Buddha Stories

Jan 17, 2018 in

You know, I like to write about religion. And in Myanmar, there is really not getting around it.
Monasteries are as common as schools (and they often run them, especially in poorer areas), it seems, in just about every village, there is one. And even in heavily populated downtown areas of big cities, there are monasteries. If I remember correctly, it is expected of every (Buddhist) man in Myanmar to once in his life spend some time as a monk.

So, the early morning routine in every town, in every village in Bhuddist Myanmar is to donate food to the local monks that pass by each morning silently. Monks do not touch money, so they eat, what they are being given. (The above photo shows statues of monks near Win Sein Taw Ya)

Pagodas are the places where the Myanmese go to pay respects to the Buddha (and collect blessings) on the one hand, and places to cool down during the midday heat on the other.
They are the center of popular Buddhism, where one can see unbelievable splendor and have countless places to perform rituals for receiving blessings.

In the Shwedagon Pagoda (overview video above), a guide related a few popular stories to us that revolve around Buddha. Many of them are very similar: There is some angry beast, like in one story, an enraged elephant, in another, an ogre or in yet another two contentious dragons. Then, Buddha arrives and calms it/them down. The beast then sees the error of its ways and lives an even-tempered life.

Depictions of these stories can be found over and over in many different pagodas.

The most peculiar story I heard from that guide and saw a depiction of, was about a monk, who had a habit of cutting off fingers of other people. I did not understand, why he did that, if for money, or if he was convinced that this would be to serve his god of something else. Anyway, after some time, he had already collected 999 fingers and now to complete his collection, intended to cut off a finger of his own mother. By that time, he was, understandably, extremely unpopular, so that villagers would even throw stones at him.
Alarmed by the fact, that the monk would forever go to hell if he would cut a finger off his own mother, Buddha visited this monk and told him to stop cutting off fingers because indeed, it is a bad thing to do that. The monk did not know before about what is good and what is bad, and so by Buddha’s wisdom, he was saved from hell.

The story sounds so curious that I am really not sure whether I missed out on some important detail there, but this is how it was related to me. And in the end, I guess this story is not more imaginative than anything with these mythical creatures.