Burmese Monks in Detention

After visiting the beautiful Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, I decided to visit the massive Chauk Htet Gyi Reclining Buddha. It is an overwhelming sight at over 200 feet long and the Burmese have built a huge building to house it. Unfortunately this building has some pretty unfortunate scaffolding.

I imagine many tourists don’t make it all the way to the end of the building to see the base of feet which depict the lives of the many buddhas. I almost didn’t visit them myself until I saw someone else marveling at them.

Swinging around to see the back of the Buddha I ran into this fashionable monk with an awesome fan and noticed that a beautiful monastery was hiding behind the Chauk Htet Gyi Reclining Buddha building. I very quickly learned that where there’s a monastery there are little monklings™!

I’ve always been under the impression that Buddhist monks were solitary, quiet, and stoic – much like the meditating monks at Shwedagon. This notion was quickly shattered as I saw a young monk fly out of his dormitory as he put his robe on and loudly hurry into another building. The monk master patiently walked up to me, herding a few more complaining children. After some inquiry I learned that the monks were in trouble and were headed to detention. Much to my surprise, the monk master was more than happy to let me in and photograph the monks for a while… perhaps to punish them even more?

A beautiful monk reads a holy book.

Perhaps not so holy, it was full of sketches and doodles. Every so often I’d see him sketching more but he’d always stop when he saw the camera.

There was no air conditioning in the monastery and the boys were sweating up a storm after a while. Part of the punishment or part of daily life?

Another young monk peeking over his book to his friend…

… but eventually gets back to his studies.

Studying again?

… or doodling again?

After a while they totally gave up on pretending to work.

The boys started to get visually annoyed (at me or at detention, I wasn’t sure).

Though he still managed to smile every so often.

With little time remaining, the boys group up to do some last minute studying.

But clearly this monk is not enjoying detention.

And his friend is annoyed at him for bothering him.

Before leaving I noticed the monks had sorted themselves from red to yellow.

No matter the culture, it’s lear that no child likes detention… even those with the patience of a Buddhist monk.

On my way out I visited the master, thanked him, and donated to the monastery. He was grading papers with an older student and was more than happy to let me take some parting shots.

I never did figure out what they did wrong…