First day Feb 22nd I arrived in Mandalay,I was picked up in the airport by my meditators friends: brother Burwi,brother Arya,brother Johan.it turned out that they really love culinary travelling.for 2 days I was invited to go with them,visited many delicious food in best restaurants& cafes in Maymyo city.I had never felt hungry travelling with these guys.they feed me too much!😂
The Brahma Vihari (BV)meditation centre is soo beautiful.the air is fresh & clean,the garden is decorated with beautiful flowers.at the back,on the top of the hill there stand a beautiful small pagoda with strong positive energy that only open for few hours ,started at 5 pm .the people in BV are so nice&warm,even the dogs there are also so friendly & cute.I often think about someone that really I respected n admire in meditation there,”If he was here he will love this!if he see this,he must be so happy! If he is here,it will be lovelier..etc”.
I also had a very nice & kind 3 roommates.they are angels.if I showed any kind of pain,they will be provided me any kind of medicine,herbs,healing balms,tips yoga or pilates movement or healing massages.I sleep well there.accept first week I wake up in the middle of the bcoz I was freezing.later I wore more warm clothes& buy warmer blanket in traditional market near the center.at dawn I woke up n meditate lovingkindness I felt sooo easyyy to concentration & sending love.
At Feb 23th morning first breakfast in meditation centre.the dining hall is a comfortable room decorated beautifully with fresh flowers everyday,especially roses,Sayalay Dipankara’s fav flower.the yogis had to washed the dishes they used by them selves n put it back to the right place where the dishes is keep.I also noticed that Sayalay Dipankara cooked all the food for the yogis by herself.all of her cooking are delicious vegetarian cooking! Every breakfast usually available 3 kinds of menu : (fried rice/noodle soup/mohingga/porridge)+ sandwich/biscuits with a sweet snack +fruits+ coffee/tea/ milk tea.and lunch is provided with buffet that served 5 menu of main dishes,1 soup,1 desserts,1 juice,n 1 or 2 kind of fruits. Very healthy ,nutrititious&filling! Less oily& less fat,very fresh! I count silently if this food with this high quality & quantity menus came from donation $ 700 a day , $250 for breakfast ,$450 for lunch, divided for more than 250 yogis I think the donation money really spent very well!
Later on the tour after retreat,I realized the food in the meditation retreat are much better than best restaurants in Burma.
I had never felt hungry in the centre.eventhough there r no dinner served there.only refreshing drink such as ginger tea,lemonade,etc,in the evening at 5 pm,
At Feb 24th morning there were opening meditation retreat ceremony.the meditation hall was a very nice & comfortable room with beautiful flower decoration in the Buddha statue altar.Sayalay Dipankara encourage us to practice meditation dilligently,not only to get Jhanna.she said,”Jhanna is too low,you should try to reach Sotaphanna.”,and she smile.most of us just give wondering face with big smile.well,reaching jhanna is already hard to get,sotaphanna still soo far to get 😄.
Started this day the noble silent began.we have to turned off& collected our mobile phones to the management office.there the committee of the retreat will keep the cellphones until the meditation retreat is over
At Feb 25th First day of meditation retreat. After breakfast there was an announcement about the duty that we got for the whole month of retreat. I’d got gardening duty,just like I wish.my job is watering & weeding a small garden infront of my kuti(=bedroom for yogis).I love it very much!it’s found when I do gardening I like working in my own element. And often my best meditation performance was at it best just after doing gardening.the duty time only spent from 06.30-07.30 am.after that we have to stop gardening n prepare ourself to go to meditation hall again. We have off duty days in Wednesday & Sunday.but sometime I still do watering in those day because some plants do need watering everyday.If I watered the flowers/plant,I feel like those plants / flowers send me positive energy like happiness/gratitude.I did it just because I like it,not because I was forced to do it.
After lunch,rest& take a nap,at 02.00 pm we went meditating together at meditation hall. I was surprised bcoz I couldn’t concentrate! I was mad at my self,why I can’t do what I have supposed to do??I spent a lot of money &energy to be here,n I did nothing!
But when went back to my kuti,n meditated there,I can concentrate!
The next day,Feb 26th was still the same.I couldn’t concentrate,I was so frustrated. Silently I cried in meditation hall,I felt such a looser&failure! I often think about him,”if he was here ,he will do this a lot better than me,because he is smarter n got better focus & concentration than me..I wish I have stamina, concentration & focus like him.I wanna be like him.”.when sitting meditation was over,then I did walking meditation,then I rest under bodhi tree,I contemplated.I remembered some lessons ,that when we lack of concentration ,just boost your lovingkindness.u know,when we love someone,we automatically like to pay attention to them,concentrate on them, just starred them,maybe for hours .after I got this insight,I have more energy to meditate again.My thought is,if I can’t concentrate to do samatha meditation,I just do lovingkindness meditation then. N after I started this my concentration was improved.
Next day,on Feb 27th,
I notice I have some little problems in dining table.the sat with some women that had different habit of eating with me.the girl on my right is a chinese girl who kept hitting the plates with her spoon&forks,n it makes a very noisy sounds& hurting my sensitive ears.on my left side a vietnamese girl keep spitting the food from her mouth n put the spits on the table,n it really disturbing me.on my front side,a chinese lady that use both hand to eat two kinds of food.such as she use spoon on her right hand to put rice or noodles n on her left hand she hold a bread.for example she put a rice to her mouth with her right hand,then immediately bite a bread on her left side.maybe she’s not doing anything wrong,but her actions distracted me.I tried really hard to focus only to my food in silence.
at 03.30 pm,I got interview session with Sayalay Dipankara.she asked how is my training meditation.I complained,I can’t concentrated in meditation hall,only in my kuti room.I didn’t know why.
Sayalay Dipankara answered,”I can’t let you meditated alone,otherwise,all participants will be asked the same thing.” And she asked my progress,did I already seen nimita.I answered yes,but only some moving lights,the colour are changing between green & purple.she said it’s good.
I asked her,if it’s possible if can change my object of meditation,from breath to metta.because I can only practice with breath only in her retreat,but when I am not in her retreat ,I can’t practice again,only can practice with metta as my object.she answered,I don’t need to change object,bcause I’ve already seen nimita.just keep continue practising,keep focusing on the breath until the niminta is stable,then after that watch the nimita for an hour then I will enter jhanna.I reluctantly take her advise,but I did follow her instructions.
I also try to do lovingkindness meditation n sent it to my fellow meditators in the retreat,including my roommates&the ones that sit near me in dining table.
In the evening ,at 7 pm,Sayalay Dipankara gave Dhamma Talk.the subject of her speech is about the importance of lovingkindness to practice samatha meditation.”if are lack of metta(lovingkindness),you will never reached jhanna.your progress is slow!”.she discussed about the situations in the retreat,she noticed about the tense situations between the female yogis.the participants from country X ,didn’t like country Y,etc..sometimes small things like untidy persons,noisy clinging plate habit while eating, ignorance of room cleaning,makes tension then lead to quarrel.or maybe just a dislike feeling,but it reducing our metta n it disturbing our meditation.she encourages us to practice loving kindness in meditation n daily practice.send metta to everyone & give smile to everyone you met,eventough u r not talking.she also teached how to send metta properly.pay attention,this is important :
When u send loving kindness energy,try to send metta directly to the heart of the person that u wanna give first,after u feel enough,then send itto all of his/her body.n addition f…
The next day at 28th Feb, I did all Sayalay’s instructions n at that day I can really focus completely on my breath.Sayalay is right,after developing metta especially to our self,my concentration is greatly stronger.
Especially after gardening.eventhough it’s quite challenging coz at winter the plastic hose that I used was damn freezing,so my hands feels like held a bar of ice when I watering the plant.and bcoz it was frozen so it’s easily breaks..but despite all that problems, I was happy. Then after that I can meditated with heart full of love.
Then,in the dining table,something magical happened. The clinging n banging noise that the girl (who sat at my right side )made,is not feel annoying me anymore.also I do not feel distracted to the lady that sit in front of me with both hands holds 2 kinds of food.and the girl who sat in my left side is stopped spitting food anymore!I dont know if it bcause of my metta that I sent to her or because her friends told her bout that spitting problem.but I was so glad it was over 😂.
At other times ,I had some good lessons.In Dhamma talk Sayalay told us that everybody that accepted to meditate in BV is good person,otherwise she will not accept them. And I remembered Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche teached if wanted to learn to increase loving kindness inside us n open our heart,we have to find everything good in ourself n everyone one else,especially to the one that hurt us,or our enemy.everyone is unique n special.everybody has good side&bad side.appreciate their uniqueness.
One day,when gardening time,some dogs in the garden had huge fight.so fiercely that everybody,including me,stopped our activities.some tried to separated the dogs.some are walked or run away from the dogs because afraid the dogs could blindly bite them.some,including me, just starred at the dogs with amazed& worry.but one person,this vietnamese girl,the one that used to like spitting food,just keep focusing on her duty.she keep doing her job,weeding calmly n dilligently,ignoring all the drama,even when the dogs fought fiercely really near her,just behind her! I told myself,”this is it,why she can came here : her concentration focus&determination is amazing!”. Then I started to admiring her since that.
I also noticed that the chinese girl that sat on my right side at dining table,who always noisy with her plates while eating,has some good qualities.she’s always smile,look calm n gentle. The chinese lady that always busy with both of her hands eating,turn out like to help watering my garden in the afternoon while breaktime. So she is a helpful person.
At March 1st,2nd &3th still struggling focusing on my breath.the hardest is the meditation session after break n take a nap time that started at 2 pm.because the sun was so bright,n sometimes I feel so lazy to meditate n really hard to focus! But I really pushed my self to practice.
At March 4th at lunch,as usual before we start to eat,the committe announce the name of the donor of the food that we eat.before that I already read in the annoucement board that the name of donatur lunc today is “Krithika V.”.I just wondering on which nationality is the name came from..is it Thai or India ?
And when all yogis already sat in our chair of dining table ,the committe announced,”today our lunch donor is Krithika V.”n we all answered “sadhu sadhu sadhu” with send metta together to the donor. Suddenly my focus goes to the Indian woman that sit next to chinese lady that sit infront of me.I talked to her briefly before about gardening duty,but I did’t know her name.she assigned at the garden infront of my garden.what makes me noticed her is her energy.I could feel her postive energy ,a huge calm serene energy,full of bliss& gratitude! I was amazed& my curiosty rised,”I am curious ,Is she the donor of the lunch today?”. After I finished my lunch,n I was hurry go to the announcement board n see the list of duty there.I search the names of the people that assigned on the garden infront of my garden.and there it is : “KRITHIKA VENTAKARAMANI”.Yup.she’s the one who donate our food today! I was so inspired by her.I wish someday,I can be a food donor in meditation retreat like her.I wanna feel that great powerful positive energy: grateful, happiness ,bliss that she felt. Someday,I hope..Someday…🙏
At March 5th, I could focus on my breath n then see bright light that expand to a really bright room n I covered with light.it feels so peace,fell deep in serenity. At 03.30 pm interview with Sayalay again,I reported my experienced with her.she said I must not fall into the nimita.I shoud stay out the light.just watched the surface of the nimita that already stable for about an hour,then I can feel very happy n enter jhanna.I accepted her advise n back to practice.
Turn out stay of nimita it sooo hard.I always feels like I suck into the lights or water or crystals.form of lights is the same with water or chrystal,it is the form of nimita.sometimes I feel like wanna cry but I built determination I have to do my practices as best as I can.
At march 6th,the nimita lights turn to be diamond.the more metta I built,the more beautiful the nimita looks n easier to be focus.you see ,everything that you love will be more beautiful to see,n easier to focus on.
On 7th March at 12pm, I donated some money for Brahma Vihari meditation center n also buy robes for donating to Sayalay Dipankara.at 2pm I started to practice meditation again in meditation hall.and I started to be able to focus on nimita without suck into it anymore! I am soo happyyy!! 😍😂
March 8th started to be able to watched a stable nimita for about an half of hour.the big bright nimita is shrinking but brighter n brighter n solid then stable.
March 9th still focus on nimita .I reported my progress at my interview with SayalayDipankara n she gave her big smile n told me to keep practising coz I almost entering jhanna 1.have to keep practice watch nimita for 1 hour
March 10th,11st,my focus dropping again,my wondering thoughts is getting crazier.
March 12nd interview to Sayalay she told me I was dropping my performance so she asked me more time to focus on nimita for 1,5 hours. I am frustrated,then in the evening I went to pagoda n meditated lovingkindness there.n suddenly my focus is highly increase! I feel so happy with new boosting energy back to meditating hall to practice samatha meditation again.
March 13th I started to be able to focus on the surface of nimita without wondering thought for 1,5 hours.It felt like I activated all over my brain cells,n I felt so calm,quite happy,but not very happy like Sayalay Dipankara said.I just wondering it that right what Sayalay said that I can be really happy when I reach jhanna?but I reported to her in my interview today n she said I started to enter Janna 1st but not full yet.I have to keep practice watch the nimita until I get full jhanna. I asked Sayalay if I can borrow Knowing n Seeing book in the office to gain my knowledge in jhanna meditation,she first said oke,but then she said I’d be better meditate without the book so I will be focus meditate not reading n keep reported to Sayalay.
March 14th I meditated focus on nimita n after gardening I can really feel my brain is more activated n I feel very happy.I still aware that I have some problems in life but I am not bothered of my problems anymore n I have clear mind n more energy to solve the problem.
March 15th I finally entering full Jhanna 1st! I felt soooo happpyyyy..like fall in love or experiencing ur biggest success or be with someone u really love but without attached to any of it. I reported this to Sayalay Dipankara n she said I had entered Jhanna 1st n started that day I had to practice jhanna 2. So after I mastery jhanna 1,I have to realized that jhanna 1 is very unstable.it easily influenced by :
2.ill will such as guilt,low confidence,etc..
Then I have to checked in base of mind 5 factors of jhanna : vitaka,vicara,piti,suka,ekagata.when they all there,started to focus on nimita again n watched the nimita there for 1,5 hours.
After I get the new instruction I was so happy then I back to meditation to practice with high spirited.but,new problem came: suddenly my back n knee felt realllyyy hurt,the pain is so tense makes me really hard to focus. I was pushed my self for about an hour but then I gave up.the pain is unbareable. At the break time at 5 pm I back to my kuti n my roommates saw me in pain n they started to help me.one is a doctor who is a chiropraction give me therapy.another is yoga practition gave me some inputs of yoga movement that helped me to solve my pain n my other roommates practices pilates then she teached me some pilates movement that help me reduced my pain.I am so lucky meet these angels.🙏🧚♀
March 16th Sayalay Dipankara gave dhamma talk n she told us that she hope that we all can practice to observe 32 parts of the body after entering jhanna.
On March 17th I bought robe to gave donation to Pa Auk Sayadaw ,after that I started to entering Jhanna 2nd.Felt like in a very peaceful beautiful garden.after entering jhanna 2 I checked in the base of mind that the jhanna factor is reduced from 5 to 3: piti,sukha& ekagatha.
On March 19th I went to interview with Sayalay Dipankara but she was not there,only her assistant ,a young Sayalay(I forgot her name,but she well known had high mastery knowledge on jhanna from 1 to 4).I told her my experience n she said after I entering jhanna 1&2, I should started to practice mastery jhanna 2 ,then practice to entering jhanna 3.practice entering jhanna 1 for 10 minutes,then jhanna 2 for 10 minutes then practice to entering jhanna 3 for 1,5 hours.
I asked to the young Sayalay when do we have to start to watch 32 parts of the body like Sayalay Dipankara told in Dhamma talk? Young Sayalay said watched the 32 parts of the body can only be done after we mastery jhanna 4. I asked again how to practice jhanna 4 ? She said practice jhanna 1 for 10 minutes,jhanna 2 for 10 minutes,jhanna 3 for 10 minutes then jhanna 4 for 1,5 hours.
I started to practice to prepare for entering jhanna 3 ,but at the same time I started to feel so exhausted,especially my legs.I really wanna do meditation on a chair,but there is no more chair left in meditation hall I can use.I put all the fabric in my kuti to meditation hall.I dont care if my meditator friends that sit next n behid me saw my sitting spot that really looked messy with all fabrics,clothes,etc that I use to support my legs n made me comfortable while meditating.
So on the next day ,at March 20th,I woke up very early,so I can went to meditation hall earlier.I had one goal : practice meditation on a chair that provided there before any other yogis took it.so after I found my spot,I sat in the chair n felt so relieved.no more struggling with fabrics on my legs anymore.minutes after I closed my eyes,yogis started to occupied the chairs,but then I found out a Sayalay that came late have no place in chairs to meditate.a committee helped her to find a chair that have some other yogi’s stuff there but no one had sit there.so sit there,in front of me.sitting on the chair was so relaxing,but hard to focus.because I sat next to elders sometime they were coughing ,sneezing,etc..well no place is perfect.but I feel grateful I can meditate.
After gardening I rushed to meditation hall n sat on the same chair I sat at dawn. After I closed my eyes ,I felt someone is feel confused near me,n when I opened my eyes,the same sayalay that later morning late n almost not get a chair to meditated is late again n this time no chair is available for her.I immediately stand up ,n softly called that sayalay n gave her my chair.I back to my previous sitting position again on the floor.this time I feel so comfortable,no pain,n I so easily concentrated.then for a short time I entering Jhanna 3 n not long after that I entered jhanna 4.
So the lesson is ,everytime I did something good ,something that releasing or giving something,like giving watering,giving food to the dogs, donating ,I immediately get the rewards,especially in meditation.