Where do Buddhists get their robes from?

The land of a thousand temples: Buddhist monks in Myanmar

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma or Burma, was one of the absolute insider tips in Southeast Asia until a few years ago and was not on everyone's travel list like Thailand or Vietnam. The country has so much cultural fascination to offer: 90 percent of those who live here are Buddhists and in hardly any other country is the worship of the Buddha celebrated as much as here. Here are some colorful impressions of the religion in Myanmar that shapes the country and people in so many ways.

 

In total there are half a million monks, novices and nuns in Myanmar. Some go to the monastery for their entire life, others only for a few months. Children from poor families in particular choose this path because their parents can no longer look after them. The monastery offers them a future.

 

About a third of the monks have chosen to dedicate their entire life to the Sangha. The Sangha is the name of the brotherhood of monks and means something like "community of the noble ones". According to Buddhist teaching, these monks have already mastered the first stage on the way to enlightenment by having freed themselves from their ego illusion.

 

Almost all male Buddhists spend their early youth in the monastery. Life there is anything but easy: the day begins before dawn, the young novices get up and first receive rice and other food from the believers in a bowl.

 

Not only male monks, but also Burmese nuns dedicate their lives to the faith in Myanmar. They wear pink robes, but their heads are shaved too. Unfortunately, women do not enjoy the same respect as their male colleagues; they often have to beg for alms in the streets - according to the Buddha's teaching, a reparation for bad behavior in a previous life.

 

In Buddhist teaching, water symbolizes purity, calm and clarity and is intended to remind the young monks to heal their minds and to experience a permanent state of purity.

 

Bagan on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River is the historic royal city in Myanmar and the country's most popular tourist destination. Here you will find over 2000 well-preserved sacred buildings on 36 square kilometers - Bagan is one of the largest archaeological sites in all of Southeast Asia.

 

The layout of Bagan corresponds to the image of the Buddhist cosmos. The temple city is divided into nine fields, with the eight outer parts representing the eight planets of the solar system known to date. The ninth field in the center of the system is reserved for the Buddha himself; this is where the great Mahabodhi temple is located.

 

At the age of nine, boys in Myanmar can begin their novitiate in the monastery. They are given a new name in Pali and above all they have to study and learn Pali scriptures in the monastery. The basic Buddhist rules of conduct must be observed at all times.

 

The iconic red oil paper umbrella originally comes from China, where it fulfills a traditional function at weddings or other ceremonies. It consists of oil-soaked paper and later spread to other Asian countries, such as Japan, Thailand, Korea, Laos and Vietnam. Monks and nuns in Myanmar use the umbrella in a very practical way as a sun and umbrella.

 

Young novices have their scalp hair shaved off and the rest of their body hair removed for the sake of absolute purity. They must obey 227 rules of the order and dedicate their daily life primarily to meditation and the study of the scriptures.

 

Many of the young monks who join a monastic community only stay for a few weeks. Those who want to be ordained must be at least 20 years old and have served the Buddha in the monastery for a long time.

 

Elephants used to be trained in Myanmar to pull teak logs from the forests to the river. Fortunately, this practice is no longer practiced today, but the “unemployed” elephants keep coming back to the villages.

 

 

A good 90 percent of the residents of Myanmar are Buddhists. They take their religion and the Buddha's teachings very seriously, which is why the monasteries also fulfill an important social function. Sometimes orphans can also find a home here, where they can get school lessons and food.

 

In Myanmar there are hardly any real schools, especially in rural areas. Sometimes they can also graduate from monastery schools established by foundations, and education is free. This means they can even study at universities later, for example in Mandalay.

 

The rules for the monks in Myanmar are very strict: they are not allowed to have any worldly possessions, with the exception of robes, an alms bowl, razor and a strainer for the drinking water. You must not offend or hurt anyone and vow eternal chastity. For this reason women are not allowed to touch a monk or his alms bowl.

 

Bagan is the iconic temple city in Myanmar and is located south of Mandalay. Pagodas and temples erected in honor of the Buddha can be seen as far as the horizon - an almost surreal, fairytale-like sight. Already at sunrise the hot air balloons rise into the sky, which have no religious significance, but only give visitors and tourists an unforgettable view of the temple city.

 

In Myanmar, the monks have an enormous influence on the land and the people. For a long time they stood for a peaceful coexistence, unfortunately in the last few years the number of radical Buddhists who do not accept people of different faiths has increased.