Myanmar is one of the most devout Buddhist countries in the world. About 89% of the people in Myanmar are Buddhist. People in Myanmar practice the Theravada Buddhism, which is more austere and harder to practice than other branches of Buddhism. It is estimated that there are about half a million monks in Myanmar. Monks hold the highest status in the society of Myanmar. Among monks, there are no economic or class divisions. The identical robes, the communal dining and the head shaving are all there to emphasize the equality that exists between them.
Monks receive two meals each day, breakfast
and lunch and they are not allowed to eat
after 12:00 noon. Early in the morning they
go out carrying a bowl to get offerings like
rice, curry or other food. It is a ritual
that provides a bond between the monks and
the ordinary Buddhist and gives the locals
the chance of doing the deed of dhana to acquire merit. (Sometimes a monk has
his own family in the area so he goes there
every day to get food.) The person donating
the food must not touch the bowl and must
put hands together and bow after donating
the food. People are not permitted to touch
Every child must enter the monastery for a 3 day trial. There is an entry ceremony during which they are dressed in their finest clothes and then a procession is formed with their family following them – we were fortunate to witness a procession in Magwe. The children are taken into the monastery, stripped of their finery, their head shaved, and clothed in a robe. They have 5 possessions – robes, shaver, bowl, sleeping mat and water filter. 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.