Meditation: the best way to relax during your holidays
Nang San Noom
MYANMAR has often been described as being the "cradle of Buddha"
– so it’s not surprising that few places in the rest of the world
can offer the complete meditation experience available here.
More than anything else, meditation is probably
the most widely practiced holiday for Myanmars. Almost without exception,
most Buddhists in this nation of 50 million have had an experience
in a meditation centre and so it is worth exploring just exactly what
are the options for those contemplating spending time thinking about
the inner self and the wider universe. It’s almost impossible to
say how many meditation centres there are in Myanmar. Certainly thousands,
but there are around 30 or so which are very popular for both foreigners
and locals and most of these have an international reputation. One
of the great things about Buddhism of course is that there is absolutely
no discrimination regarding race, country, culture or religious background.
Rules are few, but the discipline to meditate is high for the newcomer.
Most centres are away from crowded areas and
isolated in order to keep a peaceful environment. Men and women retreat
separately in a centre and most meditation centres are open year round.
Not surprisingly, the cost to go to a meditation center is low. Even
less than K100 per day, with foreigners just being asked to make
a donation. People of different ages are going to meditation centres
during their holidays and to ascertain just what they think about
the whole experience Myanamr Times visited the centres to
talk with people first hand.
CONNIE – 32 year old rock singer
"If someone asked me to explain how I view
true relaxation, I’d go for meditation," she said. And to prove her
point she says she goes for at least one month every year to "keep
it together". Connie’s perspective is that too much fun can lead to
deterioration for the younger generation, while meditation brings
a wider understanding. "Meditation leads to the basic knowledge of
religion and will provide you with peace and calm for the whole of
your life. "I can now bear more the ups and downs – changes of life
– compared to previous times," she said.
Connie returns to retreat for one month each
year at a meditation centre during Buddhist lent. Though some go to
meditation centres intentionally, some are only there for the experience.
Sophie van Scherpenzeel – a meditation student from the Netherlands.
"This holiday is the marvelous one for me. It has taught me something
which I haven’t known before," Ms Sophie van Scherpenzeel, a lady
from the Netherlands, a yogi from Mahasi meditation centre, explained
to Myanmar Times. As soon as she had finished her studies,
she spent her holiday travelling. She had heard about the Buddhist
faith and meditation centers of Myanmar from some foreigners. Though
she was not a Buddhist, she became curious about it and decided to
"I intended to sit for mediation only for two
weeks but it drew my interest and so I have been sitting for four
months. "At first I thought it would be very easy to sit and reflect,
but it proved to be the most difficult thing to do. During the first
week I felt only pain and discomfort due to prolonged sitting, but
later I felt a strange feeling which is difficult to express. "Since
I have to spend my time by noting every movement I’m making, negative
thoughts are away from me. Four months passed quickly, so I called
my dad to follow me and he is now here," she said, wearing a yogi’s
dress together with a calm and peaceful face. It is not just a way
of living peacefully for a short time, meditation can have a positive
effect throughout the yogi’s life.
Sayadaw Thu Nanda – Teacher of meditation
"Holiday meditation provides me with a peaceful
life," said Sayadaw Thu Nanda, who became a monk at Mahasi meditation
centre after retiring from his previous life as a famous dermatologist
Dr Thet Naung. When he was a doctor, he went to Australia to continue
his studies and met with an Australian lady who wanted to spend her
holiday at a Myanmar meditation centre. The lady asked him for details
about meditation and he felt sad since he knew nothing about meditation.
As soon as he returned to Myanmar, he started to sit for meditation
during holidays. But, he wanted to know more and more about religion
and chose the life of a monk. Now, Sayadaw often goes to foreign countries
as a demonstrator of meditation. "Insight meditation is the first
step to understanding correctly the nature of the psycho-physical
phenomena taking place in our own bodies. It is the realistic way to
learn about religion. As Myanmar is famous for her Buddhist beliefs
and meditation, nearly all Buddhists are trying to do one of the three
main good deeds such as making donations (Dana), keeping at least five
precepts (Sila) and meditation (Bawana) not only on auspicious occasions,
but every day. Even those who are very busy keep a specific short
time for meditation.
Dr Kyaw Myint – Medical Doctor
"After gaining a basic knowledge from meditation
centres there are ways to improve your daily life. Awareness, not
only for a short time during meditation, but also noting every action
during our daily activities is very effective," said Dr Kyaw Myint,
Panal Physician and Medical Technical Advisor, who sits for meditation
at Myanmar Medical Association every Sunday. At least 50 doctors and
physicians meditate at MMA hall every Sunday and most of them said
that a man whose power of concentration is good and who can secure
a perfect balance of mind can achieve better results than a person
who is not so developed. They also accept that with the development
of the purity and power of the mind, backed by insight into the Ultimate
Truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things for the benefit
They said that he who develops the power of
concentration sees things in their true perspective.
Zayar Htut – student
"After my final examinations, I was tired of
learning and decided a meditation centre was the best place for me.
Before I sat for meditation, I used to spend my summer holidays by
travelling with my friends and when I came back, I felt very tired
instead of relaxed," said Zayar Htut, a fourth year student of Institute
of Technology, to MT. He said he also felt discomfort when
sitting for meditation at the beginning, but later he felt peaceful
and fully relaxed. " Meditation removes my stressful feelings and
brings a purified and peaceful mind."