Monday, March 20, 2017
We often talk about 'losing ourselves in a book.' Here at the Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) it is quite easy to lose yourself among the serried ranks of the 729 dazzling white kiosks that are the 'pages' of the text of the Tripitaka, the Theravada Buddhist dhamma teachings, grouped around the spectacular Pagoda.
We've just come back from a holiday in this amazing country. For me, it fulfilled a dream I've had ever since I read Kipling's 'The Road to Mandalay' and wanted to see 'the dawn come up like thunder out of China 'cross the bay' – as indeed it does, a red and angry sun rising through the grey mists of the morning.
It is the first Third World country we've ever visited and certainly it has severe problems with a 10% child mortality rate and clean water a rarity in the countryside. The military dictatorship has ruined the economy and despite a fig-leaf of democracy in the person of Aung Snag Suu Kyi is still in control. Yet there is no malnutrition and in a fortnight we saw far fewer beggars than you would see if you walked along Princes Street in Edinburgh. The monasteries and nunneries, run solely on alms-giving, feed anyone who comes in – even if they do little towards medical care or modern education.
I can't say it has given me useful ideas for a book. One guide engagingly explained that if there was trouble in the village the Chief Elder (elected every five years) would try to deal with it but if necessary would send for the police. If the police weren't coping, in the last resort they would send for the monk and after that, he explained serenely, everything would be all right. As a plot, I feel that would lack something.
Posted by Aline Templeton at 7:52 am