Well you see, it all started when the South African government decided it needed more doctors. So they sent out the call to other countries and the Burmese readily replied. In this way we ended up with a whole bunch of Burmese doctors and their families living and working in South Africa.
Now Burma orMyanmar as it is now known, is a very strong Buddhist country with about 85% of the population following the Buddhist way of life. Everywhere you go in Myanmar there are Buddhist pagodas, shrines, monasteries and of course, Buddhist monks.
Naturally, wherever the Burmese go, they take their way of life with them. They live as South Africans and in their hearts they are Buddhists. Being so far from home and with little trace of Buddhist culture, particularly Burmese, they decided to invite one of the great Sayadaws (noble teacher) to come to visit them. Because of the purity and greatness of that Sayadaw the people were very interested to have monks living here permanently and so it was done.
The Myanmar Buddhist Association of South Africa was formed in 1996. It is a non-political, non-profit organisation which basically caters for the Burmese community but also for the growing interest in Buddhism among the greater community.
The Dhammodaya Myanmar Vihara was "born" in 1997. Dhammodaya is an ancient Pali word and it means, the flourishing teaching of the Buddha. Myanmar is the south east Asian country of Burma and Vihara is Pali which means, monastery.
Our little monastery is in Pietermaritzburg, Kwa Zulu Natal province in South Africa. Everything at the monastery, from the one acre of land with the main house and Dhamma hall to the candles and cups has been donated by faithful Buddhists both here and abroad.
Now the children. They are little South Africans. Although most of them speak Burmese, they learn and communicate in English. That's OK for standard education but when it comes to Buddhism , the parents are not well versed in Buddhism in English and so the children were a little bit confused between their English and Christian teachings at school and their Burmese and Buddhist teachings at home.
That's where I come in. I first discovered Buddhist meditation in Australia and I was then ordained as a Buddhist monk in Myanmar. After about three years there, I was invited to teach meditation in Japan, Malaysia and Singapore and eventually asked to come here by my teacher, Venerable Chanmyay Sayadaw. My main duty has been to help the children feel more comfortable with an understanding of Buddhist principles, hence this brief and somewhat rough outline of Buddhism is for them or anyone else for that matter.
|( Author with Ven. Sayadaw U Pannyananda)|
These notes are the product of our weekly Sunday Dhamma lessons in Pietermaritzburg. After each class, I go to the computer and type out what we did. Then at the next class, we go over the notes to refresh our memories. We don't have notes every week.
The adults have said that they appreciate the notes too, both for their own understanding and they are then able to explain their beliefs to their children and inquisitive friends.
I am neither a scholar nor an authority on Buddhism, I'm just doing my best. I appreciate the purity and simplicity of children, they are the future.
DHAMMODAYA MYANMAR VIHARA
SUNDAY DHAMMA SCHOOL
Homage to the Buddha .......Vandana......
NAMO TASSA-BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMA-SAMBUDDHASA
I pay homage to the exalted one, free from all defilements and perfectly self-enlightened.
TAKING THE THREE REFUGES ... TIRATANA
Monk: Appamadena sampadetta
(Be mindful, don't be lazy)
Precepters: Ama bhante [ba ashin paya]]
(Yes, Venerable Sir)
At the end we will finish with some wishes and sharing of merits in Pali. Merits means, rewards from good actions or deeds, such as listening to and practising Dhamma.
Idan me punnyan, asavak-kayavaham hotu - by good deeds, may I be free from defilements.
Idan me silan, magga phala nyanassa paccayo hotu - by precepts, may I have great wisdom.
Idan me punnyan, nibbanassa paccayo hotu - by good deeds, may I attain to Nibbana.
Iman no punnya-bhagan , sabba sattanan, dema - we share our merits with all beings.
Sabbe satta sukhita hontu x3 times - may all beings be happy and well.
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu - well done, well done, well done
( WEEK 1 )
Topics: The Buddha and the Triple Gems
Our first class on the 13th of July 1997 was attended by;
BOYS : Aung Ko, Aung Kyaw, Chan, Edward, Minn Aung, Aung Thet, Soe Sithu, Sai Lin, Sai Min and Bo Bo
GIRLS: May Mi, Thu Thu, Linda, Woot Ye and Rosemary.
The first class was just an introduction into who we are and what we are doing here (in this monastery). Just the basics.
The first questions that arose were, Who was the Buddha? Was the Buddha a God or a man? Some said, "God", some said "man". The Buddha was a man, a human being, just like us.
Buddhism doesn't have a God but the Buddha talked about gods who live in other realms (heavens). Most other religions have a God or many gods who the people worship and pray to. Christianity has a God. Was Jesus Christ a man or a god? "A god, a man" they said. He too was a man, a very good man, he also believed in God. People believe that gods can save us and set us free so they pray, worship and offer things to the gods for favours, good luck and answers to their questions.
What does god mean? 'God' means, the creator or maker and the ruler of the universe. 'Gods' means, the great beings that live and rule in the heavens, not on Earth.
WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT
Pali, is the language that the Buddha spoke. There are some differences between Burmese Pali and English Pali, in writing and in pronunciation (speaking), we'll learn more about that later. Just for now, I'll write the English Pali words in bold.
Three important things or practices that the Buddha taught for the happiness of people was dana, giving / sharing, sila, good behaviour and bhavana, meditation / mind training.
1 DANA; If you share something with someone, you feel good about it. We can share our time, money, food, knowledge, wisdom, smiles or anything that we have. Here in the monastery, everyone comes to share things with the monks, the monks share their knowledge, wisdom and compassion (caring) and everyone is happy.
Question; "What's the difference between knowledge and wisdom?" Knowledge, we can get from a book, TV, teacher, etc. but wisdom comes from our own personal experiences. For example, someone could get great knowledge about football from books, magazines, watching games and talking to football players but if they have never played the game, then we can say that they have no wisdom about the game. They don't really know how tough it is or what it feels like to play, they only just watched, read or thought about it.
2 SILA; If our speech, actions and thoughts are good and pure, that is, not hurting anyone or anything, then we are happy. If we tell lies, swear, gossip (back biting), shout and call people names, then they will feel hurt, unhappy, even angry and they will do the same back to us, then we will be unhappy. In Buddhism we call this kamma. If you do good, then good will come back to you, if you do bad, then bad will come back to you, easy isn't it? So we must try to think, speak and act rightly all of the time. Then, wherever we go we'll be happy, then we can share our happiness with others.
3 BHAVANA; This means mind development, concentration or meditation. It also means to do anything quietly, slowly, carefully and peacefully so that we can learn from ourselves and become happy and wise, just like the Buddha did.
THE BUDDHA;is the man who purified his mind and understood everything.
THE DHAMMA; is the teaching of the Buddha. (It also means the law of nature).
THE SANGHA; is the community of Buddhist monks, who live and teach the Buddha's way of life.
So when we bow down in the monastery or to the monks, we are not just bending over to a nice statue or a man with a shaved head, wearing robes. We think about the goodness of the Buddha, his teachings and all the people who live and teach the Dhamma.
The Buddha gave us Five Precepts (rules) to follow which are;
Just think, if everyone in the world followed these five rules, there would not be any wars, crime or violence, the world would be a safe place everywhere, all the time and we could trust everyone. If We keep these five rules, then everywhere we go we will have good friends.
Good friends are very important.
THANKS FOR COMING FRIENDS!
( WEEK 2 )
Topics:1. Bowing down to pay Homage to the Buddha
Our second class on the 20th of July 1997 was attended by;
BOYS: Chan, Sunny, Bo Bo, Thet, Philip, Aung Ko, Soe, Chan, Sithu, Aung Kyaw, Harry, Pyi Sone and Aung Aung
GIRLS: Linda, Rosemary, Woot Ye ,Su Lin, Cho Cho, May Mi, Thu Thu
At this class we went over some things that we learnt from last week just to refresh our memories.
We started with BOWING DOWN properly. How do we do it?
SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY
1) Kneel on the floor, feet together, sitting on your heels.
2) Hands together in front of your chest.
3) Raise your hands up to your forehead.
4) Lower your hands to the floor and slide them forward and touch your elbows.
5) Lower your head and touch the floor, gently
6) Raise your head, slide your hands back and lift them up to your chest. ( 3 Times )
We think about the Triple Gems (Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha).
THE THREES We found lots of 'threes' all joined together; the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
From the Dhamma comes another three, Dana, Sila and Bhavana.
From Sila comes another three; Action, speech and thought.
And from speech comes yet another three to avoid! Lying, back biting (gossiping) and abuse.
"Back to Basics"
We practised paying homage / respect to the Buddha, in Pali and in English.
When I was living in Burma, our teacher, Chanmyay Sayadaw, took me on a Dhamma tour with him to the village where he was born. Everywhere Sayadaw goes in Burma he is treated like a V.I.P. (very important person), this time was no exception.
One day, Sayadaw gave a Dhamma Talk in the town near his village. There were about a thousand people there to hear his talk, they were all Buddhists of course and have been all their lives. About 85% of Burma's population are Buddhists. They are born as Buddhists and when they were very young their parents taught them how to pay homage to the Buddha and how to take the three refuges. For them it is very basic, simple, easy and maybe even boring.
But, when Sayadaw gave his great Dhamma Talk, do you know what it was about? It was about the meaning of the words, Namo, Tassa-Bhagavato and so-on!! WHY? Because they forget about the meaning and just say it automatically, without thinking about it. They needed to be taught again, it was a very good talk.
Then we practised taking refuge in the Triple Gems in Pali and in English. We used the Burmese pronunciation because we have to say this with our parents but I have to write it in English. Remember; homage means, to respect / admire / remember.
Exalted means, highest / greatest. Defilements means, greed, hatred, delusion (confusion).
Enlightenment means, to have a pure mind, free from defilements and suffering. Refuge means, shelter or protection but it also means to believe.
Dukkha is a Pali word which in English means, dissatisfaction, imperfection or suffering. Some Burmese people think that it is a Burmese word because they use it very often.
When I was living in Chanmyay Yeiktha Monastery/Meditation Centre in Yangon, I used to go for alms-round every day. Quite often, a young girl about eight years old used to come out from her house to offer some food. On school days, she was dressed in her school uniform, very neat and tidy and she would bring the food on a tray, a little bowl of rice and a little bowl of curry. She looked just like a little waitress and she was very polite too.
One morning my alms-bowl was almost full and we both weren't sure if her food would fit in my bowl or not but she attempted to put it on top anyway. She very carefully turned the little rice bowl upside down, the rice came out in one big ball and rolled straight off my bowl and onto the ground, she just said,"DUKKHA!!"
Dukkha is natural and it's everywhere, even as you sit there now you have some pain or discomfort. Being uncomfortable, sick or injured, too cold or too hot, is all physical (body) dukkha.
Mental dukkha is like, sad, angry, confused and not getting what we want or losing what we had.
The Buddha knew about all of this and he found out that the more things we have, the more dukkha we have. So that's why he decided to have just a set of robes, an alms-bowl and a few other necessary things. You see a Buddhist monk doesn't have to worry about what clothes he's going to wear today. His mother is not around so she doesn't have to worry either. He doesn't worry about how his hair looks today. He has no money so he doesn't have "shopping dukkha". His house won't burn down or get robbed. His car can't get stolen or damaged. He doesn't worry about dinner, he doesn't eat it. There's no need to worry about food because someone will give him something, somewhere, sometime! Why? Because he never kills or harms anything, he doesn't take anything that's not been given, he doesn't touch girls or make them cry, he doesn't tell lies or abuse anyone and his mind is always clear and free from drugs and alcohol. Also, he always speaks the truth and teaches other people how to do the same in their life, even if they can't be monks, they can still live honestly and rightly. People want to be famous but when it happens, everyone wants something from you or to know you and be your friend. You don't get any time for yourself, no privacy. Then ,when you're not famous any more, nobody wants to know you. Real friends are the people who listen to you and help you when you need it and don't expect anything in return.
So dukkha is all around, we don't have to get rid of it, we just have to understand it and accept it. The more we understand it, the less we will have. Wisdom destroys dukkha but it doesn't happen immediately. That's why we practice meditation so we can understand our own body and mind, then we can understand the world and everything. If we understand everything and our mind is perfectly pure, then we can be free from suffering / dukkha, that's Nibbana.
Well, we can see that in life there is suffering. That doesn't mean that if we kill ourselves, we will be free from suffering. After death, there is another life so we would just keep suffering. In fact, killing ourselves, is killing a human being and that's the worst thing to do. Then you have to go to hell and suffer even more and for a longer time!
The Buddha said that the cause of suffering is attachment and Greed / desire, Hatred / aversion and Delusion / ignorance (not knowing). If we free our mind from these, then we'll be free from suffering and we won't have to be born again and suffer in another life. If there is no desire to live, die or be reborn, then no rebirth. If there is no aversion to life, death or being reborn, then no rebirth. If we fully understand (no ignorance) about life, death and rebirth, then there will be no rebirth
. Without the cause, there is no effect. It's like a candle. A candle has wax, wick and flame. As long as there is wax and a wick, then it can be lit, put out and re-lit many, many times (life, death and rebirth). However, if the wax and wick have finished, then the flame cannot exist. If there is no desire and aversion, then, no ignorance ........ THAT'S NIBBANA!
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