Practicing Buddhānussati: Dana for the Nuns

The Insight Myanmar team leader has launched an investigation into the conditions of the nuns since the coup in Burma. He has visited a nunnery in his community to try and learn more about the hardships they are currently facing.

As many already know, even in normal times, Buddhist nuns in Burma often have it harder than monks because lay people think they get more merit from giving to monks. This is because monks are seen as more religious and respectable, while nuns are unfortunately seen as more secular and not religious. As a result, nuns often have to rely more on their own resources than monks, and they often have to work harder to gain the same level of respect and support from society.

This morning I spoke to a nun who runs a charitable orphanage. Her nunnery has for many years provided shelter, food and education to young girls of various ethnicities from the remote hilly areas of the combat zones. These young orphan girls are lovingly cared for by the nuns until they reach adulthood and graduate from university or get married. The leader and founder of the nunnery is now in his 90s. The executive nuns are responsible for the nunnery to continue to care for the girls during this difficult time.”

This is no small responsibility, especially in this time of crisis. She told me: ‘Because the prices are rising too much now, it is not easy to look after more than 100 girls. We are having a very difficult time’.

You may know that the junta has printed banknotes worth 400 billion Myanmar Kyats and that the Chief General of Myanmar Army has distributed 330 billion of these to the Chief Ministers of the various regions and states! The corrupt people get richer while the rest of us, even the vulnerable people like these nuns, can’t even survive.

Not long after, the value of Myanmar Kyats suddenly dropped as the prices of all commodities skyrocketed. This trained practicing nun told me that they cannot cry for themselves because all lay sponsors also go through hardships. She said before that it used to be different; each month was fully scheduled with food donations and that the donors had to reserve a date. This meant that the donors took responsibility days in advance so that the nuns did not have to worry about begging for food and could focus on studies and monastic discipline like the monks.

Unfortunately, there are now only a few local donors and they are finding it difficult to feed these young girls. All practicing nuns work hard in different ways. They themselves are so worried that they do a lot of buddhānussati meditation to maintain their mental strength; this she said to me with a wry smile. She ended with a long sigh that food is now the number one priority and they can’t think about other things even at the moment like education, health care, clothes and girl stuff. The nuns must feed the girls three meals a day.

Only that. Just survive now, try to grow in Dhamma later. One at a time.

Yes it is true. It is no small feat to look after more than a hundred children and I can understand and sympathize with her because I myself am the father of a young son and the head of a household. After finishing the conversation with her, the words of a nun from another nunnery in Bagan came to mind: ‘The local donors who used to give a small cup of alms rice every 15 days when they started giving alms can now give a rice spoon and those who previously gave a rice spoon can now give a tablespoon. It must be true!

To help these and other nuns in Burma, we are doing our best to raise funds to support female monastic communities at a time when resources are scarce throughout the country. Learn more at https://insightmyanmar.org/donation

tickle friend. Vimala

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