“Over the years” Sri Chinmoy once said, “ I have been to a number of countries that follow the teachings of the Lord Buddha, but here in Myanmar I feel that Lord Buddha has a very, very special eye of compassion and a very, very special heart of universal love. Myanmar I feel has a most special place in the heart of Lord Buddha. The depth of silence, the beauty of simplicity and the hunger for life’s perfection I see and I feel in the aspiring and self-giving soul of Myanmar, blessed child of the world liberator, Lord Buddha.”
In January of this year, a number of us again met up in Myanmar for two memorable weeks, our third visit. I sat in the departure lounge of Bangkok airport en route to Yangon and watched two travellers playing chess. One of the players was playing while blindfolded. Her eyes – I imagined them to be green or blue, a sea colour – were hidden behind a red scarf. She was memorizing her opponents every move, her face looking away and sideways in concentration, seeing each piece on the board in her mind as each new position was relayed to her. Sometimes her hands touched the chess pieces very lightly as though reading Braille or caressing the face of a child. Someone said she was a Russian prodigy, that even though sightless she would win.
We arrived in Yangon in the midday, took a dilapidated taxi through streets blue with the exhaust fumes of motorbikes and old cars – although winter it was hot and dry like a pedigree New Zealand summer. Later several of us caught a taxi out to a popular lake and watched the sun setting. There were lots of monks about, fresh coconut stalls, a dusty market place, tourists draped with cameras, fields full of peanut plants and plastic bags. We stood on a wooden pier and watched the sun sinking into the horizon, a red ball in the evening haze that coloured the fields with copper shadows and flared across the sheets of bright water.
I sat in the peaceful dusk and read a little from Krishna’s final teachings, the Uddhava Gita. Krishna was saying ‘All things that appear as multiplicity, all are as unreal as the objects seen by the dreamer in a dream. When the yogi finds the Self, the terrible knot that binds the heart – the idea of ‘I’ – will be cut asunder and I, the Self of the universe, will be realized.’
A young Burmese girl selling japa beads approached me and I bought a string of her jade beads to make her happy. She was a fisherman’s daughter from a local village, spoke four languages and told me that her Burmese name meant ‘Happy Rain’. She sat five metres away and watched me when I sat to meditate a little. Under the evening sky a monk was chanting the Buddhist mantra that concludes the great Heart Sutra – ‘gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate bodhi svaha’ – ‘beyond, beyond, utterly beyond, hail enlightenment ….’ . I was enjoying the multiplicity of the world, the beautiful red and apricot sky, the gathering dark and peacefulness, the ritual incantations of the monk that pointed us past the unreality of the world toward the infinite:
‘No suffering, cause, extinction or path.
No knowledge nor anything to find. ….
A heart without any obstruction and thus no fear
Abandoning, overturning all dreams, all thoughts,
Finally reaching nirvana….’
Then in the gathering night I wandered back to our taxi with a fellow disciple, Happy Rain still following behind us. She felt to me like the soul of this country, all simplicity, purity, innocence, and I felt very deeply what Guru had spoken of, the great love that the Buddha has for these people, this country. I could feel the Buddha’s special love for Myanmar like a deep tenderness of the heart. Lights were coming on, lamps lit, the unhurried evening all peacefulness. As we drove away I felt a little sad that I could not offer more to Happy Rain, this Burmese child who had felt some kinship with these strangers and so unobtrusively befriended us.