On the 50th day of my mother’s death, Brandon and I joined my aunt (my mom’s friend) and her daughter at Wat Padhammachart temple in La Puente. The Wat (temple) has a morning schedule for us expat Thais to come in and “make merits” by offering lunch to the monks as well as a mini version of food alms, Tak Baht.
Traditionally, the monks will walk through the neighborhood at dawn with metal bowls (Baht) for food alms. Residents will be ready with their meals at hand. Back in the days, before plastic bags, rice and entree will be spooned directly into the bowl. Tak is to take a spoonful. So Tak Baht is literally put a spoonful into the metal bowl! Later on, it becomes baggies of meals or canned goods, but the concept is the same. The monks return to the temple when they will find more folks waiting there with more food and supplies. The monks will then eat their brunch, their only meal of the day, all before 11 a.m.
Being in the US, Tak Baht has been tailored to be a mere representation of the actual traditions. But we’ll take what we can get over here!
We arrive at the temple around 9:30 a.m. with our foods and settle in to the main hall. If you didn’t bring anything, you can make a donation and the temple will provide you with some provisions. The monks take their seats and we say a little pray. Then small bowls of steamed rice are passed around so everyone has one as we line up around the room. The monks now walk through the room so we can put a spoonful of rice in their Baht.
After that, we offer the rest of the food to the monks the way people do once the monks return to the temple after the alm walk.
A group of Thais also arrange for a monthly “Tak Baht in the Park”, as I found out through my aunt who has been doing it for a long time. Every last Sunday of the month, a few monks are shuttled in from temples around the area. Plastic tarps were set up in a round on the grass. And you do what we did at the temple. All done in 20 minutes as the monks have to be shuttled back to the temples to conclude their morning schedule of receiving food and provisions and eat before 11.
I am now starting to join my aunt on this monthly Tak Baht in the park routine. And of course, this upcoming Sunday being only my second time, I didn’t quite remember.
So when I was going over our weekend schedule with Brandon yesterday, he caught that I completely omit my new Sunday commitment.
“Wait a second. Don’t you have that thing you need to go with Aunty Tim on Sunday morning? You know, duck butt?”
Tak Baht. Duck Butt. Okay. Close enough. At least he remembers how it sounds like.
After we caught our breath from giggling, Brandon pointed out some more logic to this bird anatomy relevancy.
“You know how you put your head to the floor when you pray? [What we call graab.] Your butt is sticking up like a duck’s. So…there you go. Duck butt!”
He does have a point there.