Buddhist monks are people who decide to live their lives focused on learning and practicing Buddhism. They usually wear simple robes that are often colored orange or red, but the color can change based on their specific Buddhist tradition or the country they’re from. All Buddhist monks shave their heads as a sign of dedication. They spend their time on a range of activities. Many hours go into meditation and prayer as well as studying Buddhist teachings to gain wisdom. They also teach others about Buddhism and often take part in community service. Some monks even have daily tasks, like cleaning or cooking in the temple. These monks play a big role in spreading the teachings of Buddhism and preserving its practices.
In Myanmar it is considered very honorable to become a monk. As part of a boy’s transition to adulthood, they must spend time as a novice monk at least once between the ages of 10-20. They are also expected to join as a fully ordained monk in their adulthood. Myanmar is very religious and so there are a couple of things you should absolutely not do when speaking with/engaging with a monk:
- Don’t point your feet at monks
- Women should not touch monks – any offerings or gift should first be placed on the ground first before the monk can touch it
- Be respectful
Despite the deep and legacy traditions of monkhood in Myanmar, it was interesting to see how technology was changing the day to day of these individuals. Many monks had fancy smartphones and tablets, and were allowed to play with their phones throughout their service to the temple!