Tanja from Germany spent months practising meditation in Myanmar (Burma).
I asked her to send me a summary of the three places.
Extended periods of meditation practice in Burma, India, Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand have become more affordable than long retreats in Western centres. Increasingly Westerners cannot afford the daily rate of Western centres, especially those in the English-speaking world. An airfare and dana (donation, practise of generosity) for the stay in an Asia Buddhist monastery has more appeal.
Pa-Auk Forest Monastery, Pyin Oo Lwin, Upper Myanmar
http://www. paaukforestmonastery.org/ aboutUs.htm (please note that this is the website of the main centre in Mawlamyine, the center in Pyin Oo Lwin does not have its own website)
This is one branch of the many Pa-Auk monasteries and it was established in 2015. It gives space to about 400-500 practitioners, most of which are ordained. The Kutis are nestled in the hills of the spacious grounds, men and women have separate living, eating and meditation areas. Pa-Auk Sayadaw (speaks English) himself resides and teaches there (not sure if he still does, because of his health). Very strict Sila. Pa-Auk Sayadaw emphasizes on concentration and teaches Anapanasati as a concentration method to reach the jhanas. Only then practitioners move on to Vipassana with their laser sharp concentration as their basis. A few people move to the four elements practice before reaching the jhanas. Mostly long-term practitioners. I stayed there for 2.5 months.
Shwe Oo Min Meditation Center, near Yangon, Lower Myanmar, not far from the airport
Sayadaw U Tejaniya (speaks English) is Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw’s successor and his focus is on predominantly or even solely on Vipassana, Cittanupassana (which here includes Vedana- and Dhamma-). He instructs his students to be aware from the moment they get up to the moment they fall asleep in every activity they engage in. Allows the mind to choose its object. Key is to be aware of whatever is going on in the mind. Instructs “talking meditation” as well, individual schedules, more freedom and easy-going than in other centres. Like you, he does not encourage explicit metta meditation, but says that metta will arise naturally when wisdom increases. The center itself is noisy and not as spacious as the forest monasteries. Lovely dogs there:) Sayadaw is approachable and popular with Western students. He also has “real” life experience as he ordained in his mid-thirties, worked in business and had a wife and a kid.
Since one is only allowed to stay at Shwe Oo Min MC for a maximum of three months, Sayadaw U Tejaniya has established his own center called “Dhamma Vibhajja” next doors in which students can continue their practice under Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s guidance (Shwe Oo Min MC is not Sayadaw’s own center, he is “just” the meditation teacher there, the main abbot there is Yaw Sayadaw). I stayed there for a total of 5.5 months (12 days of traveling in between)
Chanmyay Myaing Meditation Center, Pyin Oo Lwin, Upper Myanmar (there is also another branch near Yangon)
Here, I attended an organized, yearly Metta Retreat specifically designed for Western practioners with Sayadaw U Indaka, Venerable Viranani and Ariya Baumann. The teachings of Metta are mainly based on the Visudhimagga using phrases. The Vipassana practice there is based on Mahasi Sayadaw. Sayadaw U Indaka is Chanmyay Sayadaw’s student. The retreat takes place in Jan/Feb and one can attend for either 2 weeks or 5 weeks (and stay on after the retreat if one wishes). The center is quiet in the midst of fields, with a forest walking path encircling the property. I was there for 6 weeks. Sayadaw U Indaka and Ariya Baumann also teach at Seminarhaus Engl.