There are about 500,000 Buddhist monks in Myanmar and over 1000 monastic schools which providing primary and secondary education to more than 100,000 Myanmar children.
During my Bago day trip (Bago is about 2 hour from Yangon, former capital of Myanmar), I was able to see one of the monastic school. Kha Khat Wain Kyaung Monastery is one of three largest monasteries in Myanmar.
Every man is expected to serve as a monk twice in his life
Similar to Thailand, every man is expected to serve as a monk twice in his life. Once as a novice and once as a ordained monk. After that he goes back to his normal life. A Buddhist who has not been experienced monk life is looked upon as one who has missed the most essential privilege of his existence in this world. Monastic school play an important role in Myanmar society.
The green building is the kitchen for the monks.
Must check out – The traditional kitchen
The kitchen is still very traditional and it is interesting to have a look inside. All pots are so huge and are cook in bulk.
Monk Dining Hall
As it is still before lunch time, you don’t see monks eating in the dining hall yet. However, there are other monks who are on duty to make sure the tables are well-arranged and clean before lunch time. This dining hall can sit up to 400 monks.
I was told that there will be examination for the monks after the lunch. The monastic examinations date to the pre-colonial era. Burmese monarchs used these examination to encourage the study of Pali – a sacred language of some religion texts of Hinduism and all texts of Theravada Buddhism. Burmese practice Theravada Buddhism which dominant form of religion in Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand which is different from our Chinese Buddhism.
When the little monks left distributing the exam papers on the little desk, I went to have a peek for the exam questions. Exam start after lunch.
Here come the Thai tourists!
Thai tourists started to flood in the monastic school when the time approached 11.00 am. So I just followed them to go to the kitchen to get some white rice from the huge pot.
Monks started to line up to receive their lunch. The line has up to hundred of monks with the oldest monk line in front of the line. The line system is base on the seniority.
List of things for donation
I saw a pair of western tourists brought in a stack of writing exercise book and some stationery. I am sure they were well prepared for alms-giving, they came in with a private tour guide (picture as below, the guy with the hat of American Flag). Umbrella is also another thing that is quite useful for the Buddhist monks as it helps to shade the bare-shaved head of the monk when he goes round village or town under hot sun to accept offering of food. The umbrella also protects him from the rain, it is always raining in Myanmar.
The Thai tourists are the generous group who hold a big stack of Burmese Kyatt $$ and distributing to each monk. The Thais also practise the same Buddhism as the Burmese, Theravada Buddhism.
Interested in becoming a monk?
I know many wanted to experience life of a monk and go for few days to few months package which cover where you live, study, practise and ordain as a monastic. This experience will help you to get away the day-to-day distractions as your daily life here will be replaced with quiet meditation and Buddhism studies. I don’t think I can do it as I can’t walk with barefoot.
Final thoughts :
Kha Khat Wain Kyaung Monastery is one of three largest monasteries in Myanmar. The number 1 tips is arrive before 11 am before the monks’ lunch, best to arrive here around 10.30 am. That way you can walk around and check out the surrounding of the monastic school, especially the kitchen area and the examination hall.
Additional tips :
- The entrance is free and no shoes or socks are allowed to walk around the huge complex.
- It is best if you can bring along some wet tissue to wipe your feet, very dirty after walking around the whole school barefoot.