Chaukhtatgyi Monastery – Young Buddhist Monks Studying
In Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, lies the Chaukhtatgyi Temple which houses an enormous reclining Buddha. We traveled to the temple, enjoyed looking at the impressive statue but moved on to the focus of our first day in Myanmar, the monastery attached to the temple. The monastery houses monks both young and old. It is comprised of a collection of wooden buildings that serve as dorms, classrooms, eating halls and meditation spaces. We met the senior monk who offered to let us photograph some of the younger monks while they studied their scriptures.
Here is the senior monk in his living quarters on the second floor of one of the dormitories.
This group of boys were in one long, sparsely furnished room. The students were scattered around the room sitting, standing or laying down on the dark wooden floor reading their books with levels of interest which varied from passive up to completely focused. The younger boys seemed to be more the former with the older boys able and willing to devote complete attention.
The monk teaching these boys was a stern taskmaster. While I do not speak Burmese, when he was not pleased with one of the students, it was very clear that whatever they were doing was wrong and should be quickly corrected. He didn’t chasten often while we were there but when he did, the student under scrutiny amended the error immediately. While some of the boys stole a glance, or even a smile, while the five of us photographers moved among them, they kept alternately reading and chanting as they had done before we entered the room.
It was an incredible scene to photograph. Made all the more enjoyable as it was a window into the normal, daily lives of these young monks. Definitely a world away from Canada and it set a very high bar photographically for the tour, coming on the first day at the first location we visited. Hats off to Art Wolfe, Gavriel Jecan and our guide, Win-Kyaw Zan for this and many other great cultural locations.