Every tourist traveling to SouthEast Asia must have a picture with a monk in their album, with their sunset color robes and a bright sun yellow umbrella. However, I am not convinced if they know their background story apart from having Buddhism as their religion.
First and foremost, they need to know the common reasons on why they become a monk. I will try to put them on a list to give a clear perspective on their reasoning.
- Their parents passed away.
- Their family cannot afford to raise and support them.
- They want to further their study, but they have no money.
- Last but most importantly, monks are highly studious in Buddhism.
They firmly believe that being a monk gives them many advantages; besides clearing their minds, and giving them peace, being a monk gives them the opportunity available only to them, and free education is one of them. Although it sounds good and easy, in reality, it is not as easy as you think because when they start their journey to become a monk, they sometimes stop studying for a long time. When they finally return to school, you can see their age gap compared to other students. This is not anyone’s fault, is just in life sometimes, their family cannot afford to send their kids to school; they keep trying and trying only to find that it is not possible to give their children higher education, and they then postpone it, and in the end, the kids are being sent to Pagoda, and by that time they already pass their usual age standards. But I always believe that it’s never too late to study.
Most monks live inside the pagodas. Unfortunately, they still need to pay the bills, like electricity, water, and food. They sleep together in one room and are still responsible for supporting their families back home. Their daily life is filled with studies. They study Buddhism in the morning to the afternoon and learn new skills in the evening. When they reach high school, they will learn additional subjects such as the Bali language, Dhamma, and Buddhism. They learn many things, and it opens their mind about how they see things in life. Usually, monks walk to their school 2-3 kilometers each day; if they have money, they can afford a motorcycle, but this seldom happens.
Monks’ jobs and responsibilities are to do many religious ceremonies related to birth, death, and marriage, and they also serve to support the community’s social and emotional needs. In the provinces and countryside, after morning study, the monk will walk around the village and give alms, and in return, sometimes they give them food to eat.
Hopefully, this article can help everyone understand more about the life of a monk; they are not just a statue for tourists to take pictures of as a souvenir, they serve the community for different purposes, and they take the lead in promoting harmonious and beautiful lives for everyone.
By Chankeo Ra