British author becomes monk to witness Burma’s changes from within

Rupert Arrowsmith having his head shaved in preparation for 45 days as a monk in a Burmese monastery.

British author and historian Rupert Arrowsmith recently chose a very unusual vantage point from which to report for CNN’s “On the Road” about the profound changes underway in Burma: taking temporary ordination as a Buddhist monk at the same Burmese monastery where he had spent six weeks as a monk in 2002. Witnessing how the current state of the monastery reflects Burma’s emergence from the “pariah state” of his first stay to its “new openness to the world,” Arrowsmith also writes eloquently about the life of a monk in one of Burma’s most famously austere meditation hermitages, and the process of his inner transformation:

As an atheist I became attracted to Buddhism in Myanmar because its monasteries have very little to do with ritual or theology. All of the emphasis is on practical techniques for uncovering the hidden workings of the mind. If a person wants to know what makes them tick, the techniques learned in Buddhism offer a powerful alternative to the hourly fees and drug prescriptions of Western psychiatry.

Read Arrowsmith’s full account here, and see what he uncovers when he immerses himself in those meditation techniques, from 3:30am to well into the night, for 45 strictly silent days in a Burmese forest.

Photo courtesy Rupert Arrowsmith, via

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