Sunday, 24 February 2019

Photo-story of the Alaṅkāra Exam in Thaton

The following excerpt is shared by a German novice in Myanmar:

From January 23rd-25th, the annual Alaṅkāra exam was held in Thaton, which had over 3000 applicants. Another monastery nearby took responsibilty for a large amount of monks and nuns, while our Sayadaw Ñāṅavaṃsa of Mahābhoga and his supporter group arranged to host 1000 monks and nuns for the exam. Over 100 of them were to stay in our monastery, so we started already one month ago to set up the monastery for the event. Many repairs building projects were done and all available rooms were checked, cleaned and stocked up with necessary items to accomodate the students.

It was a lot of work and wouldn’t have been possible without the many helping hands, and especially, without Sayadaw’s ongoing efforts in giving us the right attitude and motivation for the work. We were afterall supporting the sāsana by supporting the future generation of Dhamma teachers in their efforts of parriyatti learning. Any difficulties and discomforts were to be faced with this understanding, that we are having this rare chance to support the sāsana and to develop our pāramis and kusala.

When the days of the exam finally came, it got very busy: early in the morning breakfast had to be prepared for the 100+ guest and resident monastics and for 100 volunteer helpers. After that, lunch for 1000+ monks plus volunteer helpers had to be prepared, with small individual tables and mats arranged in 4 different Dhamma halls. All those meals had to be put on the tables and be offered to the sangha, the student monks and novices had to be directed for a smooth procedure of moving hundreds of monks in and out a hall, then all the dishes had to be removed and the tables washed for the exam just 1hour later, the dishes had to be washed and everything cleaned up. Then the exam papers distributed, and the monks and nuns eventually write the exam, some of which wrote up to 5 hours continuously. After that again prepare the tables wish the dishes for the breakfast and lunch of the next day. This routine went for 3 days, and luckily every day it got progressively smoother and easier, with the tasks being understood and coordinated more effectively.

I am very happy for having been able to help at this event in my home monastery, and honestly I have to say that in the beginning when I heard that there will be 1000 monks and nuns writing an exam for 3 days in our otherwise quiet and peaceful forest monastery, I was at first quite shocked and averse to the idea. It was Sayadaw who was able to give us the right understanding of how much value selfless service has, and how great of a chance it was for us to host this exam in our monastery.

When I saw the monks and nuns in our monastery studying diligently, I could see that all the efforts went into a good purpose.

I share the merits of my works with all beings and hope someone can feel inspired by this story.

Below I share some photos of the exam days.

Many dishes to prepare, many vegetables to cook     

On the first day, after the exam started, Venerable Sayadaw Candādhika, a renowned scholar and writer honored the students and helpers with a visit and a little motivational talk.

local supporters preparing lunch

From left to right: Sayadaw Ñāṇavaṃsa, the abbot of our monastery; Sayadaw Candādhika; respresentative of the Alaṅkāra examination commitee

a laminated tag informs in Myanmar “it has been made allowable, venerable sir”, meaning that it has being offered to the saṅgha so that the guest monks can eat the food without having to worry about their purity in vinaya because of the food not being offered to them personally

meanwhile the monks are studying diligently

lay attendants make sure that everyone has enough to fill the stomach and to support a 5-hour-long exam in the afternoon

human chain of helpers sends 1000 plates through the monastery to the different halls    

one of the halls, being set up for lunch

the monks eating their meal before noon

lunch plates are being assembled for each monk

Exam time. Bags and phones stay outside – no cheating

boxes with fruits for each monk

local helpers washing over thousand plates, bowls, cups, spoons, etc. and rushing to finish before 12:30 when the exam starts, so that there won’t be noise disturbing the monks’ and nuns’ concentration at the exam

Neatly set Sayalay (nun) slippers

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures. Could you elaborate a little on what the alaṅkāra exam consists of, and of its purpose? Many thanks.