How to Become a Thai Monk: Introduction Posted by palmisano on Sep 23, 2013 in Culture
Have you ever wanted to know what being a Thai monk is like? To find out first hand, I had myself ordained as a Thai Buddhist monk. In the next few articles I’m going to write about what it’s like to be a monk, the early impressions, the difficult ordination ceremony, the 227 rules, the day to day monk life, monk vocabulary, and my insights on ‘pure Buddhism’ versus ‘Thai Buddhism’.
image: I am the monk on the far right (if it wasn’t obvious!).
Monkhood is by far the deepest part of Thai culture a foreigner can experience. It always seemed like a very interesting lifetime experience for me, where I could completely live a different non-materialistic very monastic life. A life of mostly learning, chanting, and teaching. I had wanted to do it for nearly four years. But until now I never felt ready for it – given the huge language and cultural barriers. Taking a significant amount of time off from work isn’t so simple, either. Actually, I never felt quite ready even up to ordination day, but through careful planning and luck the circumstances in my life managed to temporarily align just right to make this happen.
So why did I become a Thai monk? I grew up in a non-strict Protestant family that dragged me to church early every Sunday morning, until finally at age 18 they lost control of me. Throughout my life I have never been religious or spiritual in any way. Ever. I’m a very scientifically minded type of person . . . Regardless, I’m open minded and I’ve made it a point to learn about other cultures and religions since highschool.
I’ve fasted the entire Muslim month of Ramadan, twice, even going down to the local mosque to observe the prayers. My Muslim friends were curious why a non-Muslim would participate in Ramadan, but invited me to break the fast with them regardless. It was definitely a good experience, even from a non-religious point of view.
In more recent years I’ve been going to the local Thai Buddhist temple. I’m not Buddhist either, but it’s a great place to practice speaking Thai and hang out with Thai friends. As an unintentional side-effect I’ve been daily exposed to Buddhist ideology, and some of it has given me new interesting perspectives towards life . . . from a scientific non-religious point of view, of course.
And that’s what makes Buddhism a bit interesting to me. Although many Buddhist followers worship religiously, pray to statues and light incense, are superstitious, have faith and what-not, the religion can also be very pro-science. Buddhism openly promotes thinking, rationale, and logic to explain the world. It also actively promotes and is fundamentally based on non-extremism. When you think of religious extremists and fanatics, Buddhism is likely the last religion that comes to mind, no?
In the following series of articles I’ll explain the formal process of becoming a Thai Buddhist monk, the many rules, and my general experiences.