September 17, 2015

merit making

previously i'd mentioned the Buddhists persecution of the Rohingya in the Rahkine State of Myanmar and there's more that differs between the Buddhists of Burma and Buddhists in other countries.  there's a lot of them...  people from around the world have long flocked to Burma to study Buddhism and an overwhelming 85% or more of the population identify as Buddhists.  most are not conservative Buddhists, they eat animals, drink alcohol, beat muslims, etc.
street facade for 'merit making' week

strangely, unlike most military dictatorships, there was no effort in Myanmar to shut down religion after they took control.  in fact, they promoted and embraced it as a way of 'merit making'.  the military elite pours money into the building of pagodas [pagodas you walk around - temples you can walk into].

which leads me to the one of the annoying things about buddhists in burma which i have not encountered elsewhere.  merit making is the practice of good deeds and charity in order to obtain a favorable rebirth.  see that picture of the facade that is erected over the street?  that roughly translates to 'you are f#ck3d for the next week' and 'you will get no sleep'.  

preaching platform
on the street which they close down at dusk they build these 'altars' on which at some point in the night the head monk will come out and start preaching.  it's a really, really small area - like 1000 sq feet [sorry Europeans you do the math] but they use loudspeakers projected outwards to the community so non one misses out.  then, because the monks need to collect their food before sunrise, they loudly call all the monks to come around 4AM.  i know normally rational expats who, having lost sleep for days, will curse the monks who do this.

even more annoying is they ongoing list of merit makers that is read over a loudspeaker, sometimes starting at 6AM, and this goes on as long as it takes to collect the money needed to support the local monastery.

in the rural area i visited the presence and influence of the monks varies widely from village to village.  in some it was very passive and in others quite dominant.  see my post on a really sacred moment. in one village where we sat through an evening ceremony the most interesting to me were the bats flying around but i'm sure anyone in the village who was absent was noted by the monks.

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