Who is actually a monk in Burma?

Many of those who visited Myanmar were astonished how many monks they saw in the golden land. Myanmar is said to be the most religious Buddhist country in terms of the proportion of monks in the population and proportion of income spent on religion. No doubt, the Burmese are serious about merit which can be performed by 7 specific acts:

  1. Giving alms
  2. Observing virtue
  3. Developing concentration
  4. Honoring others
  5. Offering service
  6. Dedicating (or transferring) merit to others
  7. Rejoicing in other’s merit.
  8. Listening to Teachings
  9. Instructing others in the Teachings
  10. Straightening one’s own views in accord with the Teachings

During my stay and travel in Myanamr I attanded around 20 ceremonies devoted to pagoda donation. These were most often sponsored by a family that donated the money for monastery. Not all men that you would see in Myanmar in saffron robes are “real” monks. In men’s life, he should “be” a monk at least three times. When a boy turns seven, he starts training as a novice monk in a monastery (kyaung). The family performs a shinbyu ceremony then. One of parts of shibuyu is a symbolic procession and ceremony of exchanging princely attire (Buddha was born a royal prince).

IMG_2238 During a shinbyu in Kyaukme, 2013

He would stay in a monastery and attend classes together with other young boys thought by older monks. This teaches them not only meditation and the Buddha Teachings (dharma) but as well socializes and give practical knowledge on how to cope with others. Life in a monastery can be compared to a western world boarding school. The novice service is at least a few weeks. Some of the young stay there for ever. This happens most often to orphans or boys from poor families who don’t need an adolescent men’s support. A boy would have his head shaved then.

IMG_0668Monastery close to Nyaung Shwe

The second time a man goes to kyaung is when he becomes and adult man and in practice it happens around 20.

DSC_1091 DSC_1126A monastery close to Mandalay


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