Human Rights and Buddhism in Myanmar

Religious Studies in Myanmar

Previously known as Burma, Myanmar is a culturally rich nation with plenty to offer in terms of spirituality. However, this Southeast Asian country also faces severe issues related to human rights. Travel abroad to study religion and make an impact by connecting with a non-profit focused on social justice while you’re there.

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Sojourn – Gain a better understanding of the community you’re visiting. Learn about different religions or spiritual practices. How do these impact the communities? How does religion or spirituality influence local traditions?

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Savor – Will you choose sweet or savory? Take the time to visit local markets and discover unique local ingredients. Learn how to prepare traditional meals & local favorites.

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Tip of the Tongue – Each morning, take the time to learn a few basic greetings and phrases in the local language. Learn how to write greetings & your name in the local script.

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A Wrinkle in Time – History influences our present. Discover the history of the country you visit. Hear the stories of your guides & their family history. Where do they come from?

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Journal Journeys – Take some time to reflect on the day’s events and document your journey. Spend a moment journaling about the day had & day ahead. These are memories for a lifetime!

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Culture – From local dances, festivals, or simple gestures to communicate – all of these make up a country’s culture. Learn and practice cultural norms & how to show respect in the culture you visit.

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Welcome to Yangon, Myanmar! Believe it or not, the country is home to more than 100 ethnic groups, although approximately 90 percent of the population practices Buddhism. Upon your arrival at the Yangon International Airport, you will be met by your local guide who will show you around for the week. 

Following the introduction, a shuttle will take you to your accommodation in the city. From this point, you will be able to explore the surrounding area, either with your guide or at your leisure for the rest of the afternoon.

To start your week of Myanmar, you will rise early and head to the golden Shwedagon Pagoda. At over 300 feet tall, this Buddhist temple certainly stands out in the Yangon skyline. The compound is over 2,500 years old and houses many vibrant temples, stupas, and statues. As you tour the pagoda, your guide will fill you in on the temple’s history and spiritual significance. 

Following your visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, you will head east over to Kandawgyi Lake. The lake was actually artificially built in order to provide a freshwater reservoir for the city during the colonial era. While you’re here, you will have the choice to either stroll around at your leisure or take part in a tai chi session.

Start the morning with a fresh breakfast before connecting with members of Equality Myanmar. Equality Myanmar is an NGO that focuses on a wide range of human rights and educational programs. Today you will get the chance to uncover the current landscape of the country’s human rights issues and learn about what this organization is doing to make a difference. 

In the afternoon, you will attend a Dharma talk at the Sule Pagoda, a smaller pagoda situated in the city center that is said to be even older than the Shwedagon Pagoda. Although it is set amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, you will feel at ease once you enter. Your local guide will show around the different spaces of the pagoda as well provide you further details about the history of this sacred space. 

Continuing with the theme of Buddhism in Myanmar, today you will check out the Maha Wizaya Pagoda. This spiritual center boats fascinating architecture and murals that will shed light on the Buddhist culture in Myanmar. After you wander around the pagoda with your local guide, you will enjoy a traditional vegetarian lunch. 

Following lunch, you will be going to Yangon Buddhist University. While you’re here, you will get the chance to sit in on one of the classes for the monks-in-training, and get first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to truly study Buddhism in Myanmar. 

As you continue your time in Myanmar, you will go to the airport and head north to another city called Mandalay. This royal capital actually hosts more than half of the Buddhists in the entire country! After a 1.5-hour flight, you will arrive at Mandalay International Airport. From there you will head to your accommodation and drop off your belongings before heading out into the city. 

Your first stop is the Taung Mingyi Pagoda. Here you will partake in a meditation session followed by a Dharma talk led by one of the pagoda’s resident monks. Afterward, you will be shown around the city by your local guide to discover some of the area’s local gems.  

For your final full day in Mandalay, you will meet with representatives of a human rights organization called The Seagull. This organization focuses on improving the nation’s human rights, peace and development. Get an insider’s view of the current issues the people of Myanmar face and how you can make a difference. 

In the afternoon you will go to Mahar Sandar Muni Pagoda. This ancient Buddhist pagoda is set alongside Kandawgyi Lake, and with its beautiful architecture, it makes for an ideal spot to capture amazing photos. Wander around this historic icon and catch the sunset before heading back into the city. 

After a week of history, spirituality and gaining insight about the current human rights struggles in Myanmar, it’s time to head to the airport. As you make your way back to the Mandalay International Airport, allow all of the new experiences and insights to really resonate within. From this point, you can utilize the philosophies you’ve learned during your time in Myanmar and put them into action.

Myanmar is a country full of history and spirituality, but beyond the beauty lie serious human rights issues related to freedom of speech, religion genocide and more. To get an insider’s look at what’s happening around the world, travel abroad and connect with local organizations as well as residents of the area to get a deeper understanding of the bigger picture.


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