Calgary Kids

Last month I got back from three weeks in Calgary, Canada, where I was invited to teach a daily class on Buddhism to the Burmese kids. Here we are:

2013-07-10 2013-07-10 001 004After each class adults provided snacks, such as popcorn.

The great advantage I have in teaching kids, aside from being a father, is that the kids speak English better than they speak Burmese and are quite acculturated. Although the pressures of modern life allow the parents to spend less time with their kids than their counterparts in the homeland do, they pick up an abiding respect for Buddhism if not much understanding of it. Many of the questions they have about it are very familiar to me as a Westerner, like “Why all the bows?”

A short time before my departure a few of the boys in the class ordained as temporary novice monks and lived at the monastery for a few days.

SAM_4522rightThis is a traditional rite of passage for Burmese boys. I gives them an opportunity to experience what it like to be part of the Sangha, and receive respect (for a change) and offerings (which I guess they already get)  from their lay parents.

5 Responses to “Calgary Kids”

  1. Dukkha Earl Says:

    I do admire your work, but since you’re a writer I feel duty bound to inform you that temporary ordination is a traditional “rite” of passage!


  2. Mahendra Says:

    Very nice, Bhante. You are helping them gain respect for and understanding of the triple-gem they wouldn’t come across otherwise.


  3. findouting Says:

    Dear Bhante,

    Is this sort of rite of passage customary for girls in the Burmese culture too? I guess there are many women who do ordain as monastics in Burma.


    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Dear Findouting,

      This is a good question. Let me quote a passage from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s book Freedom from Fear:

      “When brothers are having their shinbyu [novice ordination], it is usual for the sisters to have their ears pierced. This gives the girl a chance to dress up as princesses and have their share of fuss and attention. Many see this as an expression of the Burmese belief in the equality of men and women. Although, theoretically, men are considered nobler because only a man can become a Buddha, Burmese women have never really had an inferior status. They have always had equal right of inheritance and led active, independent lives. Secure in the knowledge of her own worth, the Burmese woman does not mind giving men the kind of respectful treatment that makes them so happy!”

      The most gender-inequal part of Burmese culture seems to be … Buddhism. As in other Theravada countries there is no full ordination for women. (Lesserly ordained) nuns are very much respected, but not exalted the way monks are. People seem quite content with this in Burma, although it is something that is changing in the West and gradually in Sri Lanka.


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