Monk at Teak Temple
Italian designed eight sided temple, Mandalay
These are just a few of the people we encountered visiting the temples of Mandalay and the surrounding towns in Burma. The elder monk above guided us through an abandoned temple and showed us where the altars and Buddha statues used to sit. He smoked a large cigar and folded it into his robes when I asked to take his photograph.
Woman ringing Burmese Gong, Kuthodaw Paya (temple), Mandalay
This woman was demonstrating how to ring a traditional Burmese gong and sold us a smaller version after much haggling. Her original prices were twice what we discovered on the streets so we were happy to have engaged in friendly haggling over the gongs.
Young girls visiting a temple, Kuthodaw Paya (temple), Mandalay
These young students were on a field trip from the surrounding villages and flocked around us to see and touch a foreigner. Their smiles and giggles were infectious and we found ourselves inundated by twenty or thirty at a time. They wanted us to take their pictures and often expressed a mixture of delight and embarrassment when I snapped a shot.
Women Praying, Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay
This famous temple receives thousands of visitors who come to venerate the famous Mahamuni Buddha image that is believed to have been caste in the 1st century AD. Only the men are allowed to walk up to the image and apply gold leaf that is now more than six inches thick on the statue. The women gather to worship in front of the Buddha.
Young Boys in Temple Ceremony,
Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay
These boys stand in line waiting for the procession to begin where they will be “king for the day”. This Buddhist initiation ceremony occurs once a year and is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both girls and boys. When we first asked a bystander about the procession where an adult holds an umbrella over the head of each child, he pointed to a girl and said she was “queen for the day”. I put my hand to my heart to express the specialness of the occasion yet couldn’t stop my mind from the association to the TV show of my childhood era where women were crowned “queen for the day”. What a different experience!
Preparing for Temple Procession,
Mahamuni Paya (temple), Mandalay
These young people pose for a group photo before they join the processional walk around the temple. Unlike the children we met everywhere we went they held back their smiles for the seriousness of the event. I am so thankful we stumbled on this ceremony and just wish I could say more about its meaning and origin.
Nun Studying for Exam, Samaidodaya Recluse, Sagaing
This beautiful nun was the attendant for the head abbess of a monastery for approximately 250 women. While we visited and had tea with the elder abbess the young woman studied for an important exam she would take the next day at a Buddhist university. Her studies included English and she was able to share at bit of her knowledge of the challenging Buddhist philosophy she was preparing to be tested on.
Whenever you have friendliness to yourself, then friendliness to your world happens simultaneously. As natural goodness begins to dawn in your heart, and a sense of dignity begins to occur. The more you open yourself up to this process, the more you find that the world extends its hospitality for you to proclaim your dignity.
Cynthia Kneen, Awake Mind, Open Heart
More inspirational words and photos at