A Gift From a Monk in Myanmar (450 words)

I made many wrong decisions during my first visit to Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. I walked over 4 km from my hotel and arrived during the peak heat of the day while the temp was well over 100°F/38°C.

I had considered wearing my Longyi that morning but opted instead for shorts. This means I had to rent a communal Longyi at the Pagoda entrance to cover my knees. As is typical for temples, no one is allowed to wear shoes so I was walking - or rather running - around with bare feet. 

The sun was scorching throughout the cloudless sky which caused the floor tiles to heat up like hot coals. Everyone was running from one patch of shade to the next, trying to relieve their suffering soles. 

As I was navigating a maze of smaller stupas, I came upon an old monk who waved me over. He offered me a drink of water even though I had my own supply. He made some small talk and told me his name is Tegyi and he is 83 years old and he takes the bus to Shwedagon every day. I had a feeling he was going to ask for money, but technically monks have to. By definition they beg for everything, even food during daily alms rounds. 

 

I respect the Sangha so I gave him a 5,000 kyat note. It was obviously much more than he was expecting. In return he offered me all three sets of his mala beads and his water and even his English-Burmese dictionary. I accepted the small, black wooden beads which I could tell were worn and had been used often; not just bought at a market that morning.

This seemed like a small win after my series of sweaty mistakes. 

I thought I was pretty special until I saw a photo of the same monk with a German guy from my hostel on Facebook. (Although I'm certain he did not receive the same gift.) 

I'm curious, do you think this monk was legit or was he just trying to profit off of tourists? If you've been to Shwedagon, have you met him as well?

Much Love,