S.N. Goenka once said, death is like a bend in a continuous river.
A boat takes the ashes of the late meditation master S.N. Goenka to scatter in the Ayeyarwady River in Mandalay, his birthplace in Myanmar.
Watching his ashes scattered across the Ayeyarwady River, accompanied by three long whistles and chanting by more than 800 monastic and lay students, I felt overwhelmed by the united love for the departed. And grateful to also have an opportunity to pay the last homage to a person I regard as my dharma father.
Thirteen years ago, I was fortunate to come in contact with pure dharma under Goenka's guidance. Since my first 10-day meditation course, I have been given a new life, a life filled with true peace and happiness. Occasional storms may arise, but I, like thousands of people around the globe who practise vipassana (insight) meditation as taught by him, have learned how to encounter them with equanimity.
Thus I decided to join the ceremony in Myanmar where the ashes of Guruji, as thousands of his dharma children call him, would be returned to Mother Nature to fulfil one of his last wishes.
Goenka's ties to Myanmar, especially to his birthplace in Mandalay, ran deep. But during the stopover from India, hundreds of Thai practitioners also had an opportunity to show their gratitude to the teacher as his ashes were allowed to leave the transit area and install for two hours at the VIPs room of Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
The final ceremony in Mandalay was held under the supervision of Sayadaw Dr Ashin Nyannisara, founder of the Sitagu Buddhist Academies and Goenka's long-time friend. The venerables meticulous attention to details was reflected in the perfect arrangement that combined the spirit of compassion and utmost respect for one of the foremost teachers Myanmar ever produced.
Sitagu Sayadaw led the final ceremony by chanting three times:
Anicca vata sankhara
Upada vaya dhammino
Tesang vupasamo sukho
All conditioned things are impermanent.
Their nature is to arise and pass away.
To live in harmony with this truth brings the highest happiness.
The venerable also elaborated on Goenka's teaching _ the state of liberation, he said, was actually not too far to achieve. Our mundane state of being was compared to standing on one bank of the overflowing Ayeyarwady River. Although it might look impossible to cross over, with perseverance in training our minds, we may one day arrive at the shore of liberation.
Indeed. On the Ayeyarwady, as hundreds of us crowded on a handful of big boats witnessing the last farewell, the sun was soon to set. Guruji's sons brought down the ash container and boarded a smaller boat, ready to scatter their late fathers ashes onto the waters, where hundreds of floating candles were lit up. It was truly an amazing sight.
Then one by one, the floating candles started to form in a single line flowing to Sagian Hill direction. We saw a long line of lights slowly made their way down the river as Guruji's life was flowing away from us. I was reminded of another remark he once made: "The art of dying will not be perfect if we do not know the art of living."
Thank you, Guruji, for showing us the way.
_ Warattada Pattarodom