Group spreads Vipassana meditation

By Aye Sapay Phyu, The Myanmar Times, Nov 11, 2009

Yangon, Myanmar -- BUDDHAM Saranam Gacchami (I go for refuge to the Buddha). Dhamman Saranam Gacchami (I go for refuge to the Dhamma). Sangam Saranam Gacchami (I go for refuge to the Sangha).

The chanting of this Buddhist affirmation, known as the threefold refuge, spreads in the morning air from the congregation hall in Si Sone Monastery.

<< Yawgi participate in the Vipissana meditation course at Si Sone monastery in southern Inle Lake last month.

Nearly 70 locals have risen before 5am to take part in a meditation course offered by the Anagam Sayar Thetgyi Vipassana meditation group, held from October 13 to 21.

Dressed in brown robes, the participants are known as yawgi. They live at the monastery for the duration of the course, observing the eight precepts and meditating in the congregation hall for 10 hours each day, until 9pm.

It is the second time the meditation group, who take their name from a pupil of Ledi Sayadaw, the monk often credited for reviving the practice of Vipassana meditation, has offered the meditation course at Si Sone, a monastery in the southern part of Inle Lake about a one-hour boat ride from Nyaungshwe.

Fifty-seven-year-old yawgi Daw Shwe Khin, from Nyaungshwe township, said the course was a rare opportunity for locals to learn about Vipassana meditation.

“I like the Vipassana method practised by Anagam Sayar Thetgyi but there isn’t many meditation courses offered in our township, or even in the district. For many of us it is difficult to go and practise at meditation centres in Yangon,” Daw Shwe Khin said. “So I decided to concentrate hard with the instruction of the group’s teachers, I don’t want to waste a second of the training. This course is a big chance for me and I really appreciate that the teachers have come from a long way away to teach us.”

She said the meditation brought a “deep peacefulness” and, despite practising for 10 hours a day, found it satisfying rather than tiring.

Ma Cho Cho Khine, 33, from Pauk Taw village near Si Sone village, was participating for the second time. She said she noticed a considerable improvement in her ability to concentrate this year.

“I also participated in last year’s mediation course. I felt very tired the first time I tried the Vipassana method but it has helped me to improve this year,” Ma Cho Cho Khine said.

Daw Phyu, one of the teachers from the Anagam Sayar Thet Kyi Vipassana meditation group, said they were gratified by the hard work and concentration shown by Si Sone’s yawgi.

“There are no many meditation courses in these areas; it’s not like in Yangon and other big cities. People here have only one chance a year to participate in such kind of meditation course,” Daw Phyu said. “So I feel very pleased when I see how hardworking and obedient they are. Although we have to travel a long distance from our homes in Yangon to come here, we try to come once a year without fail,” she said.

Others, like Ma Myint Myint San and Ma Than Htwe, show their appreciation by helping out at the monastery while the course is being offered.

“I participated in the meditation course last year. Some people who helped out last year are now taking the meditation course. We are happy to support them and then we also practise meditation in our free time,” Ma Than Htwe said.

While the 50 participants in the first course were mostly just from Si Sone village, Ma Myint Myint San said some of this year’s batch of yawgi come from neighbouring villages.

The sun has now begun to rise, signalling the end of the early morning meditation session. Both Ma Myint Myint San and Ma Than Htwe walk to the breakfast tables, and lay out snacks, teapots and cups for the yawgi, and the silence of Vipassana meditation is soon replaced by the sound of merit-sharing.

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