SHIN PYU CEREMONY (NOVITIATION CEREMONY)
Thanks to Culture and Business Practice in Asia, I have had a chance to learn more about new culture as well as new aspect of Buddhism in Myanmar. First thing that appears when researching about Myanmar culture has always been Buddhism. Buddhism is a permeating force in Burmese society. According to Nash (1963), The hillsides of the country are filled with temples; image of robed monks, outstandingly the immeasurable number of monasteries reinforces the depth and strength of Buddhist practice and belief in the country. The majority of Myanmar population is Buddhists, especially; Myanmar has been one of the major countries practicing Theravada Buddhism up until now. Additionally, Myanmar has been conquering special prominence in the world of Buddhism (Bischoff 1995). The religion plays a major role in Burman’s daily life as people make offerings, mediate, pay homage at the temples on a daily basis. According to Boisvert (2000), what helps to differentiate Burmese Buddhism from other Theravada countries is the image and innumerable number of very young monks in the country. That is a result of Burmese tradition called Shin Pyu Ceremony.
Shin Pyu ceremony is the novitiation ceremony, which is considered as one of the most important rituals of Burmese culture. Myanmar guide & reviews (2017) stated that the word ‘Shin Pyu’ in Burmese means “initiating into Buddhist Order as a Novice”. Specifically, Shin means ‘a novice’ while Pyu means ‘to make one’. The ceremony basically makes a young boy into a novice within the monastic tradition. First thing first, we need to distinguish clearly a novice from a monk. The novice only needs to respect ten precepts while 227 precepts are what monks are required to follow. Novice is considered as a practice time before one decides to give up the robes or become a lifelong monks later. Moreover, nobody can commit to become a monk before the age of 20 (Boisvert 2000)
Myanmar guide & reviews (2017) claims that The Shin Pyu ceremony is significantly important to Burmese men because in their belief, by forsaking their son’s childhood life and donning the monks’ robe, the family can earn great merit. Additionally, it will bring honour as well as create a big career for the family (Myanmar Tour 2012). Specifically, it is very fundamental for Burmese Buddhist men to become a novice in a certain period of his life to ensure him to gain merit as well as enable him to gain Nirvana (enlightenment) in his future lives. In Buddhist belief, gaining Nirvana is very crucial to any Buddhists because gaining Nirvana helps to enhance one’s Karma. That not only applies to himself but his parents will acquire the same Karma as him. That is why; Shin Pyu ceremony is very essential for both boys and their parents (Today in Myanmar 2017).
According to Boisvert (2000), The Shin Pyu ceremony is considered as a valuable procedure that helps to foster Burmese men’s integration into Buddhist society. However, there is another bad side of the ceremony to Burmese society in term of economic terms that needs to be reflected. Hornig (2016) affirms that the ceremony brings quite a financial burden to the Burmese family in many cases. The expenses to hold a Shin Pyu ceremony consist of costs for costumes and robes, food for all participants and donations to the local monastery and to the monks who performed the rituals. In some cases, some families have to sell one of their houses for the Shin Pyu ceremony of their sons, boys from very poor backgrounds or orphans. The ceremony often takes up to 40 Lakh (3000 USD); even the modest ones still require a lot of money. According to United Nations Development Program (2017), an estimated 26% of the population is at poverty levels in Myanmar. Especially, poverty is twice as high in rural areas where are home of 70% of Myanmar population. The ceremony is an important tradition that should be maintained well, however, several reasonable changes should also be drawn up to minimise the cost as well as lessen financial burden on poor families and partly help to reduce poverty in Myanmar.
This concept of Shin Pyu ceremony of Burmese Buddhism is very strange to me. Only until, we are required to pick Myanmar as our chosen country for our major assessment of Culture and Business Practice in Asia. I then had a chance to learn more about the country, its culture, especially, its religion. Being a Buddhist myself, knowing about other Buddhist practices in different countries is very important. It helps to enhance my knowledge of my own religion. Only studying this subject, I have opportunities to explore more and more about new cultures as well as many other different aspects of Buddhism, the life story of Buddha and how that inspires the Shin Pyu ceremony in which boys are all princely dressed and ride horses or elephants to the monasteries.
Matsui (2017) claims that Myanmar is still a promising place for infrastructure investment and production base in foreign businesses’ perceptions. As an entrepreneur-future-going to be, I do see Myanmar as an attractive country and I would invest as well as grow my future business in this country when there is good opportunity. Knowing this Shin Pyu ceremony – a lifetime event of Burmese people will provide me many advantages. People will be more open to you when you can understand thoughtfully their culture, their religion, especially their experience growing up through the Shin Pyu event. Communication then will become easier, more efficient when it comes to building long-term relationship as well as business negotiation with Burmese partners.
Bischoff, R 1995, ‘Buddhism in Myanmar: A short history’, Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society.
Boisvert, M 2000, ‘A Socio-cultural Analysis of the Burmese Shin pyu Ceremony’, Journal of Beliefs and Values, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 203-211.
Hornig, L 2016, ‘Shin Byu – religiosity, community ties and economic matters in a Burmese ceremony’, Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’, viewed 4th September 2017, <https://www.eth.mpg.de/4297460/blog_2016_12_16_01>
Matsui, M 2017, ‘Myanmar’s foreign direct investment rush recedes’, Financial Times, viewed 4th September 2017, <https://www.ft.com/content/f7bda5bc-e150-11e6-8405-9e5580d6e5fb>
Myanmar Guide & reviews 2017, ‘Shinpyu’, Myanmar Guide & reviews, viewed 4th September 2017, <https://myanmars.net/culture/19095-shin-pyu>
Myanmar Tour 2012, ‘Myanmar’s unique Novitiation Ceremony’, Myanmar Tour, viewed 4th September 2017, <https://www.myanmartour.com/Myanmar-novitiation-ceremony_n136.html>
Nash, M 1963, ‘Burmese Buddhism in everyday life’, American Anthropologist, Vol. 65, No. 2, pp. 285-295.
Today in Myanmar 2017, ‘Shin Pyu – Ordination Ceremony for Myanmar Buddhists’, Today in Myanmar, viewed 4th September 2017, <http://myanmar2day.com/myanmar-culture-custom/2009/01/shin-pyu-ordination-ceremonary-for-myanmar-buddhists/>
UNDP 2017, ‘About Myanmar’, UNDP, viewed 4th September 2017, <http://www.mm.undp.org/content/myanmar/en/home/countryinfo.html>
<Video adapted from Travel Experience>