13 Aug 2010
Novice Buddhist monks standing in quiet contemplation while waiting for school to start near Godagama, Sri Lanka.
Novices this young (these four range from 10 to 15) are mostly found in village temples. Parents, too poor to educate them, send the boys there in hopes of a better life for them. In special temple-run schools, called pirivenas, the boys receive primary and secondary educations plus religious instruction. In turn, they perform housekeeping and gardening chores around the temple and compound while participating in most of the religious duties and ceremonies.The older novices teach Sunday school to the village children. Some boys return home after a few years, but others choose to stay in the sangha and become fully ordained monks when they reach 21. Some wear the robes for life but others disrobe in their mid-twenties, marry and take up the householder life.