Friday, 24th March 2017 9:01am.
Trip to Penang to see Pa-Auk Sayadaw
Incidentally, Sayadaw is a Burmese honorific title which means "respected teacher". A respected teacher indeed, Sayadaw Pa-Auk is well renowned from here to as far west as the United States. A link here to a US-based website : http://www.paauk.org/index.html
It was an uneventful drive to Penang, taking me a little over 5 hours to arrive, traveling at speeds limited by heavy traffic (notably after Damansara and at Juru) and of course, legislation. The sky was cloudy all the way, with sporadic light showers that spared us from the heat of the usually blazing sun.
After putting up a night at an in-law's place, the next morning we went to the Nandaka Vihara Meditation Society, to offer some "Dana" to a group of visiting Buddhist monks. There were many devotees too. Unfortunately, on that day, the renowned Pa-Auk Sayadaw did not come to the hall to receive the afternoon Dana with the rest of the monks. I didn't manage to find out why, but I was told he'd be conducting a meditation session that night, and give a dhamma talk on the following one.
The Nandaka Vihara Meditation Society was situated somewhere off the main roads near Bukit Mertajam. An ideal place for meditation, serene due to its seclusion. Unfortunately, that made finding the way there a little tricky, even with a GPS. Fortunately, my in-laws were well versed with the lay of the land, so I only needed to use my GPS to lock down the exact co-ordinates, in case I needed to find my way back there on my own some day. Here's the map:-
Well, it was surprising to see a huge crowd turn out for both days, bringing offerings of food and robes for the monks. Note that monks generally do not directly accept money, since they have renounced the material world, so donations to the temple are usually passed to their assistants (called Kapiahs).
On the second day, Pa-Auk Sayadaw indeed came down to the main hall, which was just as packed with devotees as the day before. While the rest of the Bhikkus ate after offerings of Dana, Pa-Auk Sayadaw returned to his hillside Kutti (monk's quarters) which was situated deeper into the Nandaka Vihara Meditation Society grounds.
Devotees hiked up the gentle sloping hillside to Pa-Auk Sayadaw's Kutti, and made offerings of Dana here, as Pa-Auk Sayadaw did not join the main congregation in the hall below. Incidentally, monks only take food at the *right time* which is between sunrise and before noon. This is in accordance to the Sixth Precept. Normally, lay persons like us can try to observe Five Precepts, while Eight, Ten and beyond are for those who are well into Buddhism.
It was a great opportunity to participate in this event. It was well worth it to me and my family (for those who are spiritually-inclined), in spite of having to drive over 500 kilometers to the Northern Malaysian state of Penang. Luckily Bukit Mertajam was on the mainland, as traffic over the Penang Bridge could often be heavy and unpredictable.
Sahdu, sadhu, sadhu!