Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Students become monks

In March 12 students of Guanwan Highschool decided to start their holidays with some time as novices in the village temple. We joined the two days event in Baan Prao to watch normal boys change into monks.

You might have seen pictures of Thai monks. They all have very short or no hair. The first step for a boy or man to take is the shaving of his head. Not only the hair, but eyebrows too. Most Thais do not have as much facial hair as Westerners, but it would have to go as well. This changes the appearance of a person noticeably.

The parents will start with cutting a symbolical piece of hair. Then elder relatives and other respected persons, like village elders, teachers or volunteers will be asked to follow suit. The monk to be holds a big lotus leaf in which all cut off hair is collected so it does not fall on the floor.

Then the boys kneel in front of their parents and hand them a plate with three orange candles and white thread and thank them. The parents in return fasten the thread around their sons wrist with good wishes. Now the roles are reversed. The boys take their parents place and the parents return to their seats. Elders and respected people now have a chance to bless the future monks as well and wind a white thread around their wrists.

All boys get a set of white clothes to change into the next day from their parents. The monks to be then go home and have a huge meals with their families. The next morning everyone comes back to school to accompany the boys on their way to the temple. The parents carry the new orange robes and alms bowls to hand them over later.

At the temple the group walks three times clockwise around the bot. The boys now dressed in white and barefoot, holding three lotus flowers in their hands walk under huge orange umbrellas carried by parents or elders.

Now boys and parents moves inside the temple while some friends stay outside to prepare a meal. The boys sit in the front row, close to the monks. After some chanting, the robes are handed over in a traditional way and the monks take the boys aside to help them to change into the robes. Not an easy task to fix all the different items around your body in the proper way.

The boys have to answer some questions by the abbot in Pali. It sounds as if they practiced the questions and answers for some time.

Like most other ceremonies, this one ends with a meal for all guests and the new novices sit together separated from their families.

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