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DVB speaks to Sayadaw [head monk] Nanujjota-Bhivamsa, a coordinator and teacher at the international Buddhist Meditation Centre (IBMC), a Burmese vipassana centre and monastery in Nepal’s Kathmandu.
Q: Did this weekend’s earthquake affect the IBMC?
A: Our buildings are still intact but the walls of our compound collapsed, around 50 feet on one side and 75 feet on the other.
Q: The earthquake took place around 12 midday. How did the monks react?
A: Some of the monks were in the middle of their lunch. The first wave was very strong and it came abruptly, so we didn’t have time to flee to building – we just stayed where we were. When it ended, we went outside and remained in the yard until the evening.
Q: How many monks and yogis are there at the centre? Was anyone injured?
A: There are around 65 people. No one was hurt.
Q: We hear the epicentre was between Pokhara and Kathmandu. How far is it from the IBMC?
A: Not far – it is about 15 minutes’ drive. We have heard that most of the ancient city was destroyed, and there are human casualties.
Q: Have you been to the city since the earthquake? Can you describe the extent of the destruction you saw?
A: I went into the town on Saturday evening, down by the river. I saw people in panic as they had heard announcements that more earthquakes may follow that evening. All of the people and families were in the streets. When we got back to the monastery, we decided to sleep in the yard outside of the building. Some slept in their cars. The mist in the morning was cold, and we slept under umbrellas.
Q: Were there any aftershocks?
A: One came at around 10:30pm on Saturday, and another at around 1am on Sunday. Then there was another strong one at around 5am. Most of the monks and yogis were awake, and there was a lot of noise in the surrounding area.
Q: Did you hear about any other Burmese monasteries here getting damaged?
A: No. We are pretty much the only Burmese centre in this area. There are other Burmese monasteries in Lumbini, but we didn’t hear of them being severely affected.
Q: Did you know of any Burmese nationals hurt in the disaster?
A: No. We haven’t made contact yet. But we haven’t heard any news about them being harmed.
Q: As the disaster took place close to Bodh Gaya, did you hear about any damage to the Buddhist artefacts in the earthquake?
A: I haven’t heard that Bodh Gaya was damaged. Most of the devastation took place between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Q: Do you need any help or assistance at your monastery?
A: Not particularly, as we didn’t suffer extensive damage or any casualties.