Khaykmasare - "But we have to live in different monasteries, because of temptation!"
In Mandalay, we drove to the famous U Bein Bridge to see the sunset. It was a celebration day because it was full moon which in Buddhism means that the Buddha is coming down to visit. It was very crowded with locals and thousands of candles were lit around town to light the Buddha's way, so he didn't get lost. In the middle of the bridge, we were approached by Khaykmasare who started speaking to us about his life as a monk and invited us to visit his Monastery.
1. What is your name, where do you come from and what do you do for living?
My name is Khaykmasare. It’s a monk name, it means peaceful. You're required to get a monk name if you want to live a monk life.
I’m 23 years old and I’ve been living in my monastery since the age of 16. If I want to learn about Buddhism, I must stay here for at least ten years and do well in my weekly practice tests and in the final exams every year.
I decided to become a monk because the monk life is very peaceful. On a normal day, we wake up at 4 in the morning. Some of us meditate, others like me go directly to the diner room for breakfast. Then it's all about praying together and studying Buddhism.
There’s a lot to learn about Buddhism. It has many rules, 227 to be exact. But there are 4 main rules, or moralities, that are most important for us: we don’t have sexual pleasure, we don’t steal from anyone, we don’t kill human beings, and we must find nirvana. We must follow these rules if we want to be monks for the rest of our lives. If I break one of these rules, Buddha no longer allows me to be a monk and I have to change my life.
Women cannot be monks but they can become nuns. Their monasteries are like meditation centres and their lives very similar to ours. But we have to live in different monasteries; because of temptation! It's too dangerous.
So being a monk is my job, I have two duties – learning and teaching Buddhism, and practising meditation. That’s called truly monk life.
2. What advice would you give to someone like us that just arrived here?
My advice would be to visit my monastery - Monastery Mahagandayon. It is very famous in Myanmar for its meditation. It will also give you the chance to meet Buddhist monks and to learn how to do meditation.
There are 1200 monks living in our monastery. It was founded by the monk Janakabivamsa, he has passed away already but he’s very famous for the books he wrote and his Buddhist rules, the most important one being that you must have a good heart.
3. What would you say is your favourite food?
I have no food restrictions; I can eat anything I want! But I love vegetables, I’m not vegetarian but I really love them.
In my monastery, we sleep and eat there. We receive food donations everyday so we always eat there together. We have two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, cooked by our own monks in the big kitchens of the monastery.
4. What's your favourite place here?
My hometown is my favourite place in Myanmar, I come from Bagan. My family still lives there. It’s where my favourite spot to meditate is, near the Irrawaddy river. It’s very quiet, nobody goes there.
5. What would be the perfect Sunday afternoon plan?
I don’t really have time off on Sunday but in the evenings, we have some time for ourselves. After praying, I always come for a walk on the U Bein bridge to see the sunset. I’m very lucky because my monastery is so near the bridge.
But I must do meditation whenever I have some time off. It’s very hard for me to explain meditation in English; what I can tell you is that it requires a lot of practise and that the goal of meditation is to achieve nirvana, which is the ultimate state of peace.
The best way to achieve nirvana is by not speaking to each other because it requires a lot of concentration and meditation. That’s why I’m so far from nirvana because I talk all the time and I’m always joking. I’m very popular in my monastery; everybody knows me and is my friend.
Some monks achieve nirvana but they usually live alone, in a quiet place like in the forest and they usually meditate all day. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that; it’s very difficult for me.
6. What do you usually do for fun?
I like to read, normally Buddhism books but also other books or the newspaper. But I love to watch football! Cristiano Ronaldo is my favourite player and Arsenal my favourite team.
7. Where do you see yourself in the future?
I don’t really know yet. I still have 3 more years of studying but I don’t know what will happen afterwards. The Monk life is very difficult with the 227 rules so I don’t know if I will be able to do it forever. Life is very unsure so maybe I’ll stay in the monastery forever or maybe I’ll completely change my life and go traveling!
8. What would you like to ask our next host?
What is your idea of happiness?
Tips & Recommendations
Visit the U Bein Bridget at sunset - it was one of the best sunsets we have ever seen! But be careful, as Khaykmasare told us, the bridge can get very crowded and easy to fall, he fell once and got hurt really badly.
Visit the Dee Doke waterfall
Rent a scooter during your stay, it's the easiest way to move around in Mandalay