Fourth Commemorative Anniversary


It is four years since you left us. Your absence is keenly felt everyday, among your children and grandchildren. This is true also among your dhamma friends back home and overseas.

For me, I missed you more than ever when I visited Nong Pang, the village you have given me birth, in Laikha to celebrate the 160th anniversary of our monastery, Wat Ho Loi (1852 - 2012), in March this year. All the abbots in Laikha, both from the town and villages, came to participate in the 161 times chanting of the Mangala-sutta. The chanting began at 8pm, soon after my arrival from Panglong on 18th March and it went on until 4am in the morning of 19th March. Monks and laypeople took turn to recite this discourse of the Buddha on the 38 blessings.

Wat Ho Loi is one year older than Mandalay. So, our village, Nong Pang, must be at least 160 years, if not older. In addition to the special chanting ceremony to invoke blessings for Wat Ho Loi and its devotees, I have arranged 161 trees to be planted to mark the occasion. Most of the trees are for firewood. It is called Mai Khilek in Tai and Meizali in Burmese; it grows fast with many branches which can be cut down for firewood each year. Some of them are flowering trees such as cherry.

The construction of the dhamma hall at Wat Ho Loi is progressing well. You were one of the first to have donated money for the construction. It is a shame that you did not live to see the construction work started and will not see its completion and the celebrations of it. But when I was there, you and Pawpaw (father) were very much everybody's thought.

The dhamma hall is going to be a two-storey building, each has ten sections, all concreted. I send donations from the UK twice a year. We do not know when it will be completed but things are looking much better than when we started. It may take a few more years to complete, but we have the faith and patience to see it to the completion.

After the completion of the great dhamma hall, I am hoping to turn the area into a forested one with hundreds of trees planted. The pagoda and the ordination hall (sima) are also in a desperate state. But I believe they will get restored to their previous glory one day.

I also took the opportunity of my visit to Laikha to organise a 50-times chanting of the Metta-sutta at the centuries-old Porana Pagodas near the Lake Nong Kham. The Porana are the oldest in the area and are believed to be a few hundred years old. You would have enjoyed it very much. The chanting of metta was to invoke blessings on Saosra Ojeya who is now abbot of Jong Kham, which is adjacent to the pagodas. I also made some donation to help him set up a specialised library of Lik-loung (great text) manuscripts which are part of world Buddhist literature. He is one of the very few who have been educated in Lik-loung as well as in modern academic study. You know him well.

Before I went to Laikha, as part of my Shan State dhamma tour 2012, I visited Tang Yang in northern Shan State for one day. My entourage and I travelled from Senwi, stopping at Nam Pong for lunch, at Mong Yai for a short dhamma talk on our way to Tang Yan. I told the people in Nam Pong, about 24 miles from Lashio, that I was visiting them partly to repay gratitude: Pawpaw learned how to make one of the medicines he sold (Yah Nam Pong or Yah Senyah) from the area. People were amazed that we had that connection with Nam Pong.

You know a trip to Tang Yan was a very special visit because Pawpaw came from Tang Yan. I told the people that I was there in search of lost relatives. Despite the tight schedule, I managed to find out some relatives. The most senior one is the abbot of Ho Marng Monastery, about ten miles from the town. It is on the way to Mong Kao and Mong Su, the land of gems. The abbot, who is Pawpaw's first cousin, is paralyzed and cannot speak any more. But his memory is good and he knows me. He even gave me some pocket money! We took a group photo at his monastery. Another photo was taken at the Wat Hom Yen Meditation Centre in town where I stayed for the night and gave a dhamma talk. The centre was founded by a famous meditation teacher, Sra Mao Loung, the father of the famous meditation teacher, Ven. Sukham. Just like in Laikha, over a thousand people came for the talk.

Pawpaw's relatives are varied in their social conditions. Some do not seem to have a lot to spare while some are more well-established with business in town. A few of them still retain the time-honored family business: production of Tai/ Shan indigenous medicines. One is even a singer.

Pi Lu, the cousin-sister of Pawpaw who lives in Laikha, came with Pi Too, her daughter, and two granddaughters. Without her, I would have no guide to find any relative. Some of my brothers and sisters also came with me to Tang Yan: Pi Nang Mya, Pi Sai Oot and Nang Kham Noan. Your granddaughter, Nong On, came along as well. She is an intelligent and happy bunny now. Only eight, she is already confidently speaking in both Tai and English with me; she also helped me distribute leaflets everywhere we went in the northern and southern Shan State.

In Taunggyi, most family members met at Pi Mya's new house near Taunggyi University. Pi Mya is a granny herself now because Nang Herng, her daughter, has given birth to a son who is a year old. Almost in competition, Pi Sai Oot has also become a granddad recently; his elder son, Sai Saeng, came back from Malaysia and got married just over a year ago; he and his wife also have got a son as well. Indeed, Pi Sai Nanda is another granddad now; not to be outdone, his daughter, Nang Kham Li, gave birth to a boy. So, you are a great-granny now! With Nang Khin Nu's son, there are four little boys who would grow up and become men in Taunggyi, not Laikha.

There are more from my trip that I wanted to tell you. But for now, let us recall the fond memories of Laikha, your birthplace and Tang Yan, Pawpaw's. It took me 45 years to visit Tang Yan again since you and Pawpaw took me there when I was a baby.

During the trip, I made a lot of donation, raised fund for a meditation centre in Buddhagaya to be built under the instruction of Saopawsildham Khuva Boonchum. I have also given dhamma talks everywhere.

Mae, may the merits accrued thereby be just for you and Pawpaw. May you progress further in the dhamma practice wherever you are.

With loads of love and in the dhamma,