Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making Merit: Morning Monks

Husband and wife making morning merit at a canal in Amphawa
For well over 2,500 years Buddhist monks have made their morning rounds, just as Buddha himself did. Collecting alms is how the monks survive. The tradition is strictly outlined: they're not permitted to ask for donations of any kind, so if nobody gives them food they simply don't eat that day. Fortunately there are enough of us who don't live as good a life as we'd like to so there are usually plenty there trying to clear their slate (or conscience) by providing for them.

In villages, towns and cities throughout Thailand you'll see them on foot (if you're up early enough) but in Amphawa and places with active waterways you'll also see them in their canoes, paddling their way from spot to spot, pulling in to shore when they see someone along the way waiting to make an offering.

Early - and I mean early - one morning my friend knocked on my cabin door to wake me up, reminding me that I'd wanted to make merit at the side of a nearby canal.  "The monks tend to come through early," he said, so up I got, and with nothing more than coffee to hold body and soul together we rode off to two different spots: one the main night market canal and another far more minor local waterway.

While there were shops with bundled items for sale - like the in the photo below - many folks make donations of flowers, fruit, vegetables, home-prepared dishes and, of course, small amounts of money.

Women are not permitted to touch a monk (if they do the monk must undergo a "cleansing" ceremony) so any offerings from females are put into a container that serves as the go-between during the exchange, as in the top photo.

It's a nice way to spend the early morning, and I don't ever get tired of it.  So much nicer than being held captive in a church and having a plate come by, don't you agree?

Along the "night market" canal

I've done this in many parts of the country, so we'll revisit this again - but with the flooding situation there now I've wondered how their morning rounds have been effected.  News photos have shown the monks shoulder to shoulder with everyone else, working around the clock to save one area or another - as you'd expect.  It's certainly a mess there now.

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