Leaving the Monkhood

Yesterday I went to visit Phra Nattawud at the temple again. He rang to say that the abbot had set an auspicious day and time for him to leave the monkhood. Actually, the day was set for Wednesday but the time could have been anytime between noon and midnight. Originally they were going to do the ceremony at 9.59 p.m. but I asked him if they could move it to the afternoon as it would be easier to take pictures. So, they made it 1.49 p.m. instead. Notice the “9” in the time? It is an auspicious number.

You may be wondering why an auspicious day had to be set for leaving but he could ordain on any day. Well, this is because when you leave the monkhood it is like being born again. If your original birth date was deemed to be unlucky, then you are allowed to use this new time as your birthday. I suppose it is a bit like the Queen of England who has two birthdays. Phra Nattawud’s second birthday is now 11th May at 1.49 p.m.

The ceremony and chanting started with the passing of the sacred ball of white string to the end of the row. This is a kind of way of connecting everyone together and to the alms bowl you can see in the picture. Notice that the candle is lit and is dripping candle wax into the water. The monks are chanting and the energy from this passes down the white string and into the bowl. This water then becomes sacred. The chanting went on for about 20 minutes.

Next Phra Nattawud had to take off his outer robes. This included his belt and so he was only left with his shower robe. You can image he was doing his best to keep this up as he left the kuti to go outside. Don’t forget, monks are not allowed to wear underwear.

Outside, the monk signaled the others to start chanting and then he slowly poured the sacred water over Phra Nattawud’s head. In the bottom of the bowl were some coins worth exactly 99 baht. As these fell out and dropped to the ground, some local kids quickly ran to pick them up. As before, these coins are considered lucky but I guess these kids would be just spending the money on sweets! I suppose by this time I should stop calling him Phra Nattawud. He would now be just Nai Panrit. The old Nattawud would remain as a spirit in the temple and hopefully the new Panrit will have a prosperous future. Back inside the kuti, Panrit offered candles and a garland to each of the monks. And of course a white envelope containing some money.


The monks then started chanting again while Panrit poured water from one bowl to the other. As I mentioned before, this is to pass the merit he has made onto people who are not present. The family monk then gave Panrit a short and stern lecture. He told him that he had been a bad boy in the past and now he must give up that kind of life and look to the future. He must be more supportive of his parents and family and concentrate on his studies. He then banged Panrit on the head, I suppose just to make sure he was listening.

That was about it. After clearing up, he went back to his grandmother’s house to pay respects to his elders. This time they didn’t have to wai him back. That night he had to sleep in the kuti with Phra Daeng. Then in the morning he had to go on the alms round with him as a temple boy to carry his food. Panrit asked me if I wanted to go as well to take some pictures. I smiled and said maybe. He knew what that meant.

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