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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The future Ashin Bãvita guesses

Yin Nwe Ko (Linn)

Ashin Bãvita has been awake since he heard the sound of the logalarm. However, he does not get up but keeps tossing and turning on bed. He is not familiar with the activities of this monastery yet as he entered the short-timed monkhood there only yesterday afternoon. While tossing on the bed, he listens to the movement of monks and novices, for a short time till he hears another sound of the strikes of iron-piece. It is the alarm for monks and novices to gather a place from which they start their daily alms round. Only then, Ashin Bãvita gets up from bed. While making the bed, a monk asks him whether he would come along with them.

“Sorry Sir, I may not join you because of my poor health,” he humbly and politely declines the offer. Unfortunately, his poor health denies him from going round the town for alms food like other monks do.

As he is unable to go for alms round, he decides to stay at the monastery doing the sundry chores of the Buddha Chambers and the monastery. However, he feels somewhat self-doubting when his mind recalls the counsel given by the presiding monk at yesterday evening’s ordination ceremony about the benefits of making daily alms round anywhere from the religious point of view.

Firstly, he enters the chamber where the Buddha image is in and sweeps all the dust and rubbish away and cleans the walls. After offering lights and fragrance to the Buddha images, he recites the Parittas as much as he can, shares merit and sends loving-kindness. The chamber where Ashin Bãvita is doing the sanitary activities is in a large hall for performing religious deeds. Its space is rather wide, occupying  an area which can accommodate about six normal houses. As he has finished cleaning the chamber, Ashin Bãvita starts sweeping the floor. As the surface area of the floor is so wide he cannot finish the work in a short time. While sweeping the floor, monks and novices who were on their alms round arrive back to the monastery. It is about 6:30 a.m.

At that moment, Ashin Bãvita  takes notice a certain movement in his stomach. He knows that it is the warning signal of his empty stomach. However, it is too early as the monks have just arrived back from their round. He throws a piece of cake into his mouth and quickly swallows it with the help of a cup of drinking water.

At about 7 a.m, there is the sound of iron-piece from the refectory. When he gets there, he finds monks and novices having their breakfast. He takes seat at the table where Ashin Agga is having his meal. There are just three dishes of curry – the snake gourd curry which was prepared by the monastery, the hotchpotch which is the constant dish of the monastery and the mixture of boiled pea and fried asparagus bean. However, he finds the meals delicious. Although Ashin Agga has been in monkhood for over two years, he is quite familiar with the monastery. They are old close friends as they have known each other very well since they were laymen. Ashin Agga is now over seventy years but he can devour a lot more than him.

The hotchpotch, the main and constant curry, is very delicious. It in fact is a collection of breakfast and lunch leftovers boiled in a big pot. Very often it is added with vegetables and other edible ingredients to improve its taste. At every dish is always warm and delicious.

Although it is so named as the dawn meal, it normally ends at about 7:30 a.m. After meal, Ashin Bãvita takes a short rest. Then he restarts sweeping. After he has finished it, he listens to the eleven Parittas recorded in his hand phone.

While listening to them, he hears novices in the adjacent building studying their religious lessons. At about 9 a.m, the learning stops as they start taking bath before going homes that invite them for lunch i.e. day-meal. Again Ashin Bãvita stays at the monastery doing sundry chores as he is not invited. Only the residing monk and other two or three monks who are in ill-health like him are left at the monastery.

At about 11 a.m, there is an alarm of iron-piece to have day-meal. According to the sitting plan of the dawn-meal, monks and novices take their places and have the meal. Unlike breakfast meat and fish is served at the day-meal. However, Ashin Bãvita does not know whether such dishes of curry are included at the table of novices. It is the rule that nice dishes of curry must be offered to the monks in favour. He has already heard that the tables of the novices are finished up with ordinary or side dishes.

After day-meal or lunch, the monks take a nap. At about 1 p.m, the voice of the studying novices is heard again. The learners take rest at about 4 p.m. At that moment the sundry chores of the monastery is done by some monks and novices. After doing it, some novices play various games but some stay quiet facing with their phone screens. At about 6:30 p.m, there is an alarm of log to pay mass obeisance to the Lord Buddha. All monks and novices gather on the upstairs of the two-storeyed building and pay mass obeisance to the Lord Buddha in unison. They recite Parittas. 

As some Parittas are ones which Ashin Bãvita learnt by heart, he can follow the reciting but some are not and he has to stay silent.

After paying obeisance to Buddha, all listen to the admonishment of the residing monk. Then he thinks that all of them must take rest for the night at their respective buildings after listening to the admonishment but soon, he hears again the voices of the student novices learning their lessons. At about 9 p.m, the voice ceases. Ashin Bãvita tries to sleep appeasing the noise in his stomach with a cup of drinking water. But he cannot sleep, but remembering the words a presiding monk told him a few days ago.

He said, “The role of the studying novices and the teacher monks is greatly essential for the perpetuation of the Buddha Dhamma. Although there were over fifty Sanghãs in this monastery during the previous rainy season, there are only about forty Sanghãs in this Buddhist lent. Some novices leave the Order. They want to use the hand phones like others. It is a Pariyatti monastery and so novices must study their lessons day and night or else they will fail in their exam. Many novices are only interested in using facebook and want to spend most of their time on it. Their will on studying the Pariyatti hard further dwindles. In the end they leave the Order and go to the cities such as Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw to get any kind of work including carpentry and masonry. They join any occupation within their reach just to buy the hand phones with a unit prize of Ks- 100,000. As the number of such dropouts increases, the number of novice Pariyatti students at monasteries decreases. This phenomenon is happening in all Pariyatti monasteries across Myanmar. If this continues, the future of the Sasana will be in a worrisome situation. Ashin Bãvita hears the clock strikes twelve, but is still lost in thoughts while foreseeing the importance of nurturing the novices as they are the vital sources for the perpetuation of the Sasana.

The Myawady Daily

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