Shinbyu: “Sons of the Enlightened One”

Myanmar
Follow two boys from Bagan, Myanmar as they take a journey of Shinbyu into the Buddhist monastery as novice monks. The transformation from extravagant Princes to humble and dedicated monks.

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Shinbyu: The Sons of the Enlighted One

Welcome to Bagan, on the banks of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River, Myanmar.  Here is the largest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas and stupas in the world. Some temples date from the 11th and 12th centuries. The landscape is scattered with golden temples and red brick ruins. Here rests the eternal remnants of Burmese religious heritage, where every part of every building assumes a highly significant, spiritual meaning. Age-old rituals continue to this day.

It is unsurprising that in this unique, almost mystical environment, the locals still hold onto past traditions – perhaps more so here in Bagan than anywhere else in Myanmar.  One of these traditions is the initiation ceremony know as “Shinbyu” – the Buddhist offering of young boys entering the monastery as “The Sons of the Enlightened One” or “The Sons of the Buddha”. The tradition dates back 2,500 years to the time when the Buddha granted His son the heritage of becoming a novice. It was the conversion of Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha known as the “seeker of enlightenment”.

In the 21st century, the ceremony usually occurs during school holidays, predominantly the March and April summer holidays preceding the Water Festival. “Shinbyu” is a Burmese initiation ceremony. It is compulsory for boys between eight and twenty years old to enter the Buddhist order for a week or more. Occasionally, the boys will be as young as four. It is the most important duty for Burmese parents to let their sons go end embrace the legacy of Buddha.

Through this ritual, the young boys will become novice monks for a while. The novice monk enters the order at least twice in his lifetime, each time gaining a good merit. It is vitally important to the Burmese tradition and compulsory for all boys. Shinbyu is the beginning of a spiritual journey towards enlightenment for the young boys…

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