Shwedagon Morning

I normally do not pray.

But I did once late last year, at a time of indecision and hesitation. And I was surprised that a friend’s aunt known as a clairvoyant in Yangon circles knew about it and asked me about it when I had already forgotten about it. This sort of thing is hard to explain but I now discount the unknowns in life a little bit less.

Do these unseen spirits walk around abreast human on Shwedagon? What type of judgements do they make? Does my outfit strike them as bizarre? Do they report back to clairvoyants? I wonder.

As I walk around the stupas, I think about the times I visited the place as a child or as a boisterous teen on so many birthdays and special occasions, sometimes just to read at a back corner, other times to bring along guests. The evolution of a hybrid being over the years.

Shwedagon is perhaps the best preserved heritage monument in this country. It is unique because it has various pavilions on the precinct, built over the course of many decades and centuries. Its environment is rich in layers of meanings, personal stories and historic events meaningful to a large group of people, rich and poor.

You will see a structure with a classical European plan with traditional Burmese details, right next to a modern, minimalist International Style building. You will see gold covered Corinthian columns in a very intricately traditional structure from 1911.

And this is exactly what I had wanted to see this morning: this beautiful and awe-inspiring union of elements blurring artificial demarcations between east and west. These various assemblies, with sikharas and Greek columns alongside one another all adding to a unified whole, embracing the many odd decades and enriching the space year after year.

This is what I aspire to.





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