burmese bonzes

Some define Buddhism as a Religion/Philosophy. While many religions impose a stated, ‘revealed truth’ that must be adhered to through faith, Buddhism is different: it invites people to undertake an ongoing, infinite inner search for truth, a search in pursuit of the ultimate objective of nirvana. This approach is why I find it so fascinating. A few years ago, I went on a short trip to Myanmar. I spent time in the classic tourist spots, as well as areas that are now prohibited to foreign visitors. Inevitably I came across a lot of monks; this is the Buddhist nation with the largest monastic society, numbering half a million people, equivalent to 1% of the population. The custom is for every boy to experience life in a monastery as a novice, when aged between seven and sixteen. Some novices actively sought to speak to me to practice their English; others accepted my attempts at conversation, while others still were, understandably, a little shy. The decision to enter the monastic order permanently happens at around the age of twenty. Of the monks that I met, many were willing to be photographed. Perhaps they felt a duty to let more people learn about their religion. I am publishing only a few images here, in which the subjects seem most at ease. There are also a couple of ironic pictures observing how they manage their food resources; but for the most part, I took photographs of monks who were deep in meditation, without them realising. I imagine they wouldn’t have been particularly interested either. I got to capture the differences in their interpersonal approaches and, even more so, the differences in how they practiced their meditation. This proved to be the most significant experience of my whole trip.
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