Believe in the Impossible

Finally, after an hour's ride up a long and winding mountain road, I saw the Golden Rock also known as the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, which means in the Mon language, pagoda upon a hermit's head. This Buddhist pagoda is 24-feet high and sits atop a large granite boulder, which is perched upon an even larger granite rock. The Golden Rock ranks behind only Shwedagon and Mahamuni Pagodas when it comes to important Buddhist sites in Myanmar.

The Golden Rock

Aesthetically, it is impressive. The pagoda is perched on a golden rock that looks like a slight breeze would brow it off its base. However, for many millennia, it has remained there without falling off its stand and rolling to the bottom of a very high mountain. It is a must see when you visit Myanmar.

The Golden Rock becomes more golden due to the Buddhist devotees who come from all over Myanmar to rub gold leaf onto the surface of the rock. This is a most solemn activity for the believers.

Believers worshiping at the rock

Note the space between the two boulders, hence the belief that a single hair from Buddha's head holds the rocks together.

Worshipers leaving prayers

As impressive and awe-inspiring as the Golden Rock is, even most fascinating is the legend associated with how it got there and remains to this day. The story is that Buddha gave a single hair from his head to a hermit, Taik Tha. Interestingly, Taik Tha then gives Buddha's hair to a local king. Taik Tha's only request was that the king would place it between two large boulders one of which looked like the head of Taik Tha.

Fortunately, the king's mother was a serpent princess of a dragon and his father was an alchemist. The Golden Rock was found deep at the bottom of the ocean. After bringing the rock to the land, it was placed at an auspicious location, Kyaiktiyo. Then a pagoda was constructed on top of the Golden Rock. Not far from the Golden Rock is the Kyaukthanban Pagoda also known as the Stone Boat Stupa, which is the boat used to ferry the Golden Rock to land.

The Kyaukthanban Pagoda

The Kyaukthanban Pagoda

Finally, along with both these pagodas is the belief that if one makes three pilgrimages to the Golden Rock in a single year that person will be reward with great financial wealth and notoriety. This prediction seems equally unbelievable and seemingly impossible.

Having told you about the belief about visiting the Golden Rock three times in a year, it should be noted that I have been at the Golden Rock in January this year, and I am planning to return to Yangon this August. While in Yangon, I will certainly get my tour guide, Tin, to take me to the Golden Rock for the second time this year.

You should be asking yourself, why would I be back in Myanmar this August for the second time this year? Again, it relates to believing in the impossible. I went to college in the early 60s during the civil rights movement. The 60s was a fantastic time to be alive in America for those working for social justice and equality of the races. Just a few hours prior to returning from Myanmar to the States, Min Ko Naing invited me to a protest rally in a country without any of the freedoms that we possess here in America.

I spent several hours walking around and observing the rally. It was déjà vu all over again. Here I was in Myanmar while my mind flashed back a half century ago in America. It was not long before I was thinking about the song, We Shall Overcome, which was for America in the 60s the song that linked blacks and whites in the effort to get America to address overt racism.

I left that rally at Sule Pagoda where 25-years before was the place where the 88 Uprising took place. I am in the process of attempting to contact Joan Baez about returning with me to Sule Pagoda and singing before hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar the same way she did years ago in America in the 60s.

Imagine what it will be like to have Joan Baez leading hundreds of thousands people as we all sing We Shall Overcome in English. Then having completed the song in English, imagine for a moment what it will be like when that mass of people sing in Burmese, We Shall Overcome. I cannot think of a more moving musical moment - the song, We Shall Overcome, sung in that antiphonal way.

I will be there...I promise. I cannot believe that this would not push the present government to work with the people of Myanmar as together they bring democracy and human rights to Myanmar.

On a little less serious side, but not that much less, I have also already figured out the date for my third trip to the Golden Rock. I will be back at the Golden Rock in September of this year. I could easily stop off in Myanmar on my way to Edinburgh, Scotland. I promised the Scots that I would return to Scotland after September 18, 2014 when they vote for independence from England.

I have written dozens of articles about the Scottish independence movement and interviewed people about it. Jerome McDonnell has even interviewed me about Scottish independence. Jerome is the host of Worldview on WBEZ, which is the NPR station in Chicago. I have worked very hard over the past couple of years to support the Scottish independence movement. However, the rest of the people in Scotland will need also to work hard at that task of finally getting independence from England.

Perhaps some of the Scots who are undecided on how they will vote should visit the Golden Rock or at least read this article...and believe in the impossible. While they work on my suggestion, I will work on how I will be able to afford two trips to Scotland and three trips to Myanmar in one year. Being a frugal Scot myself that also seems at first glance impossible. However, when I return from my third trip this year from the Golden Rock, I will have plenty of wealth to repay my massive debt.

Okay, that last paragraph sounds funny. However, travel is worth the cost. I wrote I Have Seen the Light. It was about the insight of my cardiologist, Dr. Marchand. He is right after my pushing him on why I am a different person since my return from Myanmar.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

Scottish independence: Yes campaign

Scottish independence flag

Visit the Scottish Independence page to read more about this topic.