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3 April 2017

Buddhism in Myanmar

Buddhist temple in Myanmar

Every day on the bus ride from where I stay to where I teach, the bus will pass by a section on Pyay Road where the dome of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda and the plaza built around it, can be clearly seen. It is really a magnificent sight compared to the old buildings and thick trees that usually line the roads of Yangon. Even at night, during power cuts, one can always count on the lights that illuminate the Shwe Dagon Pagoda to still be on, illuminating the dome like a beacon in the dark.

The dome is made of gold in some sections, while on others it is covered by gold leaf. On the top of the dome sits the pride of Shwe Dagon Pagoda – a large jewel that reflects three different colors depending on where one views it from. To me, every dome of a pagoda represents the worldview that the Buddhists in Myanmar hold on to – with the bottom representing the masses who have not reached higher levels of enlightenment and learning, rising steeply till the top, often adorned with a parasol, representing the epitome of enlightenment: Nibanna, or nothingness that comes from having no form nor any desire.

During the bus rides, I notice how many people on the bus fold their palms together and raise them to their foreheads, whispering a silent prayer or simply to ensure such an action would increase their chances of being blessed by Buddha. Most Burmese Buddhist do not fully understand the Buddhist doctrine, but claim to be Buddhist because their family are, or simply because of a mindset that to be Burmese means to be Buddhist. Most Burmese, who are poor, are amazed and dazzled by the wealth that Shwe Dagon Pagoda and other pagodas around Yangon represent – an irony, considering that Buddhist doctrine stipulates that the higher one rises in enlightenment, the more diminished one’s thoughts of earthly wealth.

Will you pray for Myanmar?

  • Pray the Burmese will realise that the God of this universe cannot be contained in a temple made of human hands, and that all wealth pales in comparison to the glory of the living God.
  • Pray that knowledge of God will allow the Burmese to experience fullness in life instead of the emptiness that most people face every day.

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