Kuala Lumpur and to be able to keep my thoughts and focus on religion.” My good friend Yuri Saito from Japan has this to say: “I was so happy and I felt free as a bird while enjoying the peacefulness of the environment. I missed my kids but in return I had an enjoyable time in a pilgrimage with my wonderful friends. I felt I was in full force with the positive energy of the people around me.”

My thoughts exactly.

 

[Please click here for more photos of the pilgrimage]


 

 

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