“The Vote Was Nay”
By Randy, The Auto Worker
For many years I have wanted to see Myanmar (Burma). I have never travelled outside of North America, and in my daily life, I am for the most part a homebody/recluse. In fact, fear has kept me from doing many things I would like to do in life. Going to Burma was almost another one of those many dreams I would not be able to live out because of this fear.
I work in an automotive assembly factory, and friendliness can seem to be nonexistent at times. One day, a man named Nay Myo walked in while I was washing my hands in the bathroom at work. He gave me a friendly hello and I returned feeling uplifted. I made my mental note that he was a man always deserving of my kindness.
As time passed, Nay and I became cordial coworkers, and I also became friends with his brother Joe. Not long after working next to Joe, I learned he was from Burma and he knew a thing or two about Buddhism and meditation. I knew about Burma too, and let him know that I send my love to this great land where the Buddha’s teaching is still being taught in it’s most pristine form. I am also aware of the struggles going on there.
Time passed on and I began to explore via Google the land known now as Myanmar. It appeared as though things were opening up to welcome visitors in a way they weren’t encouraged to do just a few years earlier when I first looked into it. In the mean time, a friend’s trip to Nepal inspired me, and I began to think “I really need to go to Burma.”
In February 2014, I decided it was “now or never.” Not only did I want to visit Myanmar, but I also wanted to learn more about becoming a Bhikkhu (Theravada Buddhist Monk). After watching videos of other travellers, I decided I was going to go, and I booked my return flight for November.
Just prior to booking, Nay told me he would like to come with me to make sure everything goes smooth. I didn’t know him well enough at this point to know if he would follow through or not, but after a couple months, Nay came to work with money for his flight and told me to book him on same flight.
I was stunned.
I couldn’t believe he would do this for me. I was overcome with feelings of guilt since my meditation practice was weak and fleeting, and hardly on the edge of Enlightenment.
I purchased his ticket and decided to return the money he gave me. It was the least I could do. He was willing to take time off from work, etc. All of this to help me on my trip.
In the last two weeks before going to Myanmar, I became a nervous wreck. This is the pattern in my life when I start feeling I can’t follow through with life’s challenges. Long story short, I did go on the trip because I knew Nay was coming with me. I am very grateful for his encouragement and moral support. Upon arriving in Myanmar, I had an overwhelming sense of, “This is where I belong.”
SO!…The generosity did not stop there. My friends first took me to Mandalay for a funeral of a Sayadaw (Monastic Teacher) and then we went to another monastery in a remote place a couple of hours to the north. All along the way, my friends fed me and refused to take money for anything. This was all very difficult for me. After that, we flew back to Yangon and my friends were waiting to drive us to Pa-Auk in a private car. No busses for me.
I stayed at Pa-Auk Meditation Center for 3 1/2 months and I received much kindness and generosity on a daily basis. I began to see how the “system” worked. I practiced gratitude each day before receiving alms and I tried to practice meditation as best as I could in return. However, nothing seemed to be able to repay this great gift.
When it was time to go back, the generosity continued, and my friends refused to allow me to take a bus back to Yangon. Nay’s friends, Kyaw Moe and Aung Kyaw Khaing came all the way from Yangon to pick me up and took me to the Golden Rock Pagoda and then back to Yangon. Again, all along the way, they fed me, etc.
(Personal Notes from the Randy)
I am getting choked up now writing this, and even though it only scratches the surface of how I feel, a great debt of gratitude has been felt for this gift. This is an attempt at putting it in writing and doesn’t do justice to the experience itself. It is my pattern to be worried about my inability to write and articulate this to others.
I have to stop here. Maybe I will reread and rewrite at some point but feel free to use this. As I was writing this, I became aware of so many other acts of generosity that have been bestowed upon me. If I had the ability, I could easily write a book. Thanks Bhante Subhuti for asking me to do this. May I never forget to be grateful!
About the pictures..
1). Nay (left) and Kyaw Moe (right)
2). Group Photo of Aung Kyaw Khaing on left side, San Maung Maung U, Randy, and Kyaw Moe on the right. They are Nay’s friends who brought Randy back to Yangon with an intermediary tour along the way.