IT’S A NOVICES’ WORLD – Images From The South-East

Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and Cambodia are two countries in Southeast-Asia with one of the largest proportion of Buddhist in the world. Buddhism in Myanmar and Cambodia is predominantly of the Theravada tradition, practised by about 89% of the country’s population in Myanmar and more than 90% in Cambodia. They are also two of the most religious Buddhist countries in the world.

With such a high proportion of the countries’ population adhering to the Theravada Buddhism, it is not surprising that you come across monks and nuns on regular basis in Myanmar and Cambodia. They are difficult to miss – usually wrap in their dark red robes which are ever so photogenic. However, during my time in Myanmar, what really catches my attention are the novices (or koyins).

A novice is a Buddhist boy usually between the age of 7 and 13 who enter the monastery (kyaung) to seek the Buddha’s Order of Sangha (or monks). It is obligatory for a Buddhist boy in these countries to become a novice at least once in his life time and to remain as such for a few days to a few months. Previously, it is common for a boy to spend at least three months as novice. However, such a practice would mean the loss of one year or missing of one’s class promotion. Present day parents have, therefore, to be content with sending their boys to monasteries for only a few days during school holidays. The fresh novices have to stay in the monastery under the care of the residing monks, following every set of rules, studying Buddhist scriptures and making the most of their stay there.

Myanmar people regard their lives to be incomplete if they themselves, or their sons, have not been novices. A Buddhist who has not been a novice or donned the orange robe is looked upon as one who has missed the most essential privilege of his existence in this world. Some novices, after acquiring what is considered to be sufficient education for the secular world, leave the monasteries, while others, become attached to the simple religious life, and stay on in the orange robe to become ordained priest at the tender age of 19.

In this short project, I seek to put together a collection of images featuring the novices from Myanmar and Cambodia. Like any other kids at their age, these novices love having fun, playing with toys and games, enjoy candies and always spotting a joyful smile on their face. They approach everyone with an open mind, and are mostly not shy to get into touch. With such youthful and joyful nature, it is hard to resist photographing and documenting these novices in their photogenic ropes.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” ~Buddha~

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.” ~Buddha~

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

“Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha~

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“When one has the feeling of dislike for evil, when one feels tranquil, one finds pleasure in listening to good teachings; when one has these feelings and appreciates them, one is free of fear.” ~Buddha~

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.” ~Buddha~

Kyauk Se, Mandalay, Myanmar

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~Buddha~

Kyauk Se, Mandalay, Myanmar

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” ~Buddha~

Wat Ek Phnom, Battambang, Cambodia

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.” ~Buddha~

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~Buddha~

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“Virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good.” ~Buddha~

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“What we think, we become.” ~Buddha~

Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” ~Buddha~

Wat Bovil, Battambang, Cambodia

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” ~Buddha~

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar

~Photography & Editorial by Loy Chuan (Nov, 2011)~

Do you like this? Share it:
Tony Pond - 10 November, 2011 - 7:37 AM

Love the photos, Loy. You’ve got a real knack for capturing the intimate image. I also enjoyed the quotes from the Buddha. Keep up the good work.

loychuan - 12 November, 2011 - 12:35 AM

Thanks Tony. Great to hear from you again. Glad you enjoyed the photos and the words!

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