I’m GUILTY as charged. Got into a snapping frenzy when we visited the monks in Mandalay’s many monasteries and learning centers, and whenever, wherever, however we found them — in temples, in the market, along the streets, walking, resting, in prayer, dining, in study. We couldn’t stop! So can’t many others.
And it’s never more true than when we caught them lining up towards their dining hall where a group must have donated their sumptuous 2nd and last meal of the day. Perhaps “extravagant” by monks’ standards. The usual 1 or 2-dish meals expanded to 5, but at the price of being watched and photographed while dining. Forgive me, for saying this. I am just as guilty. It took another fellow (thanks, Bob) to remind me that it didn’t seem right to photograph them while they are eating. More so to have photos taken with them in the background. Come to think of it, why in heaven’s name do we do that?
Quite frankly, I would not have hesitated to join the monks at the slightest hint of an invitation. Shame on me. The silence was palpable. I hardly heard any plate or bowl being moved nor any tin cup being put down. At some point, I wondered if the monks chew their food. I didn’t hear a sound!
Mandalay is said to be the monastic center of Myanmar. Many monasteries and monks’ learning centers are located there. And we visited the bigger ones where these monks can be observed while praying, studying and dining. Much like a tourist attraction. In one, I felt like we barged in while young monks are having their study periods. The headmaster in sight didn’t seem to mind. One young monk in particular was weirdly hamming it up, playing with his cat knowing our cams are all trained on him.
Not all are big and well-funded. We visited a remote school a boat ride away from Old Bagan and found a small village supporting a few young monks. At the time we visited, we wondered what else these monks do outside of prayer and study times. Being dependent on these poor villagers’ support for food and other basic necessities, it would have been more pragmatic to also teach them farming, fishing and other means of livelihood. Much like some other monks elsewhere who farm even just for their own food requirements or tend vineyards, coffee plantations, etc. to earn enough to cover their needs.
A wake up call. I’m done with my monks’ photography. Let this set be my last. Mi apologia. I leave you guys alone now.