The Procession around the Temple

We are now getting very close to Nattawud’s actual ordination or “buat” as they call it in Thai. The first stages included shaving the hair and eyebrows followed by some chanting and a sermon. That was probably the most solemn part of the whole procedure which was only attended by immediate family and close friends. The following morning came the procession around the temple. That was certainly a treat for all the senses. As you can see from the above photograph, Nattawud is still wearing his white clothes. Between his palms he is holding three lotus flowers, three incense sticks and a candle. His now bald head is being sheltered from the sun by a large umbrella which you can see more clearly in the following photos.

The procession got off to a good start with some wailing and the beating of the long drums. Then the hired dancers led the way clockwise around the bot. Do you remember me telling you yesterday about how you can work out which building is the bot by looking for the sema stones? Well, you can just see one on the left hand side of the above picture. If you visit the photo album then you will see more examples.

The procession is made up of family and friends. In addition to the drums and dancers you saw at the front, there was also a brass band half way down! The procession was that long! In the pictures, you can see people carrying some of the things that Nattawud will need as a monk. In the right hand picture, his father is carrying his ceremonial fan and alms bowl. Notice that Nattawud is walking barefoot. Actually, he did tell me originally that he would be carried around the temple. This seems to be the traditional way but you don’t often see it being done these days.

Whenever people walk around the bot, there are two things that they must remember: first you walk clockwise and secondly you do it three times. Someone said to me once that if you walk anti-clockwise then that means someone has died. In July, several hundred students from my school will be doing a similar procession at a temple to mark the start of the Buddhist Lent. I will tell you more about that later. As I have done this quite a few times I was a bit puzzled why the dancers then led everyone around for a fourth and then fifth time! When I asked why, the women said that they were having fun!

Finally, after five trips around the bot, Nattawud stopped at the shrine outside the entrance. He lit a candle and incense stick and then prostrated in front of the shrine. Just before he entered the temple, he threw coins over his shoulder into the crowd behind him. This symbolizes renouncing of his worldly possessions. Although he was only throwing one baht coins everyone was running wildly to pick up as many as they could. The coins are considered lucky.

He then entered the bot with many people grabby on to his shirt tails. I am not sure exactly why they did that, but I guess that they were trying to share some of the merit he was about to make by becoming a monk. For Buddhists, there are many ways you can make merit – but many people believe that the most powerful (or the one that gains you the most Brownie points) is for you to become a monk. As women cannot become a monk themselves, this was a very important even for Nattawud’s mother.

Tomorrow I will tell you what happened during the actual ordination ceremony. Can you guess who forgot their lines? All will be revealed tomorrow!

Visit the Photo album for more pictures of this event.

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