Ordaining at Pa Auk?

Hi, I’m newly joined, but have been reading on CT for the past few months and want to express my gratitude for all that I have learned from this community.

I’m considering ordaining in the new year. I’ve read @bksubhuti ’s blog post “where to ordain” which is very helpful (:pray:t3: thank you Bhante!). I would like to ordain in the Pa Auk tradition. I’ve visited the Thailand branch but as I live in Canada, it is difficult for me to visit many other places and compare. Ideally I would like to ordain in Myanmar at either the main monastery, Pyin Oo Lwin or He Hoe. I have not contacted any of these monasteries yet, so I’m not sure if they are accepting foreigners at the moment (if anyone here has recent information on this please let me know).

I also have other concerns partly because of this article:

I understand it is dangerous to travel in Myanmar now so I am wondering if it is possible to travel safely to any of these monasteries? Im not planning on any sightseeing and once I arrive at a monastery I don’t expect to be going anywhere for quite a while.

I’m also concerned about being a burden on the people of Myanmar at this difficult time. I don’t wish to become involved in politics, only to practice the dhamma and vinaya. But I also don’t want to contribute to suffering in the process. I’m leaning towards ordaining at the Thailand branch, but there are not many English speakers there so Im concerned about my ability to properly learn the vinaya and function in the community as I don’t speak Thai.

I would really appreciate your counsel.

with metta,

The Insight Myanmar article is quite biased and as long as the government is in power, I doubt Joah will be allowed back. He did the “nono” of talking bad about the government and being public about it too. However, just like a doctor cannot give advice about aspirin without seeing you first, I cannot guarantee your safety. However, I think the pa-auk monasteries will be safe. There have been some monasteries that get political and if they do that, they will have problems. I have not heard of this monastery mentioned in the article and I doubt it was a place for foreigners, but I could be wrong. One of my friends from Germany was interviewed on his podcast and he had problems, but again… he also did the nono of protesting against the government.

You will really need to ethically “mind your own business” when you go there. If you do, and you are a sincere yogi, the government will be your friend. If you cannot separate politics and meditation, and if you cannot ethically bare to go to a government military hospital if you need emergency treatment, you should not go to Myanmar. If you can set aside the differences, then the government will likely be your friend. Pa-Auk Pyin Oo Lwin has access to the military hospital for dental (but apparently it is not used anymore because of an in-house dental chair, here is a dental clinic inside pa-auk main). On the other side: if you become too friendly with the government, the opposition side will go against you. Best not to get involved with either side and just meditate.

Your visa agreement will force you to sign and declare that you will never get involved in politics. It has always been this way for 24 years and not just currently.

In 2001, I traveled to Myanmar and ordained when Myanmar was on the full embargo list. There were only six countries that had that status. Myanmar was in the same ranks as Iran and North Korea. I think times are much better now than in 2001.

If something is mentioned as a grey or black zone… do not go there. If they say you need to fly to a certain location instead of going by bus, then fly there. I would recommend flying in either case. Try to immediately get to the monastery.

The Pyin Oo Lwin and Heho pa-auk monasteries will be fine, but you should contact them and ask how things are to get a first hand response. Pa-Auk main (mawlamyine) is near some trouble, so I would avoid that place.

It is still possible to get meditation visas. I just recently saw an ITBMU acceptance roster which had many foreigners on the list. You should contact the embassy. I wish you all the best. I recommend Pyin Oo Lwin or Heho. Heho Monastery will have stricter internet policies (basically none is allowed). You can choose based on that. The more central you are to Yangon, the more safer you will be.

Ironically, “safe” is where the military has a stronger presence. In the olden days, the rebels were very brutal. These are the same “armies” that have united to fight a civil war. In 2001, if you traveled through a grey zone, the rebels would stop busses and rob their own people. If you looked up, the rebels who boarded the bus would strike you with the gun. I never went on such routes and you cannot buy tickets as a foreigner anyway. On the other hand, the Myanmar military used board the bus during a few of the 7 checkpoints we used to have in 2001. They were there to protect the people, make sure there were no weapons or bombs etc.

If you have doubt or think you cannot separate politics from meditation. You should not go to Myanmar. Your choice is your own choice. You will have to research by calling the monasteries yourself to get current information. From there, it is the responsibility of the one who gives you the information…

Na-uyana, Sri Lanka is another option. You will not experience any of the financial hardships that you read about. There is no longer a war with the Tamil Tigers. Ironically, when I left Myanmar in 2007, the Tamil Tiger war was just starting to heat up.

For reference, the article on “where to ordain” he is referring to is this.

Thank you very much for your detailed reply Bhante. I will reflect on what you have said and consider Na-Uyana as well.

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