Saturday, January 5, 2013

Buddhist Celebration

Long hallway of many rooms
One small corner...

There truly is nothing that these people can’t or won't do to show their devotion to the Buddha. We were told that historically, there were numerous reasons to build a stupa; as a good deed, to commemorate family, to atone for a wrong, to attract a wife. Hmmm...not really historical at all because they’re still building stupas and statues and such and for the very same reasons. We visited the Thanboddhe Temple with its 845 small stupas surrounding the building. Don't worry, they made up for the few outside stupas with the tiny Buddha statues inside...over 55,000 (no, I didn't put in too many 0's) decorating every single nook and cranny available.  Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely....well, look at the pictures and you fill in the best adjective. Just a hint...the lines you see on the walls, each is a ledge and the small button things are all tiny carved statues.

The Buddhist scriptures or teachings are considered to be one of the five gems. While the monastery schools teach how to read and write, most practice and learning is centered 
One of 729 tablets - about 4' tall
around the various Buddhist teachings. At the Kuthodaw Pagoda, you can see the entire scripture inscribed on marble slabs...729 marble slabs to be exact, written on both sides. It is also completely done in old Burmese, so while the monks can read it, it is comparable to old English for most of the lay people. It took years of work on the part of the men who did the inscribing...and then a few score of monks and a number of years to read each and every stone to make sure it was perfect. Yet another king, leaving his mark for posterity.

Waiting...or is it enduring?
One of the larger monasteries in the area opens its doors to tourists to observe the beginning of their main meal of the day. Monks eat a very early breakfast and then their main meal at about 10:30 in the morning because they eat nothing for the remainder of the day. This particular monastery has about 900 or so monks, ranging from 5 years on up. They line up in the morning with their bowls and walk down the long path to 
the dining area. A long path, made even longer by the huge line of tourists, waiting to take pictures. One particular monk had a very father like presence, cajoling the young monks, clapping his hand on a back, generally looking like he was encouraging his flock and loving what he was doing. He came over to talk with us as the monks streamed past. The monks receive rice from huge pots that are taken out earlier. Once inside the courtyard, they receive some of the many donations brought by various 
Our favorite monk
individuals and stores. They then proceed to sit inside where they eat in complete silence. The monastery has grown so large that they can no longer all sit together so many of the younger ones are sent out to eat elsewhere; we caught a few pictures as they scurried out to enjoy their meal. 

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