Uttama came to Canada in March of 2013 by invitation of the Saskatoon Burmese Buddhist community. As a Buddhist monk and a Sangha member—one charged with sharing the teachings of the Buddha—Uttama was sought for his skills, practical experience, and knowledge. He is now a teacher, teaching children and others in order to enhance Saskatoon’s Dharma Buddhist community.
Uttama does not know what his future will hold as it is very much up to the will of his community. Right now, he is in Canada on a work permit and is taking the opportunity to learn as much as he can while sharing his own knowledge. He calls it an “exchange of information”, and says that it is his greatest hope for his future in Canada. At the moment, with the restrictions on his work visa, he is unable to attend university in Canada, but would very much love to continue the exchange by enrolling in religious studies at the University of Saskatchewan.
Uttama has become a regular attendee of Global Gathering Place’s Coffee and Conversation program on Thursday afternoons. He speaks glowingly about the program, commenting on the various dimensions of assistance participants receive including relief from loneliness, local advice, employment connections, and help with language. For himself, Uttama appreciates that he is improving his English and has a chance to be able speak with people from so many different cultures and countries. Meeting such a diversity of people is a new experience for him and he says that he has observed how people from different cultures have different ways of thinking and with time, by living here, their minds change to think more like Canadians.
Uttama likes how Canadians think. He said that Canadians are very polite, resilient, full of love to share, and eager to learn new things. Uttama likes to walk along the riverbank where he sees and meets many people. In his orange robes, he is easily identifiable as a foreigner. He loves how people are comfortable approaching him and striking up conversations. He likes how Canadians are friendly, peaceful, polite, and interested in learning about his culture.
He likes most things about Canada, but has also observed that there are many people who seem to be lonely. He can’t remember seeing so many people who struggle with loneliness and thinks that perhaps the difference is that Buddhist teachings provide solutions to this problem in his home country. Uttama explained that Buddhism trains people to be able to control their own minds so that they can search for peace and happiness inside of themselves instead of turning to others to provide it. He says that the goal is to achieve the four foundations of mindfulness—mindfulness of the body, of feelings, of the mind, and of mental objects—in order to be able to overcome sorrow and suffering. If we could achieve this in ourselves, we would achieve a more peaceful world.