Light the Way ~ Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, Naung Shwae, Myanmar

Text: Peace, Love and Light Picture: Young Burmese monk with a candle

Peace, Light and Hope

The end of another year is fast approaching.

In preparation, I’m packing a bag for my escape to Australia’s Snowy Mountains. For while many regard New Year’s Eve as a time for noise-makers, fireworks, and drunken revelry, I prefer to use the time to take stock of the year past and to sketch out tentative plans for the year coming.

This time last year we were barely into our current home, surrounded by boxes and chaos. In the intervening twelve months, we’ve managed to carve out some order and to adjust to a different kind of lifestyle in a vastly different environment. But we have also been “on the road” and away from our house for at least half that time.

One of the things that becomes more noticeable when you travel is how very different people’s live are. Not just the obvious: food and housing and clothing; but the deeper fundamentals. Values and beliefs: what it means to be a “good” person; people’s hopes and dreams for themselves, and more importantly, for their children.

I was reminded of these differences everywhere we went this past year: England, Ireland, and Wales; Western Canada and across the US; country and coastal Australia; and most obviously, Thailand and Myanmar. As the Thais say, people everywhere are: “same, same… but different!”

Young burmese monk surrounded by candle-lit alcoves with Buddhas in them, Shweyanpyay Monastery, Naung Shwae, Myanmar

Novice in an Alcove

The young burmese novice in this series of photos is a perfect example. He lives, studies, works, and sleeps in Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery in Myanmar’s Shan State, where his life is well-ordered but rather austere. Entering the monastery is likely to have been his family’s decision, rather than his own, and the decision was probably based on pragmatic as well as spiritual considerations: this is a poor area, and boys in monasteries such as this get their food, clothing, and education provided. I don’t know what his personal hopes and dreams are, but he won’t have been expecting a lot of fancy gifts from Santa this past week.

In one of the outer pagodas, filled with individual Buddhas in niches – all bearing the names of their benefactors – the young novice sat in absolute stillness for half an hour, surrounded by candles in the tropical heat, while ten travellers with assorted cameras snapped pictures of him from all angles. Outwardly, he did not question this odd request from the foreign visitors. His Abbot had told him to go sit – so he sat.

Burmese Novice monk holding a candle in prayer, Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar

Novice Monk in Prayer

Clearly, these are not “found” images; the scene was set by our photographic-tour leader, Karl Grobl and our local guide MM while we were visiting Myanmar last September.

Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery in Naung Shwae is housed in a beautiful 150-year-old teak building, which I will return to in some future “Wanders” PhotoBlog post. We visited the monastery twice: once in the mid-morning for lunch, and on this evening occasion to photograph the young novice in the small window of opportunity between the fall of darkness and evening prayers.

Novice Burmese Monk in Candlelight, Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, Nuang Shwe, Myanmar

Novice in Candlelight

Text: Happy New YearWhile these images may not tell us much about this young novice’s actual life, to me they convey the kind of quiet, meditative contemplation that I associate with the New Year period.

So, I wish you and yours a happy and peaceful new year, and the quiet time to reflect on what is important.

Pictures: 23September2012

  • Gabe - December 27, 2012 - 6:39 am

    I love the images. Another year of very good weekly wanders completed.
    Always thought provoking.ReplyCancel

  • Karl Grobl - December 27, 2012 - 6:46 am

    Ursula, what a wonderful post for the approaching new year. You’ve given us amazing images and an important message to ponder. Thanks for sharing, and I wish you the best in the coming year. Cheers, KarlReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 27, 2012 - 9:25 am

      Glad you liked it, Gabe.
      So pleased you stopped in, Karl. Thanks for creating such great opportunities. 😀ReplyCancel

  • Michael LaPalme - December 28, 2012 - 12:40 am

    What a beautiful collection of images Ursula… 🙂 What a stunning scene!ReplyCancel

  • Michael carter - December 28, 2012 - 1:19 am

    Hi Ursula,
    beautiful images. thanks to the abott for sending the novice there to sit 😉
    it’s serene.

    happy 2013 Ursula 😉

    MichaelReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 28, 2012 - 1:37 am

      Thanks, Michael x 2. Happy New Year’s to you both.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - December 28, 2012 - 3:27 am

    Lovely images and beautifully said Ursula!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 28, 2012 - 4:38 am

      Thanks so much, Lisa. One day you and I have to talk about processing: your colours from the same location are SO different!!
      Have a great 2013. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Dietmut - December 28, 2012 - 4:06 pm

    Ursula, all of these photos are wonderful and thank you for your report. Warm greetings and a lovely turn over, DietmutReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 29, 2012 - 12:37 am

      Thanks, Dietmut. Happy New Year to you too.ReplyCancel

  • Kevin Dowie - December 29, 2012 - 2:16 am

    Great images Ursula,
    I particularly like the “Novice in an alcove” (as captioned) shot. I know some people love “inspirational” messages/text added to such images, but to me they work best without. Just a personal preference! 🙂
    Best wishes for the New Year.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - January 1, 2013 - 12:21 am

      Kevin, your input is always appreciated. Happy New Year!
      Dietmut, thank you for your good wishes. Best wishes for a wonderful new year!ReplyCancel

  • Dietmut - December 31, 2012 - 3:50 pm
  • Signe Westerberg - January 2, 2013 - 6:01 am

    lovely as always and may your 2013 be everything you both hope for. Thanks for the travels this year…looking forward to what 2013 holds in store.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - January 2, 2013 - 9:34 am

      Happy New Year, Signe. Hope to catch you face-to-face one of these days!ReplyCancel

  • PATRICIA - January 4, 2013 - 8:53 pm

    Happy New Year, All. May the rest of your days be better days.ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Gallagher - January 5, 2013 - 8:41 am

    Nice job, Ursula, with some stunning photos. I hope you have a very good new year.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - January 7, 2013 - 11:58 am

      Thanks, Patrick. HNY to you too. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • philip coggan - July 19, 2013 - 2:05 am

    I wouldn’t feel too guilty abt getting the little boy to sit still for an hour for your photos – every day we ask children to sit still for hours on end in the name of teaching them spelling and arithmetic 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - July 19, 2013 - 4:54 am

      Very true, Philip! But I know MY children wouldn’t have sat so still. Thanks for your visit! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Denise Johnson - April 13, 2014 - 1:39 am

    Thanks for sharing these images. Seven years ago I had a death experience that looked so much like this photo. Seeing it almost made me faint. I am inspired to visit this monastery before I die, now. Please kindly send the boy a percentage of the sales of the cards. The monastery as well as his family could use the support and his practice is now making you money. I wouldn’t want you to receive negative karmic ramifications. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - April 13, 2014 - 5:02 am

      Thanks for your visit and comments, Denise. Rest assured, we always put funds and support into the monasteries and temples we visit.ReplyCancel

  • […] Candles in the Alcove Once the novices have eaten, we are able to persuade one to pose for us in the alcove. (I posted a selection of these photos as “Light the Way” some time ago.) […]ReplyCancel

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