Shinbyu or notivate is a Buddhist religious ceremony. Shinbyu means making a novice. Hence, this ceremony is held to celebrate the Buddhist rite of initiating a boy into the Buddha’s Order and to inherit the Buddha’s legacy. In other words, a boy is made into a novice at Shinbyu.
In the Myanmar Buddhist tradition it is compulsory that every boys over eight years old to twenty have to enter the Buddhist Order for a week or more as a novice and over twenty they have to enter the Order again as Ordained Monk.
Buddhists consider a man’s life incomplete unless he becomes a novice in his boyhood for at least seven days. The best time for a Shinbyu is the teenage when the boys can carry out their religious duties in earnest and with comprehension. A novice is supposed to spend his time pursuing religious studies and telling beads and three-or-four-olds can hardly be expected to perform these tasks.
A Shinbyu being a big affair, lots of other preparations are also necessary and neighbours and well-wishers also take part in all its tasks. Lots of foodstuffs such as rice, cooking oil, dried-fish and tea have to be purchased, for a Shinbyu is essentially a big feast. Most Shinbyu feature several Shinlaungs that is, novices-to-be who are kept busy learning in Pali the –request-for-the-yellow-robes and four verses for telling beads. Telling beads is a strenuous task for the novices.
A number of monks have to be respectfully invited to grace the Shinbyu with their precence and to accept the offerings especially procured for them. As a rule, Shinbyu lasts two days – the entry day and the big-feast day.
At the ceremony the line of a dozen cars drive orderly with musical troop follow an a roofless truck car playing music and songs loudly for dancer who take place on the roof top with funny dance to amuse people. To pay homage to the Buddha they go to a famous pagoda at their town, parade clockwise to the pagoda, the parents take place at the front, the fathers carry the Alms bowl and fan and the mothers carry the casket contain robes.
Next to them are Monks-to-be and Novices-to-be with their attended holding Gold umbrella over them and a group of girls carry decorated offertories follow them in line. Musical troop and their merry making dancer make all the fun and tease the girls. After the pagoda they have to visit a nat (sprit) shrine for homage. Then finally go to the monastery shave the hair and ask permission from the Abbot to be novice. As a novice he has to observe eight precepts and learn the Buddha teachings from his preceptor.
In rural Shinbyu,the Shinlaung-yu also known as Shinlaung-hlai is a procession of Shinlaungs, the donors, friends, relatives and other well-wishers. Of special interest in a Shinlaung-yu are the village damsels dressed in their best clothes and showing off their beauty. The focus of attention in the whole procession is the betel-casket who, as a rule, is the most beautiful virgin in the whole villages.
Moreover, a feeding enclosure has been built for this purpose together with the marquee. The guests and those who perform the various tasks of the Shinbyu are treated to betel, cheroots, pickled tea, pancakes, bananas and green tea.
The actual novitation starts at about one or two o’clock in the afternoon. All the inivited monks have been sumptuously feasted that morning and are now seated on the dais-for-the-Sangha in the marquee. First of all, the Shinlaungs have their hair shaven off. Next, they have to beg in Pali for the yellow robes. The monk who is going to be their teachers teaches them the basics of a novice’s life. And then he helps them put on the yellow robes. Thus, the Shinlaungs are novitiate or initiated into novice-hood.