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Myanmar (Burma): Myanmar nuns

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Myanmar nuns | Myanmar (Burma) | Asia

[Visited: March 2006]

While monks are a very common sight in Myanmar, you can also see nuns everywhere, although to a lesser degree. They seem more modest, less outgoing, and in general, more dedicated to serving their religious function. According to a Burmese saying, an unfortunate event like the loss of a loved one or indebtedness, lead women to become nuns. Unlike monks, most nuns remain nuns for the rest of their lives. Burmese nuns, or thilashin, in the Theravada tradition, have to keep 10 precepts, shave their heads, and wear their easily recognizable pinkish-red robes.

Picture of Myanmar nuns (Myanmar (Burma)): Young Burmese nun posing for a picture at Naba railway station

They are supposed to carry out religious functions, in order to lessen the responsibilities of the mundane world. According to Theravada tradition, practicing Buddha's teaching should be carried out in two ways: studying Buddhist pariyatti (scriptures), and practicing patipatti (dhamma). Burmese nuns lead a simple life, with meditation and studying Buddhist scriptures. Nuns are active in education, mostly educating other, younger nuns in nunneries. Contrary to monks,they do not travel abroad for studying purposes, and unlike monks, they are not supposed to preach. Burmese nuns are often expected to carry out caring, domestic tasks, both for monks and in public.

Picture of Myanmar nuns (Myanmar (Burma)): Burmese nuns seeking offerings in the early morning in Katha

While Burmese monks quite often approach foreigners in search of "donations" to make their monk-life a little easier, Burmese nuns would never do this. As a consequence, they lead a more austere life, and indeed, appear to be more serious when seen in the streets of Myanmar. With their shaven heads, they sometimes look very un-feminine, but I also saw nuns who laughed at me. Sometimes, nuns even seem naughty girlsl; one male foreigner said that he was touched in his private parts by nuns who happened to be there when he accidentally fell down. It only makes them more human, and in general, Burmese nuns are another inevitable part of Burmese life, and a photogenic one, at that.

Picture of Myanmar nuns (Myanmar (Burma)): Burmese nuns protecting themselves from the sun with a parasol
Picture of Myanmar nuns (Myanmar (Burma)): Burmese nuns with typical pinkish-red robe and straw hat
Picture of Myanmar nuns (Myanmar (Burma)): Young Burmese nuns on U Bein Bridge near Amarapura
Picture of Myanmar nuns (Myanmar (Burma)): Burmese nun standing in the door of her humble house
Picture of Myanmar nuns (Myanmar (Burma)): Burmese nun with parasol at Sagaing

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