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.
Other attractions in Bago :
- Mya Tha Lyaung Reclining Buddha – Outdoor
- Bago Reclining Shwethalyaung Buddha (Indoor)
- Bago Golden God Temple : Shwemawdaw Pagoda – Myanmar Tallest Pagoda
- 4 Seated Buddha – Kyaik Pun Pagoda
- The Golden Palace in Bago – Kanbawzathadi Palace
- White Elephant in Hsin Hpyu Daw Park Yangon
- Taukkyan War Cemetery
- Road Trip from Yangon to Bago – 14 Things to observe
What a fascinating post! This must have been an incredible visit and experience. I never knew that there were so many Monks in Myanmar. I enjoyed reading this.
Myanmar has high proportion of monks and nuns as it is one of the most religious Buddhist country in the world. You see monks and nuns everywhere walking barefoot around every corner of Myanmar, in the village or in the busiest streets in the heart of Yangon city. They usually ask for offering for their breakfast and lunch.
wow! Thanks so much for sharing. keep posts like this coming!
That is such a beautiful place! I love the colors and the architecture. It’s so vibrant and full of life.
Thanks for your comment. Tourists usually arrive before lunch time to see these monk line up for lunch, their lunch time is very early 11 am as these monks wake up very early around 5am in the morning. Most will offer the food to the monks, pour the rice to the monk’s plate when they walk pass you. It is kind of making a merit, I saw there are Thai tourists who would generously give the monks money! Thai people share similar believes with Burmese people so I guess giving/donating to the monks would bring them good luck and more wealth.
This is truly fascinating! I would love to experience something like this sometime. I don’t know much about this culture, but I’ve always been enthralled by the idea of monasteries. Thank you for sharing!
Glad to see how these monks live, eat and study. There are monks from all ages and when during lunch time, the oldest one walk in front and the youngest walk behind the line, base on seniority.
Can’t say enough how interesting this topic is to me, soooo cool! Thank you so much for sharing.
The monk school was an interesting topic to me too, glad I was able to have a glimpse at their daily routine life.
Wow, what an incredible place! I can’t imagine walking around the whole school barefoot!
Haha, you are right, that’s the most challenging part for me. I am not use to walk barefoot, especially when I entered their toilet and the floor is wet!
This was such an interesting post to read! I love getting an inside peek into the daily lives of the very religious. I visited the monasteries of Meteora in Greece this past spring. It was incredible!
I too love to learn about the monasteries of Meteora in Greece! Never step foot in Greece but it is in my bucket list.
How interesting that you can experience the life of a monk should you wish to! I do find monasteries extremely fascinating.
I too find monasteries are facinating and glad that I am able to have a peek at their daily life. To see what they eat, do and wear on their daily life.
This is so fascinating to me! I would love to travel here Someday with my hubby 🙂
What an incredible place to visit. Seeing other cultures is always so fascinating to me.
Many visitors here do their offering to these monks, such as rice (provided in the school), stationery such as pen & pencils etc and some just give money. Not sure why monks in Myanmar are allowed to accept money.
What wonderful information and insight into the daily life of a monk. I had no idea visitors were allowed.
Seems like such a rich experience, but I curious as to whether or not those who convert to Buddhism would be permitted to attend? I know so many people who though not natives, have converted to Buddhism.
I have never been to Myanmar and base on this article I can say that you really enjoy your time visiting this place.
All of these photos are stunning! So interesting to read about how highly regarded the monks there are as well. -Tonya Morris
this is such an interesting post! great you’re highlighting the monks and what they are about
Oh my, I admit I’m so ignorant I didn’t even know that every man in myanmar was expected to serve as a monk! This was a very informative reading!
Their architecture and design is so interesting. It would be so cool to see this in person and learn more about the culture.
I can’t get enough of the beautiful temples all over Asia. I find such peace in them and would love to visit this one in the future.
Wow I learned a lot from this post, so fascinating! And the pictures of the temples and the city are just stunning! What an adventure!
This is super interesting! I loved learning about this and those temples are so architecturally beautiful!