Behind the Ancient Ruins
The ancient ruins of Myanmar conceal the hidden secret for humanity’s well-being today. Among the thousands of temples and pagodas on the plain of Bagan, an ancient capital, you will find a vast variety of smiling Buddhas. Some are very old, some recently restored. Most are seated, touching the ground in the ‘earth witness’ gesture. A few are standing magnificently, towering in the dark chambers of these stone and brick structures beaten by earthquakes and time. Who are these figures that hearken back 2,600 years? What is the meaning of this secret treasure and why does it endure?
A Country with a Living Tradition
It’s not only Bagan that hosts these temples and pagodas, and their inhabitants. Throughout Myanmar the landscape is graced by innumerable structures on hilltops and mountains, on lakes and valleys. Many are alive with groups of monks with robes the color of the red earth of the country, or nuns in gorgeous pink, going about their daily schedule of alms collection, recitation of texts, meditation, and hanging out. They approach the hidden secret symbolised by Buddha by living according to the precepts developed at the time of the Buddha.
Generosity Produces Peace
That an entire country supports and respects this monastic sangha helps to keep the secret accessible and alive, not merely some archeological zone maintaining fascinating precious ruins of a forgotten time. The country of Myanmar then is a container for something precious that all of humanity needs. Giving with generosity to the monastic sangha, putting gold leaf on Buddha statues (some so dense with gold that they have become unrecognizable blobs), offering breakfast to monks and nuns lined up for morning alms; all this means something profound and important for a world that has largely gone mad in the search for power and success. This kind of giving has the affect of producing peace.
A Secret Treasure for the World
I noticed a stark contrast sometimes between western travellers and Myanmar people. The westerners are often severe, aloof, determined, not so friendly (many are also wonderfully friendly). Myanmar people are warm and inviting, even amidst grinding poverty. It is easy to go along with the smiles and friendliness of the many different tribes inhabiting the towns and countryside. They are expressing basic humanness, not forgotten through the centuries, while the speed of “civilisation” rages all around. Myanmar denied and ‘left behind’ through sanctions and military rule maintains the precious secret treasure.
The Secret Treasure Revealed
I was told that the young people here debate about the value of putting all that gold onto Buddhas, when the wealth could be used for more practical necessities of life. Yet new pagodas are still going up and the people’s hearts are still turned towards the three precious jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The secret is revealed by the smile of the Buddha. In the simplicity of a smile is individual contentment. It is the smile of society at peace. In this kind of society, there is not the constant struggle between what is right and wrong, so there is lots of room to be kind.
“Outside creations are shining in ruins
Inside the freedom from hope and fear shines
And in between, I’m not sick with striving or straining, no, no, no !
I am not thinking right and wrong are two different things—that’s all I am !”
Join is in Morocco this New Year to discover the secret treasure. There are still places available at our Morocco Countryside retreat, December 28 2017 – January 3.