Priests roam the cities, on any given day in Thailand, over 250000 priests leave the walls of their temples to walk among the people and beg for alms. The monks aren’t actually begging, they ask for nothing but their presence provide the faithful with an opportunity to carryout Tam boon an act of devotion designed to cultivate virtue. There are many ways to make merit and offering food is the most common, so street vendors throughout the city stand by with Tam boon sets. Most sets consist of food, water and a traditional lotus flower. By aiding the monks Buddhists cultivate virtue and fulfill their obligation to live a better life. Religion is a great passion of the Thai people and their faithful devotion may best be expressed at some of the countries most revered religious and historical sites.
Thai Faith in Bangkok and around
40 miles west of Bangkok is Nakhon Pathom, the oldest city in Thailand and home to the countries largest stupa or Chedi called Phra Pathom Chedi, it is also believed to be Thailand’s oldest place of worship. In the market of Nacho Pathos, pilgrim to the city can find small amulets to use as an expression of faith, most Thai men and many women carry some sort of amulet to protect against some possible disaster, induce wealth or some other desire. The older the amulet, the more precious and desired it is. In Thailand all children are steeped in Buddhist tradition from an early age. All male are expected to enter priesthood at least once. Training may last few months or a life time. Boys are taught that completing this training well help parents earn merit, especially their mother who can not become a monk her self. Most young men join the priesthood upon completing their education, usually around the age of 20.
Priesthood & the Ordained Life
The first step into becoming a priest is tonsure, tonsure represents the renouncing of ones worldly desires and giving up all worldly possessions, this is signified by having ones hair cut and shaved. The family one by one participates in cutting the hair while the priest completes the task by shaving the head and eyebrows. After tonsure the ordained wears a white gown which represents purity and innocence, then he leaves to the temple accompanied be an entourage of family and neighbors, they travel familiar roads and share memories of the ordained life. During this welcoming ceremony a Buddhist sutra or oath eco’s out of the temple. The ordained meets with the high priest, who shares some thoughts and provides guidance. The priest then enrobes him and then behind the alter he changes into his saffron colored ropes for the first time. Because this is difficult for a beginner the ordained is aided by another monk. This is the beginning of a solitary inner journey, a struggle to reflect of his very being. In Thailand monks are treated with great respect when they meet with the public the monks are seated on an elevated platform so that their head remain above the ordinary people. As the ceremony comes to an end the ordained and his parents share a new relationship, they have gained merit through the young monk’s act of devotion. The first day of the new priest begins before sunrise. After reading his morning sutras he and the other priest will travel the area begging for alms. The priests usually walk barefoot for a month or two. The entire dietary needs of a priest are met by the Tam boon they receive. When the new priest receives his first tam boon, it is from a biased believer, a stranger whose name he not know. After begging for alms the priests return to the temple for breakfast. After that the monks clean the grounds and eat again at 11, after noon monks a strict to drinking only water. In the late after noon time the monks read sutras and prepare for the next day. In Thai society answering the priesthood is a right of passage and a mark of a full fledged man. Each day the journey would be a measure of respect for himself and for the traditions of his country, and faith.
May faith be yours for a better life