17 Feb
Posted in: Travel
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Things to Do at a Pagoda

I managed to go to the Shwedagon Pagoda several times during the trip…in the morning before sunrise when it was the quietest and most reverential, in the early evening when it was filled with families and groups and felt very social almost party-like, and after sunset when all the lights came on and everything turned dramatic, like a theatre set.

Here are some pictures of me doing the “bathing the Buddha” ritual I did one late afternoon, which involved going to the particular Buddha that represented the day of the week on which you were born (for me, Saturday), then pouring water over him from the fountain in front of him..and also onto the guarding deity that stands behind him and his companion animal (in this case, a serpent/dragon).

I’m pretty sure this is not something suggested in the suttas. It’s an astrology practice that probably came from the Hindu tradition. But it was fun, so what the heck.









I think you’re also supposed to make a wish, or say a prayer, or something…but I was just enjoying being part of the festivities.









Can’t forget to wash the Buddha’s serpent/dragon!










I think my favorite time at the Pagoda was the second-to-last night when we all went together as a group. We sat together in one of the smaller, more out-of-way pavilions, right next to a little chapel-like structure where it turned out there was chanting going on the whole time we sat. I did “listening” meditation and heard the chanting, which was repetitive and incomprehensible (to me), but very soothing, and then the click of a camera quite close by (someone was taking pictures of us!), then loud coughing/hacking and spitting, people talking, some laughter, birds screeching, a gong being rung, someone sweeping…it was a river of sound and it flowed all around us…pleasant/unpleasant…on-going, ever-changing, effecting us and being effected by us…rinsing and falling and ending (for us) only when we stopped listening to it.

Then we did walking meditation — I chose a path back and forth between two small shrines with burnt candles and the remnants of incense. Then we went to another small pavilion–this one packed full of Buddhas of all sizes–and we did a little closing circle check-in.

Then, when we started taking pictures of each other, an old monk…who had been sweeping leaves from the floor in front of the pavilion with a bent twig broom…started talking to us (in perfect English) about our practice! I think he was impressed…or maybe amused..by a group of Western practitioners all decked out in our practitioner sashes and monastery outfits (brown wrap-around “skirts” and a white shirt, which is required wearing at most of the meditation centers.)

And then he offered to take our picture for us!

Here’s the picture he took.







Here’s one we took with him too!

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