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Is it safe to go to Burma?

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Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
7/19/13 8:43 AM
Given all the news about the violence going on in Burma, i was just hoping to hear some thoughts from people who have been there recently on how safe it is to go there to meditate.

I'll be going to Thailand next week and I'll be staying there for about 3 months. I was hoping to go into Burma to go on retreat at the mahasi's place, but since hearing about the violence I've decided not to go, until at least I can get more information.

Anybody have any info or experiences to share?

RE: Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
7/31/13 10:04 PM as a reply to Andrew K.
I have never been to Burma on retreat, but I have been there a couple of times. It's perfectly safe from the point of view of a traveller, and it's certainly a lot safer than walking in NYC at night. While there I have never heard reports of scams, touts or any type of shady activities involving tourists.
That said, Yangon and the surrounding area is scorchingly hot, there are as many mosquitos as you would expect in a tropical country and then some, and the food is almost guaranteed to give you food poisoning at some point in the first two weeks there (although perhaps at a meditation centre the quality of the food is higher).

RE: Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
8/6/13 1:46 AM as a reply to Andrea B.
Why not just go here: Panditarama-Lumbini

A friend got stream entry there.

It gets good reviews.

Daniel

RE: Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
8/21/13 8:48 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I spent a week there on retreat there and I can confirm that it's a very good centre. The Sayadaw there is German, speaks excellent English and has set up the centre to standards that any Westerner would find more than acceptable.
I also found him more willing to discuss (diagnostically, not just theoretically) the specifics of where one is on the path than monks elsewhere.

RE: Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
8/27/13 3:02 PM as a reply to Andrea B.
Andrea B:
I spent a week there on retreat there and I can confirm that it's a very good centre. The Sayadaw there is German, speaks excellent English and has set up the centre to standards that any Westerner would find more than acceptable.
I also found him more willing to discuss (diagnostically, not just theoretically) the specifics of where one is on the path than monks elsewhere.


Can you tell us more about your experience there? Technique, climate, interview? A guy told a was invited to leave as they asked for no more than 5 hours of sleep every night and couldn't do it.

RE: Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
8/27/13 9:31 PM as a reply to Simon T..
that is pretty typical mahasi, 5 hrs i mean
same as in burma

RE: Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
8/29/13 9:18 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
What about this place?

http://www.tathagata.org/

Haven't been there myself, although I've heard compliments about Sayadaw Thuzana.

RE: Is it safe to go to Burma?
Answer
9/20/13 5:22 PM as a reply to Simon T..
Simon T.:


Can you tell us more about your experience there? Technique, climate, interview? A guy told a was invited to leave as they asked for no more than 5 hours of sleep every night and couldn't do it.


Hi Simon,

The technique is standard Mahasi notation. You receive your instructions by reading a booklet with a few pages copied from Mahasi's manual of insight meditation, plus a little supplementary booklet written by the Sayadaw himself, in which he modifies nothing but clarifies a lot. Doing everything very slowly is included in the recipe, like at the Panditarama centre in Yangon. Nothing special to see here.

The climate (in a metereological sense) varies a lot from season to season, and I was told that in winter temperatures get as low as 5-6 Celsius. When I went there it was objectively very stuffy and sitting meditation could not have been possible without fans. It was also mosquito seasons and whenever I did walking meditation outdoors I would be bled dry.
The climate (in the sense of the ambiance) was very cosy and private, with only a dozen meditators there (a couple of them attending long-term retreats). I personally dislike that type of setting, as the awkwardness of "there's ten of us and we cross each other all day but we're not gonna speak anyway" feels almost as distracting as...actually speaking to people. I preferred the anonymity of meditating in a large herd of Wat Rampoeng in that respect.

Accommodation and facilities were very good, and so was the food. The centre even had generators to make up for the power blackouts which daily and for hours at a time send Nepal back to the 19th century. Maybe the only "infrastructural" problem was that the Sayadaw took the "no killing" precept quite seriously, and the entire centre was filled with spiderwebs and wasp nests (but very few wasps fortunately). Compare this to Wat Rampoeng, where one day they brought in the exterminators to douse the entire place in mosquito poison to make sure that dengue fever stayed out of the compound.

I only spent a week at the centre (little time available, too many places to go) and I did not get to know the Sayadaw well, but I have to say that – in spite of other undeniable, positive characteristics – I was left perplexed by at least a few things (ostensibly part of the obsessive, mechanical intransigence which stereotypes associate to German culture) and I am not surprised to hear that your friend was 'invited to leave'.
In the first few hours after my arrival, when I was not used yet to moving very slowly and instinctively went scampering somewhere, the Sayadaw lashed out at me in two different occasions in a pretty unbalanced way, as if he had taken it as a personal affront. In any case, I was instructed to sleep six hours per night and occasionally if I was too exhausted at night I took an extra hour without receiving complaints.

The interviews are daily, with either the Sayadaw or the only nun at the centre, and are pretty practical, informal and personal. No kowtowing is involved, you just sit down and have a chat. The Sayadaw was always in an excellent mood when I went to interview with him. One problem might be that they operate under the assumption (which I understand is very common in Mahasi centres) that getting Stream Entry is a roughly three-month affair and if you're getting anywhere any faster than that then you must be deluding yourself. During the daily dharma talk however Stream Entry and other details concerning the map were discussed openly, although in a fashion that probably only made sense to people who already knew what he was talking about. Some retreatants were given copies of U Pandita's "In this very life" to read, and the centre had editions in several languages.