The mystery of monks in Myanmar

Coming of the airport in Yangon, Myanmar I was stunned by the number of monk’s walking around in the city. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of theml. During my stay I did all the big sights and discovered many hidden restaurants and laneways. One thing that I kept on seeing were the monks. The Schwedagon pagoda is a massive golden shrine that attracts hundreds of people every day. Not just tourist, but also locals find their way to this pagoda. They come there for prayer, good fortune or just to be a tourist and take photos of this impressive monument.

Do you really know what these mysterious guys are all about? Find out more about the mystery of monks in Myanmar here. By http://wonderluhst.net

My fascination with monks at this point was deep and I needed to know more. I found myself watching these people more intently; they look so mysterious, content, and almost holy. I tried to learn more about buddhism and then especially about being a member of the Sangha (monk hood) during my stay in Myanmar.

To become an official member of the Sangha is seen as an ideal for all males, but is often not practical or possible due to the financial status of the family. A man must be 20 years old, must study the rules and precept for novices and have the knowledge of reading and writing to become a monk. There is a time of three months when the new monks are initiated in the order these three months are also called the Buddhist Retreat. Many men who don’t have the opportunity, time or simply don’t want to become a full fledge monk only go on the Buddhist Retreat to engage in a short period of service.

When a man becomes a monk he makes merit for his family. The Thai believe that someone’s merit and goodness determine a person’s level of existence. Having a monk in your family makes you almost an elite of society. However, becoming a member of the Sangha is not easy, you have to live by these 227 rules, there are five basic rules that the ordained monks, and the men staying at the temple during their Buddhist retreat must live by: Refrain from destroying living beings; Refrain from taking what is not given; Refrain from sexual misconduct; Refrain from false speech; and Refrain from taking intoxicants.

For the ordained monk, there are four rules which, if they are broken result in expulsion from the monk hood. These are: Engaging in sexual relations; committing theft; committing murder, and claiming superhuman powers.

One thing that surprised me most is that even an ordained monk may leave at any moment in time if he chooses to lead a normal life just by informing his monastery.

Do you really know what these mysterious guys are all about? Find out more about the mystery of monks in Myanmar here. By http://wonderluhst.net

When I was at the Schwedagon Pagoda I was taking photos of my surroundings, as every tourist does here, everything is gold!!! I found these three monks talking very loud and taking photos with their smartphones. Never in my life had I seen any extremely religious person with electronics that advanced. It amazed and confused me at the same time, amazed by the fact that this was possible, and confused because I wondered how they could afford such a phone. Even in western countries you have to pay a significant amount of money for a telephone like that. How can someone with no steady income, afford a phone like that?

When I showed this picture to my friends and family they all had a similar response as I had, they were amazed. Many said that it was because they didn’t think that people with such a strong believe would want to handle electronics that bring more negative than positive in the world. I think that many people that don’t have any knowledge on the monks would be amazed about the fact that monks there have mobile phones and make touristic photos. Is this because we don’t have anything in our western world to compare this to?

Do you really know what these mysterious guys are all about? Find out more about the mystery of monks in Myanmar here. By http://wonderluhst.net

On the other hand for Thai and other Buddhist persons I believe that this is seen as normal, since many males go on a Buddhist Retreat and have a normal job before and after their retreat and therefore also the money to buy a telephone.

Many people’s opinions also changed when I told them about the monks and the Buddhist Retreat, they then understood why a monk would have a smartphone. Now looking back I see that my worldview is very small. I form opinions on what I think is correct even though this is not a fact. I know that this is normal and that you cannot know everything and therefore form a right opinion on certain subjects. Right now I definitely have a new perspective on the Buddhist religion. I have a better understanding of what it contains and why people believe what they believe. I recommend others to look into things they don’t understand from other cultures, it will open your eyes to this whole new world!

Do you really know what these mysterious guys are all about? Find out more about the mystery of monks in Myanmar here. By http://wonderluhst.net

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14 Responses

  1. Stevie on the Move
    | Reply

    Oh, I love Myanmar! I was hitchhiking three weeks around Myanmar, sleeping in trucks, at home with locals, camping in my hammock underneath the banana palms. But what I loved the most was the monasteries, I went their for the prayer ceremonies in the evenings and joined the monks for their prayer. It was always a very delightful experience, especially sitting together over a chat with the monks afterwards. They always offered tea, sometimes food although they don’t eat after noon and a few times they even offered me to stay the night in the monastery.
    Myanmar is one of my favourite countries, especially because the many heart-warming encounters you have when travelling there.

  2. Dooseet
    | Reply

    monks everywhere, I like that you investigated a bit on it! I like the idea that they can come back to the normal life whenever they want 🙂

  3. Derek cullen
    | Reply

    I’ve yet to make it this far but I too had always a fascination with monks and other mysterious people hahah so I’d live to visit !

    It’s also great that they can up and leave when they want, that’s how it should be in every organization !

  4. Coddiwompling
    | Reply

    Myanmar is the prettiest gem of Southeast Asia indeed. I spent one month traveling around this spiritual country and totally loved it. I would definitely recommend to visit Myanmar to everybody, as it is an unforgettable experience. It is incomparable with traveling to Thailand or Cambodia. Myanmar is more about spiritual journey than typical get wasted-backpacking-culture.

    It is the most religious Buddhist country in the world and the presence of monks wearing the orange robes can’t be unnoticed.
    About 85 percent of the population is practicing Buddhism and every Buddhist Burmese boy between the age of 7 and 13 must enter the monastery as a novice monk for minimum stay of two weeks. The monastery perform the educative function and so many kids from poor families stay a couple of years and learn to read and write.

    Military government cut off Myanmar from the rest of the world for 50 long years. It seems like the time has stopped here and Myanmar today resembles Southeast Asia decades ago. Traveling here is a unique experience, so hurry up because it is not going to be like this forever.

  5. Prasad Np aka desi Traveler
    | Reply

    Interesting perspective on Myanmar, we still refer to country as Burma here. The picture of monks clicking by cellphone talks volumes about the changing times…

  6. Namita Kulkarni
    | Reply

    Thanks for a nice peek into this unusual country Anne ! Interesting characters those monks 🙂

  7. NextStopAbroad.com
    | Reply

    Interesting article! I have not yet been in Asia thus I never I a monk (here in Europe..). Good insight, thanks for sharing this article. must admit that this one “Never in my life had I seen any extremely religious person with electronics that advanced.” left some confused feelings in me too.
    The idea of seeing a group of Catholic priests with smartphones and taking photos (or maybe selfies?) is little unnatural to be honest.

    • anne030890
      | Reply

      Yes right! It was so weird to see them like that, but if you read the whole backstory behind monks, and how some of them only do it for a small amount of time it becomes somewhat clearer. Thank you for your comment!

  8. Shelby
    | Reply

    My boyfriend wants to go to Myanmar so bad! I looks amazing there.
    The Fernweh Wolf / Travel & Lifestyle Blog

  9. Anuradha Goyal
    | Reply

    On my wishlist, lets see when I get to go there.

  10. Voyager
    | Reply

    Nice and honest post. Travel exposes us to new cultures and our entire perspective changes.

  11. Sofia Faheem
    | Reply

    This post is so helpful! Im planning to visit Myanmar this June ! Were you able to go to Bagan as well?? 🙂

    • anne030890
      | Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment! I mainly visited Yangon and Bagan went through some other places, but just short visits, and to be honest I liked Bagan way more than Yangon or any of the other places. If you go to Bagan, I would recommend getting up real early to go watch the sunrise. It is one of the most magical ones I’ve seen in my life, there is often also the opportunity to do a sunrise watch in a hot air balloon, so if you have the money! Another thing is that the locals love it if you try to speak burmees, they are all really lovely people throughout the country, so learn how to say min-ga-la-ba (hello) and you’ll be famous in no time!

  12. Kaley
    | Reply

    I want to visit Myanmar so badly! This post is perfect and gives me such inspiration!

    http://communicationisdifficult.com/2016/02/01/picked-communication-difficult-hilarious-conversations-teacher-japan/

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