Ma Nimala ,B.A.(Eng.)
Kalaw, one of the most beautiful hill stations in Golden Myanmar, is located in the southern Shan State. It is over 4000 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by blue mountain ranges covered with beautiful pine trees and cherry trees covered with blossoms in winter. Hence, some people named this place the Pine-land or Cherry-land. It is also known as Maw -Hmay-Oo as it is an entryway to the southern Shan State. Some poets composed verses about this lovely town and inhabitants. There are many interesting places to visit in Kalaw township. Among the tourist attractions are an ancient Buddha image made of bamboo strips and an 800 foot long historic cave called Myinmathigu with wonderful stalactites.
As it is a hilly region, the weather is quite cold, like that of some Western countries. Some foreigners lived in Kalaw during the wars. Nowadays, many local and foreign tourists visit Kalaw every year. Most of them are interested in the traditional customs of the national races such as the Palaung, Lahu and Dhanu. Foreigners usually go hiking to their villages, crossing one mountain after another to observe the life and dress of the local people. Some foreign tourists, though they are non-Buddhists, are interested in practising meditation in a peaceful and quiet place like Kalaw. Such tourists often pay a visit to our meditation center. It is the only one in Kalaw. It is situated in the eastern part of the town. Grandma Daw Sumana Ceri is in charge of it. She said that the sole export of our town is the four foundations of mindfulness. There are fifteen nuns in our meditation center. One of them is a graduate from Mandalay Arts and Science University. She received her B.A. degree in 1984 and became a nun in 1996. In fact, she wanted to be a nun since the early I990s, but she had to delay implementing her noble wish due to her mother's disapproval of it. Only after Grandma Daw Sumana Ceri successfully convinced her mother of the nobility of nunhood, was she allowed to fulfill her long-time dream of becoming a nun for life.
Being the only meditation center in a quaint little peaceful town, our center attracts many foreigners who are interested in practising the four foundations of mindfulness; the only way for the purification of the mind. A group of Korean tourists led by a Korean nun visited us last year. They spent a night at our center. Fascinated by the serenity of our center, they would like to visit us again. Two months after their visit, a French monk, the VenerableVijaya, a meditation teacher in France, had a night stop-over at our center. He was so pleased with the quietness and peacefulness of our center, he repeatedly told us that he would bring twenty Yogis (meditators) from France and let them meditate there. Subsequently, other visits were made by Japanese and Italian tourists who wished to know the life-history of the Buddha and to practise meditation according to our Lord Buddha's teaching. Some of them are Christians and some are devout Buddhists. Among our guests, we were really impressed by an Italian couple. Both are devout Buddhists. They spoke even more gently and softly than we did. They initially planned to meditate in Kalaw for three months, renting a place near our center. Unfortunately, they had only a one-month visa. For the moment, they are still in the process of trying to get a three-month visa from the Myanmar government.
As has been stated, all these foreigners came to our center with several questions concerning Dhamma and meditation. Whenever such guests arrived at our place, the Mandalay University graduate nun who can speak a little English tried to explain to them as much as she could, but she was not satisfied with herself. She believes that she must learn more about the Buddha's teaching and English language so that she will be able to share the Dhamma with foreigners thoroughly. For this reason, she rushed to SIBA (Sitagu International Buddhist Academy) to learn the literature on Buddhism in both Pali and English. There, she has been fortunate enough to study with the Venerable Sitagu Sayadaw and the Venerable Nandamalabhivamsa. She is very pleased with the lectures and instructions of these Sayadaws. She seems to be more confident and enthusiastic about propagating the Dhamma. She has no doubt that in the near future, she will be able to share her knowledge of the Buddha's teaching with people from other parts of the world without going abroad.
May the Buddha's Sasana last forever!
Ma Nimala, B.A. (Eng.),
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