Myanmar is changing rapidly and as the political and economic spheres see a transformation, their impact on the lives of the common man is only to be expected. Western influences, the latest in technology and science have appeared on the country’s doorstep and the whole nation is likely to leapfrog into the twenty-first century without having to go through the rigors of the initial stages of development. As outsiders, we are left wondering how the country and its people are reacting to this change, and how it is impacting their daily life. Their quiet existence, a bit removed and behind the rest of the world is gone for good, but does the beauty in their lives continue? Living is an art and living a beautiful life requires strength of character and a mindful approach to life. There is no doubt that living in Myanmar is a beautiful experience, with its natural beauty that attracts visitors from remote corners of the world, its scenic locales virtually untouched and relatively unexplored, commercialization and modernization picking up, but have not completely changed the cityscape. The old world charm exudes a warmth that draws us all, even as we find beauty in its simplicity. The people remain simple, trusting, honest, and still find joy in simple pleasures, their needs limited and cravings small.
A closer look at life in developed, affluent nations, shows that people are caught up in the business of living, engaging in activities like automatons ticking them off a check list, not because they enjoy them , but more because such activities have become the accepted norm and they do not wish to be left behind. The race is for material acquisitions, not mental peace and harmony, the search is for wealth, not enrichment of the mind, and the desire is to see bank balances surge, not broadening of horizons that extend beyond the tangible. All this will also have an impact on health and well being.
Living with a sense of purpose
The common man in Myanmar has been living a content life with whatever limited material possessions he had been able to afford and found available. But the last five years has changed all that, markets have been flooded and there are endless products that have become unaffordable. This only leads to a sense of dissatisfaction and the crave for such things triggers negative emotions like frustration. The result is the race for money and wealth by fair or foul means, and everything else is forgotten. A change in the value system, the desire to imitate others without much thought, detracts from the finer purpose of life.
There has to be a meaning and purpose in life, and it is clear from a close observation of the local people that they lead simple lives, help others and reach out to others who need help. The way in which they all serve in monasteries and offer alms to the monks, observe monkhood and lead the life of an ascetic for a few days each year, just shows the sense of purpose that guides them.
The fear lies in its fading away as the country moves onto a path of globalization. The younger generation stands the risk of moving away from the spiritual leanings of their preceding generation, unless they are constantly reminded and persuaded to see the wisdom of following their footsteps.
Living with beauty
While finding purpose and giving our lives some meaning, we can continue to live well and comfortably, but all good things begin at home. Beauty here envelops the entire spectrum of activities that complete a day, a week, or a person’s life style. A home with a warm ambience, with positive energies flowing, a balance of the elements and open spaces free of clutter, helps to generate happiness. Being surrounded by natural beauty and finding time to appreciate what nature has to offer, clears the mind and refreshes the body.
What would beautiful living entail then? The real art of living lies in surrounding yourself with beautiful things that exude a warmth and have a soothing, calming and peace inspiring influence on everyone. There is immense beauty in nature which can be brought into our lives. There are numerous man made products that are equally beautiful. It is such things that must become a part of our lives. Order, neatness and a clean environment surrounding us, all combine to have a positive impact on our minds.
Myanmar today stands at the threshold of development. For the present, there are vast expanses of natural forests and wilderness that add to the beauty of the place. Living in such surroundings is far more enjoyable and relaxing than living in a concrete jungle which most cities are turning out to be. Manicured gardens and planned greenery lacks the beauty of naturally growing bushes and trees.
Myanmar is equally famous for its arts and crafts. The famed lacquerware, intricately carved silver, lotus silk, carved teak, paintings and hand made wares in jade, ceramics, and other materials, can transform the simplest of abodes into beautiful homes.
Living with faith in the Land of Buddha
Having faith in humanity, a belief in goodness and being able to walk on a path of righteousness, being mindful and trying to find spiritual elevation are all aspects of the finer art of living. Beauty lies in mental clarity, a clean mind and finding food for the soul while going about daily chores.
There can be no place better than Myanmar for living with faith. The land of Buddhism which still spreads Lord Buddha’s teachings to one and all, Myanmar is a tourist destination not just for its natural beauty but also for religious tourism. Thousands of westerners finding their lives to be shallow come here to understand the true meaning of life. Meditation is a common practice and part of the daily lives of the people here with hundreds of monasteries teaching different types of meditation. The sects may be numerous but they are bound by the common thread of mental purification to cope with stressful lives.
The hundreds of pagodas found in towns and cities add the calm and peaceful atmosphere felt in every corner of Myanmar. The most exquisite and one of unparalleled beauty is the Shwedagone Pagoda, and it contributes substantially to the common man’s life in Yangon. Visited frequently by most locals and foreigners alike, it is a haven of peace and serenity.
The art of living does not require any innate talent or a special aesthetic sense, it only requires a deep thinking ability, the capacity to feel for others, without trying to blindly follow western ways and avoid adopting methods and attitudes that have been discarded by other countries. The tourists visiting Myanmar find the quality of life here to be far superior to most other places they have visited. It would be a shame to see it fade away just because modernisation and opening up of the country means emulating the latest trends without thinking whether they fit in with Myanmar’s beliefs and culture.