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A novice requesting admittance to the priesthood.

A novice requesting admittance to the priesthood.

Photographer: Watts and Skeen

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1890

Shelfmark: Photo 430/15(51)

Item number: 4301551

Genre: Photograph

This photograph of a novice squatting before a group of monks was taken by Watts and Skeen in the 1890s and forms part of the Curzon Collection: Album of Burmese views presented to Lady Curzon by the Ladies of Moulmein. Theravada or Doctrine of Elders is a school of Buddhism which draws scriptural direction from the Pali Canon or Tipitaka, acknowledged to be the oldest record of Buddha's teachings. Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion of Burma, prevailing from the 11th century. The sangha or Buddhist order of monks and nuns is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism or Triratna (the other two being the Buddha and the Dhamma or doctrine). The Buddhist monk lives by a strict disciplinary code and renounces all possessions except those permitted such as alms bowls and robes. He relies on the generosity of the laity for his subsistence. His goals are to strive for enlightenment and preserve the Dhamma for others to follow. Every Burmese man is expected to enter a monastery for a short period at least twice in his lifetime. The first time as a samanera or novice monk and the second time as a pongyi or accomplished monk. Most males under the age of 20 would have put on monks' robes and attended a ceremony called shinbyu organised to mark their entrance into the monastic life.

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