I waited in the dark. It was around 5 am, dawn was a few minutes away. I stood at the wooden makeshift steps at the bank of the river Tha Chin. Gentle and fresh breeze caressed my face and locks. Innocuous clouds were hovering over me wondering what I was up to. Holding my plate I was waiting for two things … the sun to come out and the monks.
My plate had food packages (milk, juice, rice, noodles, biscuits, pandan cake, fruits) and other useful items such as incense sticks, candles etc. accompanied with a lotus flower. The hotel I was staying at, had arranged for it.
The wait was over now and I could see a boat at a distance. A monk in familiar orange robe along with a helper was coming down our way. I was told, when a temple is near a river, they use a boat. It was magical, watching him gently rowing the boat towards us. In a few minutes he was at the bank. Calm and graceful he did not utter a word.
I was guided how to offer him the food. It is very important that we should not touch the monk or his bowl. He had a silver bowl in which we were supposed to put the eatables and other items one by one. The monk was then emptying the contents into two separate vessels. After offerings were made, I bowed to him and sought for his blessings. He smiled, while showering me with his blessings.
It was truly wonderful, I was struck by the generosity and kindness of this gentle tradition. It was so lovely to be part of it, so what if it was only briefly.
Alms giving is one of the most common practices among Thai Buddhists. It’s a way to support the monks by offering them food. At the same time, we learn to give, be generous and to let go.
All over Thailand, from dawn until around 7 o’clock, local Buddhist monks can be seen slowly walking bare feet with their alms bowls in the area around the monastery. The senior monks walk in the front while the juniors follow behind. They walk past shops and houses where local people offer alms in exchange for blessings. I am told, one should not give a full large package to one single monk as once his bowl is full, he must return to temple, and can’t come back again that day. Probably that is why our monk was emptying the contents into other vessels. 🙂
Monks don’t prepare their own meals. They depend on the generosity of the community. Hence any food is accepted by the monks. At one place I had seen some sachets of detergent and Paracetamol medicine also. Since rice is the most common Thai food, people normally offer rice and other dishes. In some north and northeastern provinces the rice is replaced with sticky rice. It is said that through monks the food goes to our ancestors, so people cook the best dishes and offer what their ancestors liked, even if it happens to be a non-veg dish. Some people also give a bouquet of flowers, preferably lotus, to be offered to Buddha at the temple.
The giving of alms is not considered a charity to the monks, but a way for a common Buddhist to show respect to the monks. It forms a connection between the people and the monks. Thais highly respect monks for their devotion to the Buddha’s teachings that liberates them from suffering.
What a special morning it was! I got to learn a new Thai culture. When in Thailand, I highly recommend you participate. I plan to do again, whenever it is possible.
Note:- This post is written under Living the Thai culture series. You can read more posts of the series by clicking the following links. More to come.
P.S.- This article belongs to www.lemonicks.com. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. If you are viewing this on a website instead of your RSS feed reader, then that website is guilty of stealing my content. Kindly do me a favour. Please visit my site and help me taking action by letting me know against this theft. Thank you.