Malawmyine Sangha Hospital

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Malawmyine Sangha Hospital
I went to the hospital for an OPT visit to get my ear checked at the ENT unit. We ate at the Sangha hospital ward which was fairly empty. It is an open air hospital and the place is very clean, quiet and comfortable.

I remember when I stayed there in maybe 2003 for suspected malaria. They gave me the medicine for malaria even though I tested negative. The medicine is harmless and they did not want to "wait for me to get in worse condition." After a few days, I was able to go back home to Pa-Auk. However, they had a special donor for the meals coming the next day and requested me to stay for an extra day. The hospital was so pleasant to stay at, I agreed to stay 🙂

Sangha Hospitals are common in Asia. One time the Buddha found a monk named Putigatta Tissa who had feces and urine all over him and was left alone to die. The Buddha cleaned him up and helped him attain Arahantship before he died. He then criticised the monks who left him to die and said, "You should treat all monks just like you would care for me. To care for a monk is to care for The Buddha."

Since then, it has been a long standing tradition to take very good care of a monk's health. A painting which describes this scene is usually found somewhere in most Sangha clinics. The top one is from the Pa-Auk Clinic and the lower one is from the sangha ward in Mawlamyine. Donors are not difficult to find. In fact, sometimes the donors can be more eager than the doctors to provide medicines or operations, so one must be careful! The Pa-Auk clinic has this painting displayed too. All local Buddhists know this heartfelt story. It is found in Dhammapada commentary stories called "Buddhist Legends," translated by Burlingame and also in the vinaya texts.

From BMC 2
…Then the Blessed One, with regard to this cause, to this incident, had the bhikkhus assembled and asked them: "Is there a sick bhikkhu in that dwelling over there?"

"Yes, O Blessed One, there is."

"And what is his illness?"

"He has dysentery, O Blessed One."

"But does he have an attendant?"

"No, O Blessed One."

"Then why don't the bhikkhus tend to him?"

"He doesn't do anything for the bhikkhus, venerable sir, which is why they don't tend to him."

"Bhikkhus, you have no mother, you have no father, who might tend to you. If you don't tend to one another, who then will tend to you? Whoever would tend to me, should tend to the sick."

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Article by Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.