My fifth 60-day retreat

(Speech by Guus Went on behalf of the male yogi’s at the closing ceremony of the 19th 60 days Special Retreat at Panditarama Hse Mine Gon Forest Center, January 31 2018.)
Venerable Members of the Sangha, dear yogi’s,
I would like to express some words of appreciation about my practice, about the teachers and the teachings, and about the country and people of Myanmar.
When I start telling you this 60 days Special Retreat was my fifth one and I am still not a Sotapanna, it is not to discourage you. On the contrary, I hope to encourage you with some of my experiences. that this retreat does not stop here and now. Good causes will have good results.
Can you imagine I would have come back if not having experienced good results, both during the retreats and in daily life? Especially in daily life!
Oh yes, I had my culture shock during the first three weeks of my first retreat 2012-2013. What a mechanical way of being is this? Where are my thoughts, where are my hindrances, where are my good experiences? In my first retreat I even got a so called first warning from our dear Sayadawgyi U Pandita when he found me in some strange looking yoga posture in my kuti when he visited the 64-kuti-complex in the male compound. ‘If this is what you are coming for, no need to come to this centre.’ But I heard the deep warmth in his voice when he said this. ‘Yes Bhante, you are quite right.’ (Of course I knew this was not what I was coming for to this centre.) And during the first ten days of my fourth retreat (2015-2016) I had pains I never had before. But they on their turn caused a concentration I never had before either.
Do these Burmese teachers really understand me? Really take me serious? Do they really mean it when they say I am doing well? Many times I left the interview with this kind of doubt. But later the same day they always proved to have been right. ‘This is such a special, particular, personal insight, no other one can give me.’ ‘Yes, this is a happiness much better than a sensual one.’ In my third retreat I got the doubt ‘How stupid I must be to be here for the third time.’ The only stupidity was that I did not report this item to my teacher, so it kept me busy for two weeks. This year once I had the same attack of doubt, but I could answer it within one session with the words of the Buddha when he was being challenged by Mara: Let the Earth be my witness that I have the full right to sit and practice here on this place.
Enough about my practice.
After the passing away of Sayadawgyi two years ago I skipped one retreat here and went to Panditarama Lumbini in Nepal. Just for some practical reasons. I did have great confidence that Sayadawgyi’s senior students would continue the enormous work set up since the foundation of Panditarama in 1990. And I can tell you that what I found even surpassed my expectations. I see a very vivid, lively and devotional organization and I am surprised by the teachers and the teachings. Thank you very much.
In one of his wonderful talks Sayadaw U Nandasiddhi told us that in Myanmar there are over 500.000 monks and nuns practicing and that the government supports the study of the texts very much.
I can all of you advise to read an article in the American magazine Tricycle of December 2016. It is an interview of Alan Clements with Sayadawgyi U Pandita with a last advise to the Myanmarese people for Reconciliation after 50 years of military regime.
Reconciliation: do we in the West really know what it is, except as something that was invented in South Africa some decades ago, thanks to Nelson Mandela? Who in the West knows this is what is really at hand in Myanmar? Who knows that Aung San Suu Kyi was and is a devoted student of Sayadawgyi U Pandita, so to say a colleague yogi of us?
Especially to my Western colleague yogi’s I can also advise to follow the question Aung San Suu Kyi asked in her September 19 2017 talk to her own people and the Western media and the so called human rights organizations: there is an iceberg of disinformation about Myanmar. An iceberg of disinformation: I consider this as a very elegant and compassionate way of avoiding the word stupidity. And please, do not only look at the top of the iceberg, but especially to what is so typical for an iceberg: look at the unseen part. And it must have been Aung San Suu Kyi’s Dhamma wisdom which made her add that this willingness to see the unseen will require generosity and courage.
This generosity and courage to look at all the icebergs in our life, inside and outside, is what I wish all of you, myself included. And after having done this, I wish we will meet again on some 1st of December, this same year or one of the year to come.
Thank you for your kind attention.