In May 2007, American neuroscientist James Stone decides to become a Buddhist monk and flies to Rangoon, Burma--now known as Yangon, Myanmar. Despite being hot and humid, Rangoon is like a Buddhist Disneyland, and at the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, James meets U Nanda, a flamboyant monk who brings him to a nearby monastery, where he takes vows. Dissatisfied with the laxity of mainstream monastic life, James joins an intensive Vipassana meditation course, where he meets Daw Vira, a beautiful but mysterious British nun whom he follows to an idyllic monastery in the middle of the country.
James wants to stay there forever, but his plans are diverted when he and Vira leave on a pilgrimage, participate in the massive anti-government protests known as the Saffron Revolution, and are then confined in Burma's notorious Insein Prison. By the time Cyclone Nargis brings destruction to the country, James admits that his desire for Vira is stronger than his desire to achieve enlightenment.
Written as a letter from James to his brother, Dear Burma is ultimately a love story--the story of an impossible love between a monk and a nun, and a love letter to Buddhism and a Burma now lost.