How to Become a Thai Monk: Preparation, part 3 Posted by palmisano on Oct 28, 2013 in Culture
[This article is a continuation of a series of articles on becoming a Thai Buddhist monk.]
Preparing for งานบวช ngaan1 buad2 is not much different from preparing for a wedding. It is an entire family affair where everyone gets involved and helps out. You need to have ‘rented’ a temple, donations for monks, a full meal ready for all the guests, musical instruments, flowers, etc.
But I do not have a Thai family, or even any family member less than half a continent away, so that complicated things. Fortunately I am well liked at the temple and everyone there got together to make it happen. They prepared the food, bought the flowers, brought the music, and helped with the donation costs. They were really great and I really appreciated everything. =)
Note: I was told that a typical donation in the US is $30 per monk. $20 if you are poor, or $40 if you are rich. Don’t worry too much about it – if a monk judges you by the money you give him, he’s failed at being Buddhist.
I was told that in Thailand, sometimes less-than-moral people would become a monk as a profitable venture. They’d collect donations from their entire extended family, get free food from the temple, then leave the monkhood a week or so later. Or they’d stay as a monk and continue to amass inappropriate donations while having free food and housing. A year never goes by where some infamous monk-gone-bad isn’t in the media.
I will admit I got a *lot* of money in donations. But as soon as I left the monkhood, I donated every penny back to the temple. They gave me a receipt for tax purposes, so the tax refund should cover my pre-monk expenses like the sleeping bag and monk sandals.
Anyway, like a wedding, there are many ways the ceremony can be done. It could be made as a quite quick affair without the food, extended family, and friends. And honestly if I become a monk again I will do it that way. But for my first time I wanted it to be as traditional as possible. The chanting is really the only required part.
I decided to separate my hair shaving ceremony to be the night before the main ceremony. Usually it involves family and praying, with mom and dad shedding tears, but for me it just involved friends and food (given the lack of a Thai family). After the ceremony, my students (who learn Thai from me) all came with homemade Thai dishes. I never thanked them enough, but I really appreciated it. =)
Also, refuse the powder after your head is shaved. Some people get itchy heads after the shaving so the powder provides relief. But it turns your head green!
The advantage of shaving the night before is that it relieves stress for logistics. Moving into the temple the night before is better than rushing out the house through traffic in the morning, worried that you forgot something. And being there allows you to rehearse once more with the monks before the next day.
While I do have video of most of my ceremony, the sound quality isn’t good enough to hear the chanting. But going onto youtube there are other videos posted. This quality video is a bit too long, but it’s 90% similar to what my ceremony was like. The main difference was the hair cutting part . . . which just looks strange the way they did it with all those women. I also didn’t have a monk use a cellphone in the middle of the ceremony (wtf?!).