Thingyan, Myanmar’s New Year’s Celebration, includes Water Festival followed by the more sacred New Year’s Day. I thought I would be participating in Water Festival, but the raucous water dousing, water gun brigades, and general frolic in the streets occurred while we were in the monastery, so we did not see that. At the end of Water Festival, though, is New Year’s Day, of which we were a part.
New Year’s Day, our last day, included a different teaching schedule to accommodate the preparations. Early in the day we prepared the Pagoda by sweeping, washing and cleaning it first with water and then with shampoo. Similar to Water Festival, which symbolizes the washing away of the bad aspects of the previous year, we were doing the same with cleaning the sacred place.
Later that night we went with a procession to honor Buddha, offering flowers, lighting candles and saying the devotional prayers. Each person sat behind their zodiac sign which is based on the day of the week they were born. We poured water on the Buddha in front of our sign at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon at the beginning of this journey, and we offered the flowers and lit the candles in the same manner at the Pagoda at the monastery for the New Year.
We chanted the prayers from a prayer book, or at least the Burmese chanted, we Americans listened with eyes open, in the scene, or with eyes closed in a meditative state, or we alternated between the two. The prayers lasted for 2 hours, and I have to admit I got pretty wiggly at some points. No blocks or meditation cushions can make sitting that long a bit of a challenge, but it was a magical night, as you’ll see in the pictures. We’d cried our tears with the girls earlier that day, after the final yoga classes, so this was the sacred celebration of not only a new year, but our time together with the beautiful nuns and others who supported our teaching. We set intentions for the New Year, and let go of the former.