GRAVEYARD THOUGHTS

(ကဗ်ာဆရာတင္မိုးရဲ႕ကဗ်ာနဲ႔စာကို ခ်စ္ၾကတဲ့ မိတ္ေဆြအေပါင္းအတြက္ တင္မိုးရဲ႕အက္ေဆးေတြ၊ စာစီစာကုံးေတြထဲမွာ က်ေနာ္အင္မတန္မွ ႏွစ္ၿခိဳက္တဲ့ “သခ်ႍဳင္းကုန္းအေတြး” ကို က်ေနာ္ တတ္သေလာက္ မွတ္သေလာက္ အဂၤလိပ္စာဗဟုသုတနဲ႔ ႀကိဳးစားၿပီး ဘာသာျပန္ဆို တင္ေပးလိုက္ပါတယ္။ လက္လွမ္းမီရာ အဂၤလိပ္စာဖတ္ပုရိတ္သတ္ကို လက္ဆင့္ကမ္းေပးမယ္ဆိုရင္လဲ အထူးေက်းဇူးတင္ရမွာပါခင္ဗ်ား၊     (ျမသန္းညြန္႔)

“The Graveyard Thought”

Tin Moe (Poet Laureate of Burma)

Graves and vegetation in Muslim Cemetery. Yangon, Myanmar

(1)

             There is the graveyard in the north of our village. The people who are not dead live separately in the village with their own households. Some live in huts roofed by palm leaves, some under thatch roof, and bamboo walls, but a few wealthy villagers live under corrugated tin roof, but walled by timber planks. However, they, the dead people, live together at the graveyard altogether. The graveyard is not much large, but it is the only house for all the dead.

Look toward the graveyard, about three or four tamarind trees stand there like long back old men. The bushes grow around cactus, but a drop-roots banyan trees seems in deep meditation. Near one of the tamarind trees is the resting house with its broken brick foundation and corrugated tin-roof that exhibits some curl and outward sheets that surrendered to wind. It is not at all a grand, but no walled hall where the funeral rites are conducted.

You can see it when you come out of the village by the north gate; it is less far away than the distance of a call could reach. It is grayish green cluster of trees and undergrowth.

Its age would be as old as the village. It is the place where the villagers would not like to go there, yet they could not avoid it altogether.

(2)

            Kway Nyo and Pu Sa who are our playmates happen to go there everyday.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     They graced their cattle near it so that they could take a rest at the rest house of the graveyard. It is not only a place where you hear the wailing of grief-stricken one and the recitation of monks and libation for the deceased, but you can hear the sound of flute every day. Kway Nyo and Pu Sa hunted for sparrows that played and took rest in the shade of the trees with their slingshots and ate them after roasting them by the twig fire.

However, we were not only cowed to approach the graveyard, dare not even to look at it squarely.  At times, when we were unable to avoid passing it as we went to the farm to pick up peanuts in the harvest, we touched our heal and then, put some dart on our foreheads by the same hand while walking away in quick strikes. We used to pass it just glancing the moving cactus, bushes, and the fresh little earth mounds of the dead and buried. At dusk, we came back home and saw the graveyard quiet and unmoved, but that stillness made us more frightened.

The old vultures flew and glided above the graveyard. They sat sometimes by the earthen mound of the graves for hours with their drooping skins from their chins. A herd of crows could be found around them cawing noisily. But, we were not afraid of the vultures. Our elders said that they were not cruel and did not kill. Some said they were bird-monk.. We were told that they would come when they were only invited for a feast by the crows. Therefore, we were not afraid of them. However, we did not please, but, in fact, disgusted them seeing by the rotten corpses.

As there were rumor that ghosts, pimps, and spirits, we felt a bit scary. It was the quietest place around at night. Some of my friends told me that they saw some flash of light there. Might they be a funeral of a child? Or the light flashed from evil-magic-practitioner who dug out the corpses purposefully. Was it the fire of a ghost? We didn’t know for sure.

Whatever they might be, it was sure and certain we disliked, scared, and disgusted the graveyard. It was sure, too, that we didn’t like to turn back our head to gaze it once more.

(3)

            We have had frequented to the graveyard while we were monastery students. We could not avoid it. Family who lost their loved ones often asked the monks to perform funeral rites. We had noticed the face of abbot is not happy. We even heard him sighing and saying a remark of ‘well, this is the unavoidable end all must face sooner or later.’ When our abbot, putting the formal attire and dropping the eyesight within a span ahead, went to the funeral house, we followed him carrying the baskets on our shoulders. When we reached to the graveyard, it couldn’t be helped finding and hearing the grief stricken family members and relatives flinging their hairs back, beating their breasts with their fists, and wailing aloud for the dead.

I was very afraid of attending the funeral with the abbot. When night came, I couldn’t sleep. I might have had frightful dream and cried out aloud. I would call out my mother, ‘ama . . . ama . . ‘at that moment and my mother would come, lighted a kerosene lamp and soothed me while touching my forehead and chest. Then, she would bring a cup of water and say, ‘ my little lad, drink this cup of water and mind you that you don’t need to afraid of.’ I used to release my fear after that. I affirmed myself that I have my mother and there was nothing to be afraid of. I could sleep well after that.

Since I left the monastery, I no longer need to attend the funeral ceremony. My mother, putting her shawl on her head, attended all events if they were merit making celebrations or funeral ceremonies. We could guess if there was a funeral in the village by the sight of our mother: her look would reveal saddened face and would repeat some moaning words. After that, she would put her shawl on her head and put on her worn out thongs to send the funeral off.

We didn’t like to hear the word ‘graveyard’ at all. Though we could not distant ourselves from that word, we did not like it. We knew promptly that word was not a good one when we hear. Was it there any place where we couldn’t hear the word ‘graveyard’? We long to know it. Some answer that is the Nirvana.  If it was so, we would like to be there. There is no graveyard in nirvana.

I wondered where nirvana was. Was it a place that we could reach after passing so many graveyards? Was there any path that by pass the graveyard?

O, Lord Buddha, Please show us if there were any such path in the way to nirvana.

The image of the graveyard has depressed and anxious in the hearts of beings.

It forces us to come to its abode. It calls all the beings.  It makes us separation from one another. Well, what it would be a good thing if the nirvana were fore front of the graveyard instead of beyond or behind.

(4)

            We celebrated the thingyan or water festival in our village. It was very well attended with teeming crowd. Old and young alike participated by throwing water on each other, dancing, and letting a few cows freedom. At this time of the moment, we were somehow indifferent to the graveyard. The graveyard kept itself quiet when the village is in happy mood. Like it was just waiting for a good chance.

When it was time to celebrate kathein, or ahsariya pujaniya, or Thadinkyu’[1], our village is in a very happy mood. The sound of flutes and drums filled the village air. While Layman dance troupe, U Shwe Yoe dance, and Ponnama Khin Shwe anyein’, etc. were performing busily, the graveyard feint putting on air of dignity. It was like a snake silencing itself just before catching its prey.

‘It is good if the village prospers, but it is opposite if the graveyard prospers. If it were so, the village would be prevailed by the crows.’

The disease called plague infected our village during the Japanese occupation and the graveyard was busy with so many funerals. With running noses, people wailed. The path to the graveyard was well treaded. The villagers even could not eat well as they frequented with it. Some fled the village and the rest of us beat the tin boxes and our fences believing the sound we made could drive out the evil spirits. We believed there must be such bad spirit that sent us to the graveyard. Some people moved to take refuge in the compounds of monasteries and pagodas.

The same thing had been followed when our village experienced famine. The same course had been taken when our village was fallen with smallpox before. The same thing had been taken when our village experienced cholera. Such and such, many from our village were gone to the graveyard.

The graveyard is the place of our permanent beds where we must lie down some day.  Even we don’t want to go there, there is no choice. We will be going there without pack of bed sheet and belongings. We will send some one off there; in reciprocal, some one will send me there off one day. Every time we send some one there, we are not joyous about it, instead, with tears running down our cheeks. The graveyard has driven all the happiness away from us. Only, wailing and grief govern there.

(5)

            My mother passed away last year. An angel from the graveyard came and called my mother. The one whom I adorably call ama instead of amay left our home suddenly without even a farewell and gesture to us. We have been heard that the angel from the graveyard brings us in turn. However, we did not expect that it would be such in a hurry.

We sent mother to the graveyard. Father was in deep grief. My elder sister was burnt by the lost. My younger sister hugged her mother. My being at that moment was a segregated place of all the sorrow and grieves. I did my last kiss on my mother’s cheeks and I massaged her feet. Then we prostrated before her and with folding palms we bent and touched the ground three times.

Mother did not say a word or cry or even say sadu, sadu, sadu. With closing her eyelids, she stayed quiet.

We would want to give her her sarong. We would like her have the parai’[2] booklet along with her. We wanted to put a sandalwood rosary at her wrist. And we would like to give her her shawl to cover her body.

However, mother did not ask anything at all. She took nothing. She left home bare handed. The things mother did not take and left behind remained as memorable relics of her. Parait booklet reminds us her reading it with a pair of glasses, the Sandalwood rosary her preserving of sabbath and meditation, her needle box her fixing of buttons on the shirts.

Every relics of her tell a story of mother. Mother left us who are alive behind and found a joy among the dead. She departed the village and entered the compound of graveyard. Our mother was one of them who were living there.

(6)

             There was mother in the graveyard. Related with mother, I gradually began to like it. I could not, at present, think of the place as before, the graveyard a place once I avoided, and disgusted.

We, the relatives and friends, sent mother carrying her on our shoulders off to the graveyard. We buried her with earth. We placed a garland of flowers on the earth mound. We put some thorny branches around it. And then, we erected a cross there though not a grand one.

Nevertheless, mother’s role was grand and her shade was huge in my life. The graveyard where my mother live would be as grand and shady as it was for me. It was my mother my suspicion and hatred on it were at last thawed. The graveyard with tamarind trees, cactuses, bushes, and a big banyan tree was a quiet place where all the sufferings and joys of life were to be buried. It does kill not only the joys of life, but also aggregates of all the sufferings of life. Because of that, should we say it was unfair? It does not discriminate between rich and poor, big prestigious and lesser and poor one, or like and dislike, or does not care smile or weep, it was the place where the differences are leveled in the end.

The laughter finds their end here. The tears, too, find their end here. You can hear neither the laughter nor wailing in this place. They whose feet and hands struggled without pause throughout their lives found complete and satisfactory rest here.

Relating with the loving kindness of mother, I have seen the merit and dignity of the graveyard. Therefore, the graveyard is no longer a place of disgust in my life. I do not feel dissatisfaction because there is a graveyard.

Now, I do not mind to cross through so many graveyards if ever I wanted to strive for nirvana.

Mya Than Nyunt translated it from original Myanmar.

(29 June’07)

[1] Kathein or kasina, a’sariya pujaniya, thadingyu’ etc. are all religious related events held throughout Myanmar.

[2] One of Buddhist sutras. Buddhists believe by reciting parai’ can fend off the evil spirits.

About nyuntshwe

A Myanmar, Buddhist, pacifist, and pragmatic person who believe that we are what we think. That leads him positive thinking and he sees the world a beautiful place, but he still likes to keep trying for a better and more beautiful world.
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