Living on Myanmar Time
“One thing that Joah hasn't quoted me on yet, is the thing I do say to a lot of people: ‘Myanmar is just a little bit closer to heaven.’ No, there are certainly a lot of things not okay in Myanmar, but the one thing that makes me very happy is that there are so many manifestations of the teachings of the Buddha here. There are those from the past, from Arahants who lived here and from pagodas made by Kings and laypeople centuries back. But there are also so many manifestations of the Buddha's teaching from the present here in Myanmar: so many people actually know and practice the teachings, they know about sila, samadhi and panna. There are so many monasteries and meditation centres and teachers, monks and lay people who are all supporting the Sasana.
For a long time people have been interested and curious in this country, and little by little have come here to learn, practice and get inspired by the Dhamma here. Most people who come to Myanmar get very enthusiastic about the people, the culture and the Dhamma. The enthusiasm of the practice of Dhamma brings this ‘ehipasiko,’ or the 'come and see.'
Shwe Lan Ga Lay is written with this in mind, with the volition to share something so unique and beautiful. Your holding a valuable gift in your hands, a gift for which many people have put in a lot of effort, giving hours, days, weeks, months and even years of their lives to create. It is a very special gift; it is not a tour guide that tries to satisfy temporary curiosities about some old buildings or fancy restaurants. It is a book helping you to understand, respect and appreciate a country and its treasures. Therefore, it is not a thin leaflet, because that would never do justice to the subtlety and depth of the experiences that one can have here. It is an extensive book, written with a broader perspective and timeframe in mind. It certainly will help you for a short trip to certain inspiring places, but it also provides in-depth information for those who develop a deeper interest in this country. Shwe Lan Ga Lay sets itself apart by taking time to explaining even details which come only alive after one has visited Myanmar for a second or third time. In this way, it is written in ‘Myanmar-time' instead of ‘Western-time,’ and Shwe Lan Ga Lay aims also at people who want to commit, to surrender to Dhamma fully in Myanmar.
And one feels, when reading this book which explains so many aspects of the manifestations of the Dhamma in Burma, it is all explained with this happiness which arises when you're able to share something so wonderful. I’m happy Joah chose to approach Burma on its own terms. This book is in a way a child of Burma, of its qualities: it is a Dana, a gift, intended on supporting you on your path of Dhamma.
I hope that people realize the magnitude and value of the information presented in this book, and they use it for their benefit, with respect and gratitude.”
--Bhikkhu Agga is a Dutch monk who has lived in Myanmar since 2011. He read the very first draft of Shwe Lan Ga Lay.