This is the second post about Phayartaung, in Myanmar, a place where smiles come easily and life has a especial taste, of old days and slow motion.
The children are the main purpose of Phayartaung Monastery. It was because of them, to provide education for them, that Phom PhomGyi came to this place and set all efforts to build the temple and a school. He succeeded. And today they are the heart of this place. The presence of the children makes Phayartaung Monastery special. You can sense their happiness at all times, always running around and asking you: “Are you happy?” “Have you had your breakfast/lunch/dinner?”
There are more than a thousand children living in Phayartaung Monastery – as young as 3 years old til they finish college. They come from villages nearby and far away to study in the school provided by the government. The monastery provides everything else, food, accommodation, guidance, love. The families are required to pay a small fee per year, but those that can’t afford can pay with their farm production or with what they have. The monastery refuses no one.
They have very few belongings, no video games, phones, tablets nor all the toys the city kids have. Instead, they run around the monastery grounds, play football, bath in the lake, stroll through rice fields… and play those games from old times. And they are happy. I’ve never sensed so much happiness in a place as I did here.
The children are all very independent, even the youngest ones. They have to be, as there is no staff dedicated just to monitor them. At the beginning, I was a little shocked, how they all had the wash their own clothes and that from a tender age they had be on their own. But after some time I had a better understanding of this system. The older ones teach the smaller ones, and they all help each other, so the little ones are not really by themselves. Moreover, they are all in a safe environment, there is always a monk, volunteer, or teacher around in case anyone needs an adult. Yes, they have responsibilities. They all know the time to wake up, to eat, to have a shower, time to do their chores around the monastery. And they all organize themselves for the tasks.
One morning I spotted one of the little ones going to see the nurse, she must had been 5 years-old or so. She had her legs full of mosquito bites that were in a bad shape and infected. The girl went by herself. Sat there. Never cried. The nurse cleaned her wounds and applied medicine, a process that seemed scaring for me. But she never complained. After that, she went to the school, also by herself. This showed me how children can be brave and independent if we let them be.
The children of Phayartaung have this amazing sense of responsibility but, on the other hand, they also have a lot of freedom. They run freely throughout the monastery. They play everywhere, they are free to come and go around.
They are happy!
They taught me a lot about how little we need. In fact, after knowing them I believe that less is much more!
Thank you for all your love children of Phayartaung.
For more pictures of Phayartaung Monastery go to my album on Flickr.
In the next chapter: Phom PhomGyi
Note: If you want to know more about Phayartaung monastery, Myanmar struggles, tales of spies involving monks and alms bowls, words of enlightenment and get to know a story of beautiful encounters that transcend religion and languages, I encourage you to read Children of the Revolution, beautifully written by Feroze Dada. And what is better, the profits from the book help the children of the Phayartaung Monastery.