Myanmar is one of the most devout Buddhist countries in the world and has the highest proportion of monks and nuns, with somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of the population practicing Buddhism. People in Myanmar practice the Theravada Buddhism, which is more austere and ascetic, but also harder to practice than the Mahayana Buddhism, the other main branch of the Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism is also followed in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Laos and Thailand. No one really knows, but experts estimates that in Myanmar live about half a million monks. Monks hold the highest status in the society of Myanmar.
The overwhelming majority of the monks in Myanmar wear maroon-colored robes. Nuns wear pink robes that represent sunshine. The monkhood is loosely organized into two principal sects that have no doctrinal splits. To Burmese, monks are like sons of the Buddha. It’s customary for a male in Myanmar to enter a monastery twice in his life. Once as a samanera, a novice monk, between the age of 10 and 20, and again as a hpongyi, a fully ordained monk, sometime at the age of 20. Some might remain a monk for just a few days, while others stay for life. The ceremony of ordination and novitiation is one of the noblest ceremonies for Buddhists in Myanmar. It has traditionally been held in Waso month, the fourth month in Myanmar calendar which coincide during July and August and the rainy season in much of Myanmar. Becoming a Buddhist novice involves three ; steps: 1) shaving the hair, 2) wearing the robe and 3) believing in Buddha. A key part or a monk’s training is studying the Dhamma (Dharma)—the Teaching of Buddha.
They receive two meals per day, breakfast and lunch and they are not allowed to eat after 12:00 noon. Early in the morning the monks and nuns go out carrying a bowl to get offerings like rice, curry or other food. The life of the monks and nuns can be very tough: sleeping in a dormitory, waking up very early, washing with cold water, studying a lot and always strict discipline.
First they have to learn Pali to gain access to the Buddhist scriptures. Pali is also frequently chanted in a ritual context. The other focus of the study is to learn the way of the Buddhism life. Sometimes, in case they attend a monastic school or a scripting center, they also get the opportunity to learn English, Mathematics and Physics. And the brightest of the young monks will probably attend the Buddhist university in Yangon to study Buddhism for many years.
In towns across Myanmar, monks have traditionally filed down streets at dawn seeking alms, and laypeople have gained merit by donating rice and other food. Families take pride in what is often seen as adopting monks, providing them with food, clothing, books and other goods for a few months or years.
It’s really a pleasure to watch or meet the monks and nuns in the streets, on public places or even sometimes in a tea house. But visiting a monastery is also a good opportunity to have a chat with the monks and nuns. All in all a wonderful experience.Every Buddhist Burmese boy between the age of 7 and 13 is expected to enter the monastery as a novice monk for a period of a few weeks to several months. He has a choice to return to life outside the monastery at any time, or he Buddhists in Myanmar believe that if their sons have been initiated into novice-hood at least once in their life their parents will not suffer in hell in their next life. Males have become novice monks are regarded as men in a more noble life and thus should be accorded proper respect. These days, Nowadays in Myanmar, the ceremonies of ordination and novitiation are often held especially in the hot months between March and May.