A Glimpse of Thai Culture; My New Temple Home

Posted by SammyK on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:47 AM | Comments

The uncomfortable 2.5 hour bus ride came to a stop in front of the temple gates just outside of Fang, Thailand.

I was greeted at the gate by Graham, a Scottish buddhist in charge of the Monk For A Month program. He grabbed one of my bags and lead me inside the temple walls.

I had to lean in to hear what he was saying despite the fact that he was speaking loudly because the air was thick with the piercing screeching sounds of thousands of Thai bugs that put saccades to shame.

Graham gave me a quick tour of the temple.

Then he showed me my new living quarters.

As with all covered areas, you must take your shoes off before you enter.

My new room is simple.

And the bathroom is even simpler.

There's currently no running water so that means, bucket showers and bucket flushes. The water is brought in by the novice monks in large containers.

Temple life is slow. But entertaining.

The other day this monkey came up to me and grabbed my camera string.

So I tied him to a tree.

Just kidding. One of the novice monks did.

Three times a day a woman on a motorbike pulls up and drops my dinner off.

It's usually quite tasty and consists of rice or noodles and some kind of meat. It's usually accompanied by fresh fruit.

Each morning I'm given a few hours lecture on Buddhism. It's really interesting to learn so much about what most Thai people hold so near and dear to their hearts.

Buddhism can be applied to one's life as a "way of life" or as a religion. It seems like most people here apply it as a religion.

Buddhism has a number of rules everyone is expected to follow that they call "precepts". A lay person is only expected to follow the first 5 precepts:

1) Refrain from causing harm to any living creature. (Killing)
2) Refrain from taking what is not given. (Stealing)
3) Refrain from sexual immorality.
4) Refrain from false speech. (Gossip, lying)
5) Refrain from becoming intoxicated.

These rules are really the moral foundation to nearly all Thai people.

If someone wants to spend several days meditating and chanting, they might change their wardrobe to all white, shave their head and take on 3 additional precepts:

6) Refrain from eating at the wrong time. (No meals after noon)
7) Refrain from dancing, singing or beautifying the body with perfumes and cosmetics.
8) Refrain from comfy bedding.

On Friday, I'll be taking on the additional three (which is also when I'll be getting my head shaved). I know you've been waiting to see shaved head pics, but you'll have to wait until at least Friday.

Precepts 7 and 8 I'm pretty much already doing. I'm not busting any West Coast Swing moves in the temple (although it has an amazing open dance floor, so dancing on it was the first thing that popped into my head when I went in). And my bed is just basically a low wooden table with a thin mat on top.

This temple houses many novice monks. Novice monks take on two additional precepts to the 8.

9) Refrain from using or touching money.
10) Refrain from using high seats.

Since they can't touch money, they can't buy themselves something to eat. So what do they do? They rely on the support of the local community.

Each morning the novice monks go into the town to collect alms.

They walk up to a house that regularly gives them food and wait a few seconds for a food-baring person to come out.

Without a word the food-baring person will take off their shoes and give each monk a small bag of homemade food. Then they will step back and kneel before the monks to receive a blessing.

As the monks give their blessing through chanting, the kneeling person might pour out water to share the good merit that they received by giving the monks food with an ancestor or family member who as recently passed away.

Once the chanting has ceased, the monks quietly walk away.

After hitting up about 5 or 6 houses, they bring the grub back to the temple and dig in.

The Monk For A Month program is run by "The Blood Foundation" which is an organization that provides aid to refugees in Thailand. Yesterday we spent the whole day going from one tiny village to another checking out the programs that The Blood Foundation founded.

Most of the people receiving direct benefit from the programs are kids. So I'll sign off today by leaving you with some cute pictures of said kids.

P.S. Internet here is sketchy at best. The temple has WiFi, but apparently it's down right now. So I have to walk down to the nearest internet cafe which is always packed with kids playing computer games. Today I went in and got about 45 minutes of internet access before it cut out for several hours.

It's fun trying to be a monk and run an internet business out of a tiny town with sketchy internet service.

I’m Sam “SammyK” Powers. Freelance PHP coder, West Coast Swing Dancer, and Linguist who loves to travel around the world.

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