A Monk's Life: a Day in the Life of Buddhist Monks in Myanmar

A Monk’s Life: a Day in the Life of Buddhist Monks in Myanmar

by Gabriele Rodriquez

The typical day of a Buddhist monk, whether young or adult, follows a fixed schedule: wake-up call at 4:30 am (including Saturdays and Sundays); one-hour gathering in the temple to recite mantras; personal hygiene in one of the several fountains scattered around the monastery (there are no showers but they wash themselves with the help of some buckets); at 6.30 everyone stands neatly in a row in front of the gate; once they leave, monks have to go barefoot through the adjacent village to ask for of alms of food and money.

Return to the monastery at 7.30 am; breakfast with whatever was collected in the village (who has received more gives it to others); at 8.30 am school for the novices until 11.30 am, when the second and only meal of the day is served. At the end, every monk eats only two times a day and from 11.30 am onwards he can not touch food until the next day’s breakfast. At 1.30 PM school resumes until 5.30 PM, when everyone meets in the temple to pray the Buddha and by 7 PM they are all in bed.

Each monk is supplied with a wine-colored tunic coat, a lacquer bowl for alms, a razor to cut hair, a piece of soap, and a pair of flip-flops.

As you can see, the life of a Buddhist monk does not does not include much leisure, but he is always smiling and sunny. Most of them are orphans or have been sent to the monastery by parents who are so poor that they are not able to give them a daily meal and an education.

In some of the biggest monasteries preparation of food is provided by volunteers.

The novices, the little samanera.

This term (samaneri being the feminine form) identifies the novice who observes the ten precepts and is looking forward to the acceptance in the community (sangha) of monks (bhikkhu) or nuns (bhikkhuni).

The ceremony confirming the samanera’s intention to abandon secular life to join the monastic community is called pabbajja, usually translated as “to go forth” in the sense of moving from home life to a homeless life. This is due to the fact that, in the canon a Buddhist monk is often called an anagarika, a homeless (from a(n) – a prefix of negation, and agarija, a man of the house).

The samanera may remain in this state indefinitely or until full acceptance in the monastic community, which is accessed not before the age of 20, and which is formally sanctioned with a ceremony called upasampada or until return to the secular state. The latter is marked by the pledge to follow the five precepts of the lay practitioner, recited in front of the monastic community that accepted him or her as a novice.

All images were shot in Bagan and Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma) with the Fujifilm GFX-50S  (loaned courtesy of International Foto Center of Bussolengo) and the Fujifilm X-Pro2.

About the Author

Gabriele RodriquezGabriele Rodriquez was born in Verona, Italy, where he still lives together with his wife and their three children. Teacher of business courses until 1997, he practices as a tax advisor since 1990. On loan to photography since 1977, this has become an activity that gradually proved more than a passion, more than just a hobby. Photography has probably filled an area of his life that the cultural studies pursued have skimmed. In the course of his career he has earned 52 awards in various contests, including 2 international awards, has held individual and collective exhibitions, and has been a speaker at various events. He is a lover of reportage and travel photography and regularly publishes his works on Issuu.

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