A group of resident monks relax after meal at the Maha Ganayon Kyaung in Amarapura. Founded in 1914, the Kyaung (monastery) is said to be housing 5,000 monks.

Long lines of dinning monks during lunch time have become photogenic opportunities for tourists (below).

 

About half a million of monks regularly reside in the tens of thousands of monasteries scattered across the country. The cause of such phenomenon is two-folded. Being a social norm in this most devoted Buddhist country, all Myanmar males are expected to spend some monkshood during their adolescence and adulthood, as an accruement of merit. Those who chose to ordain for life pride themselves as devotees of Buddha, living in a serene and secluded life distant from the secular world, and earning prestige from the local community. On the other hand, hardship and poverty have given some no choice but taking shelters from monasteries and becoming monks. At least, two meals per day should not be in limbo.

 

Contrary to the collective food distribution in Maha Ganayon Kyaung, a majority of monks in Myanmar receive elms directly from the community in their monastery precincts. Each morning, scores of monks carrying their black lacquer bowls walking down the streets, as portrayed in this sculpture, have been a scene all too common to the landscape of Myanmar.

 

As worshipping in payas, feeding and giving donation to monks is another process of accruing merit, which supposely leads to a better future life. A woman knees while a monk accepting her elms. Buddhist precepts prevent physical contact between a monk and a woman. Thus elms must be placed within the reach of monks, as oppose to a direct hand-over.

 

Similar to monks, Myanmar nuns shave their heads, take vows during ordination, and practice the same activities as do monk, with the only difference of wearing pink robes. On Mandalay Hill, young nuns are taking a break (below) from a prolong session of worship, in which they recite Buddhist scripts for hours in front of the altar filled with offerings like bananas, coconuts and oranges (above).

 

Monastic life does not necessarily lead to the loss of naivety to the youngster monks. In Maha Ganayon Kyaung, a teenager monk is operating a computer (above), while a group of child monks in Bagan is enjoying a volleyball game (below).