10 Lessons I’ve Learned From a Burmese Monk (and You Should Too) – by Maria Alves

10 Lessons I've Learned from a Burmese Monk

I’ve been travelling the world for over 2 years. Although, there have been times when I’ve felt exhausted and homesick. A while back, I decided to visit Myanmar without any expectations. On my last day there, I went to a monastery when a Burmese monk approached me.

He said that he had one hour to spare during the monks nap time. He wanted to improve his English with me rather than sleep. So we walked through the monastery together while having an in depth conversation.

One hour turned into a few hours because he had so much to teach me and I had so much to learn. The Burmese monk was only 23 years years old, but he spoke like he was 70! I couldn’t believe how much knowledge someone so young could have. He told me that he studies all day everyday, and that he has two goals in life: to speak English fluently and share his knowledge with the world.

10 Lessons I've Learnt from a Burmese Monk

10 lessons I’ve learned from a Burmese monk (and you should too):

1. Morality

Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t cheat.

2. Serenity

Always have peace in your mind. If you want peace everyday in your life, don’t think bad thoughts or do bad actions. Don’t say a bad word.

3. Concentration

Meditation is the only way to live peacefully throughout daily life.

4. Silence

Music, Facebook and other distractions don’t allow your mind to simply be with itself. You need silence to work on yourself.

5. Karma

What goes around comes around. Don’t let any bad energy go out to the universe because it will come back to you. Even small things like saying something because you are angry. The hate you put in the air will find its way back to you. Keep your mouth shut until it goes away. What is inside your mind is your business only.

6. Beauty comes from within

He repeated this 1000 times, and since my self esteem has never been so low, it was a good point to work on. The way you look means nothing compared to the colour of your soul.

7. Mean what you say

The Burmese monk asked me what do I mean when I say “good morning”. I told him that sadly, it’s just a standard phrase. It’s automatic. It’s the same as “hello” during the morning.

He told me that the actual meaning of “have a good morning” is to remind people not to do anything bad. You can’t have a good time if you are being harmful to others. “Morning” actually means “I wish you will act in a way that’s good for yourself and the world, don’t forget it”.

8. Eat mindfully

We met after the Burmese monk had finished his lunch… At 10.30am. After that he won’t eat anything else until 5am the next day when it’s time for breakfast. Two meals a day. I told him I always have breakfast early, then lunch at about 12pm and dinner about 7pm, mostly with snacks between each meal.

“It’s too much”, he said. If your body is busy processing food, your mind doesn’t have the necessary energy for changes. Eat less and eat mindfully, just enough to keep you going. Also, monks don’t eat treats and sweets. Only soups, vegetables, salad… Healthy things don’t make you addicted to them and it will be easier for your body to stop craving more.

9. Conscious sex

It’s a distraction like everything else on this list. One partner is already enough trouble. More than one will keep you too busy to focus on what’s important.

10. Be kind

You never know what people are going through at the moment. If they are being hateful or mean, you have to be able to forgive because what you are doesn’t change based on their behaviour. Your kindness and empathy needs to be there, always. If it’s too much, leave, take your time, breathe… But never react to anger.

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10 Lessons I Learnt From a Burmese Monk

10 Lessons I've Learned from a Burmese Monk

10 Life Lessons I Learnt From a Burmese Monk

This is a guest post written by Maria Alves, and all images are credited to Maria Alves.


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  • Reply
    The Wanderer
    August 16, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    What a wonderful lesson which we should really try to incorporate in our lives.

    • Reply
      August 16, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      They are very important lessons indeed. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    August 16, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    I truly enjoyed reading this article. Those are some valuable and truly important lessons to learn in life.

  • Reply
    August 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    This monk is def wise beyond his years. Glad you had such a spiritual experience via conversing with him.

  • Reply
    August 16, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Serenity and concentration are two things I struggle with daily. Perhaps it is because I split my time between paid work and creative endeavors, or maybe it is just the plethora of digital distractions. Or maybe it’s stress and a combination of all these things. But I am trying to be more mindful and to celebrate the silences. I’m a work in progress. 🙂

    • Reply
      August 16, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      I am completely the same as you Patricia, I really stuggle with concentration too and feel as though I get digitally distracted too. We’ll get there eventually! Thanks for reading and sharing!

  • Reply
    Victoria Alicia
    August 17, 2017 at 3:31 am

    I really like 5 and 9. I do believe that whatever goes around comes around. Doesn’t matter how much time passes but it always comes back!

  • Reply
    Rosie Fluskey
    August 17, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Well after clicking on this from a Facebook link, whilst listening to music, I clearly have quite a way to go.

    I think that these are some wonderful life goals. I am very much a believer in trying to do the best for those round you in the world so hopefully my “good morning” will be more than a customer service response from now on.

    • Reply
      August 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      We are all like that sometimes Rosie! I find it really hard to stay grounded while there are so many digital distractions, but as long as we’re aware of them, it’s OK. That makes me so happy that you want to do the best for those around you! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Loved reading your post, all ten were great points and valuable lessons. I especially resonated with the phrase “You need silence to work on yourself.” There are just too many distractions in life sometimes!

    • Reply
      August 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Thanks Kim, I’m glad you enjoyed this post! Yeah, I definitely resonate with that one too, it’s so hard to actually quieten your mind in order to have real silence!

  • Reply
    Rachel silverwood
    August 17, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    What a lovely experience! He’s certianly wise beyond he’s years – if only everyone lived by these morals the world would be a much happier place

    • Reply
      August 18, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      He definitely is… I think younger generations are becoming more in line with these morals, but digital distractions are the only force that hinder their conscious growth…

  • Reply
    August 17, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    What a great experience and such words of wisdom. I had a chance to speak to a monk in Thailand and while it was only for about 30 mins, it was just as insightful. Love the notion of thinking about the “color of your soul.” Great article and thanks for sharing it!

    • Reply
      August 18, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      That’s so amazing you could experience the same Rosemary! I love that line as well. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    August 18, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    What a wonderful, special experience. To be so wise at 23!

  • Reply
    August 19, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Loved it. Very simple guideline we too often forget to follow. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Reply
      August 22, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      We really do forget very easily, thanks to our consumerist and digital world.. thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Lindsey Nicole
    August 19, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    This is inspiring. I have always wanted to spend some time at a monastery and embrace the way of a monks life for a period of time. What an amazing and memorable experience you have had. Thank you for sharing your unique experience.

    • Reply
      August 22, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Yeah, I’d love to do a meditation retreat or something like that! Thanks for reading Lindsey!

  • Reply
    August 19, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    This is lovely. Great lessons to live by.

  • Reply
    August 19, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    These are AMAZING! I copied them down so I can look at them every day. Such a great post!

  • Reply
    This Big Wild World
    August 19, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I just love the simplicity of his advice. Great post! Myanmar is a magical place 🙂

    • Reply
      August 22, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      I know, it’s so simple yet so true! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Reply
    Claire - StartACraftBlog
    August 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    wow so much wisdom from someone so young! I love learning, meditating and evolving as a human. Meditation completely changed my life for the better and I’m almost green with envy that you got to have such a wonderful experience 🙂

    • Reply
      August 22, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      Meditation completely changed my life too. I’m so happy you resonated with this post. Thanks for reading Claire!

  • Reply
    August 21, 2017 at 9:45 am

    I met a monk at Shwedagon Pagoda and spent hours with him talking about life. It was an amazing experience. thanks for sharing yours

    • Reply
      August 22, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      That must have been amazing! Thanks for reading Nicola!

  • Reply
    Mariah Jean
    August 29, 2017 at 11:55 pm

    Oh my gosh! I absolutely love this! How amazing. Important lessons. I hope one day to visit and experience this.

    • Reply
      August 30, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post! Thanks Mariah!

  • Reply
    September 15, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Certainly it changes the whole perspective when you get to know the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya’s that’s happening in Burma initiated and supported by some of these Buddhist monks. A personal heaven is often created in the inner sanctum of the soul. Icons often disappoint.

    • Reply
      September 17, 2017 at 11:11 pm

      Yes, it may change your perspective when you know about what SOME of these monks are supporting… But we must not mark every monk as a supporter, and we can’t generalise. Isn’t that how hate and prejudice breeds further? Perhaps this monk doesn’t support the ethnic cleansing going on, who knows? And if he does, he is not truly religious. Those who support such a thing may call themselves monk, may dress like a monk and may speak like a monk, but as long as someone separates themselves from other human beings based on anything mundane, then they are not truly religious or moral.

  • Reply
    September 21, 2017 at 6:43 am

    Very Nice..Thank for sharing such a informative post, keep us updated with this type of beautiful post in future also.

    • Reply
      September 22, 2017 at 12:49 am

      Thanks Martin, I’m so glad you liked this post, it means a lot to me!

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