October 19: Burmese travel agencies which arrange transports and accommodations for pilgrims to Buddha-gaya, Mizzima regions and other historical Buddhist holy sites in India, have been taking advantage of Burmese Buddhist monasteries there for their own benefits.

The agencies use the monasteries as guest houses and ask the monks to provide lunches and dinners for the pilgrims but they do not provide enough monetary or material donations, causing unwanted difficulties and headaches to the monks who are trying to concentrate on spiritual and religious matters.

Each pilgrim is charged nearly 600,000 kyat (approx. US $ 500) by the companies and they claim that they are inclusive of donations to the monasteries they use as their accommodations. In reality, the agents pocket most of the money and dump the pilgrims at the monasteries. Moreover, rich pilgrims are also urged to make donations only to the monasteries which are on friendly terms with the agencies.

“Before, the monasteries could depend on pilgrims to sort things out for us, but now it seems that the pilgrims are only impoverishing us. The ministry of religion is providing nothing for us either,” an abbot told DVB.

These ‘religious’ agents such as Thazin Mya Aung from Aungchantha pilgrimage agency and Hetin Lin from Rangoon pilgrimage agency, have been avoiding to answer questions put to them by DVB. They obtained their contract from the Burmese ministry of religion and when DVB contacted the new director-general of the ministry Dr. Myo Myint and asked him if any thing has been done to address the complaints of the monks, he said: “Don’t talk to me because I am a responsible person (I am the one in charge).”