DANA SRI LANKA - Five Years On




DANA SRI LANKA -Who ? Whom What?


By Dr.Thet Thet Nwe

      This is in response to a few friends and friends of friends who expressed a wish to know more of our society, our activities ‘our aim and objectives and the outcome thus far of the 5 years of scholarship and soon dana support given to the Myanmar monks who arrived in Sri Lanka to pursue various graduate Buddhist studies in English from January of 1998.

     They come to study in the two universities in Colombo after they have completed the Buddhism Studies of Pa-htamagyi or Dhammacariya in Myanmar , which allow them to enrol in one of the two Universities, the Kelaniya and Buddhist & Pali University , as first year B.A. students. However, in order to follow the teachings and lectures the monks require some background English. For this those who are not proficient at all will take up a Diploma in English Course before attending a University .Our Society play no part in the individual monk’s journey to Sri Lanka. Once a monk is enrolled and possesses a valid student registration, our Society will donate the tuition fees and soon dana that our good friends have generously contributed over the whole year either as monthly donations or sponsorships for individual monks.

     According to U Soe Min , the then Secretary of DSLS there were some 6o monks attending various graduate courses residing at Makutarama Myanmar Monastery under the Supervision of Nayaka Sayadaw Ashin Narada Bivamsa and Secretary to the Monastery Ven U Janaka. To these monks a total of Sin. Dollar 21717 was donated from January to October 1998. (DSL Writings U Soe min October 1998, The first published account of DSLS in January of 1998.)

      At the last and latest count during our recent visit to Colombo on the 29 of April 2003 there were 105 monks and 3 nuns. Readers are requested to refer to the Sanghas list published in this issue. During our brief visit of 4 days in Sri Lanka in April 03, 3 monks and two nuns arrived within a few days of each other, so we were hard pressed to give out tuition fees immediately. Daw Tin Tin Myint found sponsors for them and I chip in by sponsoring for one nun sharing with Dr. Khin Lay Thein of London.

     The fees for each academic year of the 2 Universities differs quite significantly as for example a B.A student attending Kelaniya would cost Sin. Dollar 1000 while the fees for Buddhist Pali University is Dollar 400 per student per term .Any tuition fees that is in excess of a particular sponsors donated amount, is made up from the DSLS general fund or by joining of 2 to 3 donors to meet the particular monks annual scholarship dana. (Readers please refer to the monks education fees in this issue).

     In addition, 200 Sin dollars are donated for meals to every monk from the DSLS general fund. We also send dry foodstuff and other Myanmar favourite foods such as dried prawns, ngapi-yecho and Hmyin ngapi sausages, hmyitchin etc by Sea freight 3 to 4 times a year, all these being carried out at 3-4 monthly intervals by Daw Tin Tin Myint , Daw Yin Yin Win , U Hla Ngwe and co of Singapore.

     It was when the number of student Sanghas in Sri Lanka increase to 80, that Daw Tin Tin Myint hit upon the idea of securing individual or group donor sponsorship for each monk, either for a year or till the end of a degree course up to M.Phil or PhD as long as the monk continue to study in Sri Lanka.

     Other requisites in the support of the Sangha’s needs by the lay disciples such as food, medicine, robes and shelter i.e. Kyaung, are also not neglected by us. Each year, since 1999 come November, Daw Emma     Tin Tin Myint does the rounds of various Myanmar Theravada Monasteries, in Singapore coaxing, cajoling, requesting and begging for robes to send to the student sanghas or to a hold a Katheina Ceremony at Makutarama in person .We have also provided the monks there with a computer so far and a new P4 is on its way to Sri Lanka. We also buy and replenish necessary items such as tables, chairs and kitchen wares etc to accommodate the whole group of monks who converge on Makutarama dining hall for the one well cooked and nourishing lunch on Sundays and public holidays for a special “soon kyway”. Not forgetting the fact that many monks have to live at other Sri Lankan Monasteries where meals are often not relished by our monks’ palate, due to excessive spices in the cooking. So this one lunch on a Sunday with many delicious preparations by the residents of Makutarama is well attended and much appreciated by the non-resident student Sanghas. I may tell you that in all the 4 days Emma and I stayed in Colombo we were treated to sumptuous meals (hotel-style cooking mind you!) including desserts .To the rice and oil pot of the general Soon-Sa-Kyaung , we put in a separate Sin dollars 2000 per year from the general funds.

     The resourcefulness of our President, Daw Tin Tin Myint in fulfilling the requisites of the Sanghas in all its aspects astounds me. She never seems to miss a opportunity to lobby and win more prospective sponsors and donors for the DSLS cause at any Burmese gathering in Singapore to which she sets out with a very purposeful stride. (A much lighter stride these days !!)

     Over the past year or two a couple of our monks became ill and were warded at hospitals in Colombo to which DSLS send special funds for medical treatment and medicines An elderly monk needed a cataract operation in Colombo 2 years ago the surgical fees for this were met by a individual sponsor as well as from the general fund. This is to bring to our contributors’ attention that your monthly donations have been possible to provide the Sanghas with all the 4 well known supports accorded to the Buddhist clergy by the lay disciples.

     Now for the last and 4th requisites in the support of the Sanghas i.e. “kyaung” shelter, the lodgings and accommodation situation for the swelling student sangha population at present is far from satisfactory. Of the 100 plus sanghas and nuns only some 40 monks can be accommodated at Makutarama old temple (almost 70 years old) and a few more are crammed into the rooms at the extension building at the rear of the main monastery .This was originally planned as 2 and a half story extension complex in the shape of a quadrangle. There are about 4 triple occupancy good size rooms on each side of the quadrangle. However these rooms now lodge no fewer than 5 to 6 monks per room, a very pitiful sight it was to witness. Being April the weather was extremely hot and stuffy with rather poor ventilation in their rooms, few monks were found wearing their top robe, all huddle together with their noses buried in notes and books .It was a sad sight to see the student monks bravely putting up with the discomfort of overcrowded living conditions in order to reach their educational goals.

     This also means that some 60% of the monks are forced to find lodgings outside at various Sri Lankan temples or rented shared accommodations close to their universities adding to the cost of living.

     This extension building was left unfinished about 5 years ago, without a roof over the ground floor so that the walls are exposed to the elements of sun, rain and wind, and some signs of general deteriorations are evident. It is DSLS next important project to complete the rear extension building at Makutarama by constructing a first floor and a roof so as to house more monks as well as stop further destruction of the present ground floor complex. Hence we DSLS working committee members are pooling our resources together as well as invite our well wishers and contributors to help us complete the much needed “kyaung”.

     During our recent visit to Sri Lanka we were able to secure the help of a Sri Lankan Buddhist engineer and contractor who was able to calculate the estimated cost of the construction using economical building materials. They gave their advisory service free of charge for which we are truly grateful .We plan to add 4 dormitories with bath and toilet facilities, a small alter and prayer room and a study/computer room. The estimated cost is a little over 60000 Sin dollars and we have at present the pledge of 20000 Sin dollars towards this construction project. We are appealing to all our friends from far and near to donate any amount large or small separately for this building project.

     Currently we are in the process of repairing and resurfacing some drains outside the old monastery and also constructing a water storage tank and install a compressor pump to ease the burden of water difficulty faced by the monks. The cost of this repair is Sin. dollars 9500, which was donated collectively from  contributors in Singapore, Brunei, Myanmar, UK and USA over the past 2 years.

     So what have we achieved so far in the last five years of support to these student Sanghas and what are the fruits of our dana and saddha? The saddha and cetana of your donations and regular contributions are now bearing fruits in the form of many graduate monks some with M.As, M.Phils and a few PhDs. Some have begun their Dhmmadhuta journey in obedience of the Buddha’s Exhortation “go forth bikkhus and teach the pure Dhamma for the good of many….”

     One M.A graduate monk has started his Dhammadhuta mission in Macao island in rented accommodation as a Phongyi Kyaung which is being accepted and attended by the local Chinese Buddhists, two monks in the USA looking after the spiritual needs of Laotian Buddhist immigrants as well as local American Buddhist of the area. One in the U.K while working hard for his own PhD in Oxford is forging a path and preparing the ground for future Sangha aspirants in the pursuit of Academic Buddhist studies in the prestigious and august environs of Oxford . We wish this monk, one of our bright stars, much success in his endeavours to blaze a trail in the field of academic Buddhist studies for the future Sanghas. Some have returned to various parts of Myanmar to rejoin former monasteries. A few we are told have joined the Theravada teaching Institutions. A recent PhD monk is due to take up a lecturing post at a University in Bangkok . The dana that started with only a few contributors has grown to some 150 regulars from Singapore alone, 32 from Brunei as well as a few from USA , Canada, UK and Myanmar

     With your pure Saddha in this alms giving towards the propagation and proliferation of the Buddha Dhamma and Sasana, we office bearers of the DSL Society will continue to strive earnestly and sincerely with the faith and conviction that our wholesome collective kammas will accrue merits for us all. In the Name of Refuge in the Triple gems, to all our contributors and donors from near and far we say Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu which is but an echo of what our student monks in Sri Lanka are saying everyday in their prayers and Sunday lunch libation AH HMYAS.

     May the merits of this wholesome kamma be reflected and conditioned our individual developments of parami in the realisation of Nibbana and Enlightenment.


Vesak Greeting to DSL

      Dear Dakamagyi Emma, DSL family members,

     I take a day off today (one appointment is cancelled.) to write this Vesak message to you all. May you all have a very peaceful, spiritual and blessing Vesak! Upon you all, may there be, too, the blessings of the Lord Buddha, who more than 2600 years ago was born and almost 2600 years ago became fully enlightened and almost nearly 25 centuries and a half ago passed away TODAY!

     Vesak marks the above three noble and great days. The three events being celebrated TODAY in turn signify three important things: being or beginning is marked by His Birth; struggle and success are demonstrated by His Enlightenment; and an end is highlighted in His Mahaparinibbana.

     All beings begin and end, but very few can demonstrate success. The Lord Buddha, however, declared on the Day He was born as a small prince that He was determined to be the greatest in this world. This indicates that His eyes were set on success from day one. He was ambitious, to my observation, and was determined to make good of His claim. A good Buddhist should take notice of this fact.

     Vesak celebration is a new phenomenon. It started only in the 1880s when Col. Henry Olcott, on behalf of all Buddhists, successfully requested the British colonial government in Ceylon to recognise Vesak as national holiday. Only then, a Buddhist flag with six colours that we have today was designed by this American Buddhist. Since then, Vesak celebrations and the Buddhist flag have become the most visible identities of Buddhists all over the world.

     Burma received the Buddhist flag in 1954 when the country was to host the Sixth Buddhist Council to mark the 2500 Anniversary of the Mahaparinibbana of the Buddha and to revive Buddhism, long neglected due to colonialism and instability in our part of the world. Thailand has its own Buddhist flag, the yellow colour, but hoists also the international one on important occasions.

     In London, there is an annual celebration of Vesak by Buddhists of all nations and traditions at Hyde Park in central London. There is a process to the Japanese Peace Pagoda at Chelsea , near Westminster , and there is also a meeting where all come to listen to sermons, speeches, watch dances and Buddhist dramas.

     In Thailand, His Majesty the King leads the celebration and the main task involves honouring the Buddha with people going round a pagoda with a candle. It is to highlight wisdom. This practice, Wien Thien, has become a Thai symbol of national culture.

     Even in Indonesia, Vesak is a national holiday, and since three years ago the UN has recognised the right for all Buddhists to have a holiday on Vesak. And the UN itself has celebrated Vesak and the American scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi was the first speaker at the UN Vesak celebration.

     TODAY is actually about making efforts to understand who the Buddha was and what he did for human world. He was an example of how a single person can change the world without political power and money but with compassion and wisdom, the two weapons that few can claim to possess.

     DSL's work is a demonstrated aspiration of such compassion and wisdom that make a Buddha. May compassion and wisdom shine in our heart, and the Buddha's blessings be upon us all and all human beings!

     Sayadaw U Dhammasami

     Oxford University
Thursday, 15 May 2003, 16:58:54+0100 (BST)

Do we know where we are going?

      When I turned the infamous five old, I told myself that I am not going to live another 50 years, and in these remaining life I have to die one day. Then how am I going to do the transition? Then I started preparing myself to die. Every night before I go to bed, I would on the Dhamma tapes and try to fall asleep while listening. In this way, I am hoping my last thoughts would be wholesome ones. Chanmyay Sayadaw came to do retreat in Singapore:place>:country-region> and I started my vipassana journey. I became spiritual and with U Dhammasami, I started this Dana Sri Lanka Society. We are where we are today because our parents believed in education. We can hold our heads high because we can hold intelligent conversations. Like all middle class people our strength has been education. We will go all out to give the very best possible for our children's education. It’s only fair that we also support to our monks studying in foreign lands. Life is short Samsara is long and Panna parami is never enough.

     At this rate of my meditation, I am not getting liberated in a hurry. We will still need this Buddha's Sassana the monks are preserving for generations to come for our Samsara. Every year we can donate around fifty thousand for their school fees and other needs. We also do the maintenance and renovation works on the present monastery. Now Dr. Thet Thet Nwe wants to complete the unfinished building in the compound. It was estimated at Sin.$ 90000. I am sure with the power of Saddha of Dr. Thet and power of Sila of our Sanghas in Colombo:place>:City> the project will be a success. I pay salute to our Amagyi. Her Saddha makes me humble. I pay salute to Sayadaw U Dhammsami. His enormous intellect makes me humble too. I also have to mention Daw Yin Yin Winn whose total dedication is our DSL's engine. All our EC members who collect monthly, Daw Thida Htut, Daw Chaw Su of USA, Daw Swe Swe Than, Daw Khin Oo Kyi, Ms. Tan Mei Lee, we thank you. On behalf of all our monks in Sri Lanka I would like to thank to all our sponsors, especially who had been taking every year, like U Ye Myint, Dr. May  Yin Yin Than, U Thet Oo, Daw Khin Mar Winn, U Thein Oo, Daw Khin Nyo, U Khin Mg Aye, Daw Mya Mya Lwin, U Tin Tun, Daw Myint Myint Win, U Soe Naing, Daw Chaw Su, U Kyaw Myint, Daw Thida Htut, U Nyi Nyi Lwin, Daw Myint Myint Aye, Dr. Thet Thet Nwe, Dr. Mya Mya Win, Dr. Mg Mg Aye and Dr. Nyo Nyo Aye of Brunei. Here it’s only fair that I mention my rock of gilbrator my husband of 30 years and my daughter for giving me freedom to pursue my parami.

     Last but not least my mother Daw Tin Aye for being there always for her family, friends and Sassana. Do we know where we are going to? I have to say I do not know but it shouldn't be so bad with all these Kusala Kamma we are collecting. Do you like what life is bringing you? I have to say no complaints. In my vain way I would like to think I am making a very small contribution to the Sassana. Terrorism, war, SARS and a downhill racer of an economy have led to the spread of a kind of spiritual cancer. It pains me when families are lost to SARS, when I see the crying limbless children in Iraq:place>:country-region> , or when I see the devastation of a country's cultural artifacts. It also hurts when I think of the people who died meaninglessly in Bali :place> and in World Trade Centre. It makes me realise the meaning of the word Dukkha. We definitely need the Buddha's teaching to be around to help us deal with these, and to escape from these and to try to prevent from all these man made disasters. Aren't we romantic? We are helping our bright young monks to preserve the noble teachings of the Lord Buddha for positive energy we so need in this present times.


      Who are we?

      We are a group of overseas Burmese from Singapore , Brunei, Canada and USA , and their friends who collect donations monthly and support the Burmese monks studying in Sri Lanka .

      Whom are we supporting?

      We support Burmese monks studying is Sri Lanka . This year there are over 110 monks. Some of them come after finishing their Dhammacariyas, some after Pahtamagyi Tan, which is one class below the former. Those who already got Dhammacariyas are allowed to join MA classes at Universities in Sri Lanka . They study Buddhist Philosophy, Buddhist Culture and Pali. Those who do not have Dhammacariya start at B.A. All have to study English writing and speaking.

      What do we support?

      We give soon [food] Dana. We give sponsorship for school fees. This year we give Singapore $ 800 for MAs studying in University of Kelaniya. For B.As, we gave Sin.$ 1000 in the same university. For Buddhist and Pali University students, we gave Sin.$ 400.