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Project 5:  Burma

Buddhism Laying Down
By Gordon Klco

What is one hundred feet long, completely white, lying down and revered by thousands of people?  I found the answer in Myanmar.  It is the Reclining Buddha in Yangon.  This enormous statue is one of the many religious sites found scattered throughout the city, but it is one of the most unique Buddha statues I have ever seen. 

The Reclining Buddha is housed in a huge hanger style building in the North of Yangon.  The building consists of a huge open space with enough room for hundreds of people to sit in admiration of the amazing Buddha. The Buddha itself is a huge statue, completely white with golden clothing.  One of the most prominent features of the statue was its eyes.  They seemed to be all seeing.   

The religious space surrounding the Buddha was used differently by each group that was scattered over the huge empty sitting area.  The groups that were scattered over the floor when my roommate and I were visiting were a cross section of humanity in Myanmar.  The people sitting nearest to us were a family with three small children.  The parents and the oldest of the children kneeled and prayed to the Buddha while the other small children ran and played around the Buddha.  In front of me and closest to the statue, were monks, with prayer beads in hand, in deep prayer.  Another group of teenage school girls sat and chatted while another lone women sat reading a magazine, all while sitting in front of the Buddha. 

This place was a community building more than a strictly religious site.  Although it had many uses it did not seem to be being exploited as a money maker like the Hindu temples talked about in the Mary Hancock article “Modernities Remade”.  The area seemed to be more or less untouched by tourism.  Unlike India which is well known for its religion and culture and has an increasingly bigger tourist destination, I think Myanmar is mostly unknown and its many Buddhist monuments are still untainted by tourists.  Like the country itself it was a hodgepodge of many different things, religion being one.  From this experience I came to understand that this was a good glimpse of how the Burmese people practice religion.  The Buddhist religion is so much a part of the Burmese way of life that it is casually incorporated into everyday life.   

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