Research Trip Report, 3rd Unit

“Field Survey of Multiucultural Coexistence in Myanmar”

1   As part of the 3Rdunit of Ircp “Research on Basis of Thought for the Society of Multicultural Harmonious Coexistence,” Miyamoto Hisayoshi (Ircp Researcher), Watanabe Shogo (Ircp Researcher), and Inoue Tadao (Ircp Visiting Researcher) conducted a field survey on the religious situation in Myanmar. We arrived in Yangon on February 28th. On the next day (March 1st), we visited the Maha Sasana Meditation Center and the International Meditation Center (Imc). We saw that Myanmar meditation centers were gathering interest from around the world. We then went to see the House of Memories of Bogyoke Aung San, the father of Burmese independence, as well as the largest market in Yangon, which is named after him. Then, we headed to the Shwedagon Paya Pagoda, one of the largest Buddhist pagodas in the world, which is visited by many believers. It is said that eightstrands of the Buddha’s hair are held in this holy stupa. On March 2nd, we moved to Mandalay, the second largest city after Yangon. We began by visiting Mahagandhayon Kyaung, located in the Amarapura district. This is one of the training facilities for the 300,000 monastics in Myanmar. Approximately 1,100 monastics carry out strict religious training there. Then we visited the Dhamma Mandapa Vipassana Centre. We listened to an explanation given by U Aung Tin, the center manager, and experienced meditation, albeit for a short period of time. We also visited the Dhamma Mandala Vipassana Centre, but a one-month training period had just started, and we were unable to see inside. Additionally, we went to the giant pagoda Mahamuni Paya, which contains over seven hundred stone Buddhist scriptures, which are said to be the largest in the world. On our way to our hotel, we came across a procession that was part of a ceremony for entering the monastic order. Boys rode horses, and girls rode ox-drawn carriages. While it was a Buddhist ceremony, it was somewhat similar to the Shichi-Go-San Festival in Japan. On March 3rd, we returned to Yangon early in the morning and went to see the Loka Chantha Abhaya Labhamuni Monastery’s large Buddha statue. In the afternoon, we visited the offices of the National League for Democracy (Nld, General Secretary: Aung San Suu Kyi), one of the symbols of Myanmar’s democratization. We also had the opportunity to talk with Moe Linn, the author of a book on Suu Kyi entitled Up Close. In the evening, we visited Sule Paya (a Buddhist Pagoda with the Buddha’s hair), located in the center of the city where City Hall and the Supreme Court stand. It is a place that is loved by the people, similar to Asakusa in Tokyo. Nearby is a large Christian Church and an Islamic worship hall, a reflection of the intermingling of various religions. While most people think of Myanmar as a Buddhist country, countries in Southeast Asia have a long history of accepting various religions. While on the way to the airport to head back to Japan, we passed by the house of Suu Kyi, which is often broadcast on television and news.

2   Today in Myanmar, where approximately 90% of the population is Buddhist, meditation is very popular. Many foreigners also visit to participate in meditation training. One of the aims of this survey was to observe this situation. The Vipassana training method, which is similar to Yoga and Zen, is the mainstream method in meditation practice. We would like to continue to investigate the role and meaning of this extremely peaceful religious training method for meditation in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society.