Monday, August 17, 2015

Buddhism in Myanmar - A Personal Perspective

Let me preface this by saying that I only spent five months in the country, working as a trainer with the British Council. So my observations are necessarily limited by that amount of time.
Nevertheless, I got the distinct impression that Buddhism is taken very seriously there.
What in particular do I mean?
- young boys and girls spend time in robes as part of their upbringing
- monks provide general education to those less fortunate
- bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, including young ones, walk the streets on alms processions
- people give generously from what little they have to the monks
- prayers are sent out over loudspeakers from certain temples at different times of the day
- major festivals are celebrated with great energy by the whole community
- people generally act modestly in public
- monks are invited to attend important social events and are treated respectfully at them
- there are always new young men and women wishing to take vows
- houses have shrines with Buddhist images, candles, incense, flowers, etc.
- monks are consulted, probably revered, for certain decisions

Of course, there are some unique elements within Burmese Buddhism, such as the worship of nats, which are unique and, to outsiders, strange, but they are fortunate to have both male and female monks, and a long history of worship extending back thousands of years. Most recently there have been some monks becoming more vocal in everyday affairs, perhaps even political ones. Given the military's iron grip on power and their extensive lack of concern for the less fortunate, this is humanly understandable. Myanmar has far to go to resemble a country Westerners would relate to, and the November elections may not change that situation in the short term.

As a fellow seeker of the Path, I certainly felt comfortable with that part of society. Please see my photo page for many images taken during my time there.