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Friday, 01 January 2016

Nirvana’s Horizon: Discovering the Soul of the Golden Land as a Buddhist Monk in Myanmar - Page 6

Written by Kevin Dimetres
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My fellow monks- the Sangha- helped me put on my robes.  I observed my new appearance in the mirror; words cannot describe the emotions I felt as I saw an unfamiliar figure looking back at me.  They proceeded to take me to the 5th story roof of the monastery for a celebratory view of the Shwedagon Pagoda and downtown Yangon. Kyin waved his hand in my direction and shouted “Teelahwontay!” before snapping a picture; I had officially arrived in Wonderland.

For a precious moment, time stood still.


Zaw and a few other monks took me for a walk through downtown Yangon to the Shwedagon Pagoda the day after my ordination. The stares from locals and tourists alike were unforgettable; I felt like I was half rock star, half albino zoo animal due to all the attention directed my way.  Despite the unusualness of the situation, the Myanmar people were extraordinarily gracious, acknowledging me with inquisitive eyes and proud smiles.  Many came to greet me, asking personal questions about myself, philosophical questions about life, and expressing their joy in sharing Buddhism with the world.  Once again, I found myself unable to stop smiling.

We met at 5am every morning, gathered in a single file line, and walked barefoot through Yangon to receive steamed rice from volunteers. Many of the monks meditated for a half hour before leaving for breakfast; however a few monks hit the snooze button until they absolutely had to get up to get in line for rice on time.  I began to learn that we really weren’t that different from each other after all.  We ate together at the monastery, usually followed by a round of meditation or leisure time.  Each floor of the monastery appeared to be a large open room, and each floor served a different purpose.  The 4th floor was essentially a dormitory for the older monks; despite my title of “novice monk”, I was assigned a spot on the floor and given a mat, pillow, and mosquito net.  A few of the older monks slept in modest beds; their only possessions generally being their robes, a few books, and perhaps a cell phone.

We met again as a group for lunch, which usually consisted of rice, boiled vegetables, and chicken or pork.  Eating meat was optional; some monks did but most did not.  No food was allowed after noon, however an older monk with lively eyes and a toothless grin named Htun would sneak steamed pork rolls into the monastery for me every night because he didn't want me to suffer from hunger. I politely attempted to decline, preferring to embrace the full experience of monastic Buddhist life, but he insisted that I not go to bed hungry. In essence, that's how these Buddhists like to do things- unwavering kindness and compassion above all- even if it meant breaking holy rules in holy places. I could dig that. 

(Page 6 of 7)
Last modified on Tuesday, 05 January 2016

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