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Thai men becoming monks
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  1. #1
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    I recently read an article by Nattawud Daoruang in the Bangkok Post about him being a novice Thai Monk. I found this article both interesting and fascinating. I am currently a student at the University of Idaho in the United States. We are doing a bit of research on young Thai men becoming monks and the effects on the family. I myself lived in Thailand for two years and have a deep love for the country and people and an interest in the topic of Buddhism and being a monk. I was wondering if you could perhaps answer a few questions for me. This would greatly help our research and add a wonderful dimension to a presentation we will be giving next week.

    What is the main reason young men decide to become a Buddhist Monk?
    What is the average age that young men become novice monks?
    Does the family put pressure on young men to become monks?
    What happens if a young man does not become a monk?
    How important is the family in the Buddhist Religion?
    Is there a designated amount of time that one must be a Monk?
    Does the young man's immediate family do anything different while he is a practicing Monk?
    Does becoming a Monk change the life of the young man, or is it a small part of the Buddhist Religion.
    Does becoming a Monk affect how soon a young man marries or if he marries at all?

    If you could answer any or all of these questions that would be a great help.
    Thank You so much.

  2. #2
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    The above picture is of me when I was a novice monk. I am the one in the middle. The following is the story I wrote for my web site when I was about 12 years old. It is different to the story in the Bangkok Post I wrote this year.

    I Was a Novice Monk

    When my grandfather died, I ordained as a nehn or novice monk. In Thai this is called buat nah fai which means ordination in front of fire. Thai people believe when they die they will go to paradise by holding on to a monk's robe. So I became a monk to help my grandfather go to paradise. My grandfather was cremated about seven days after I became a monk. Most boys, like my younger brother, are monks for only one or two days. But I was a novice monk for a month because it was the school holidays.

    I was a novice monk at Yohthin Phradit Temple next to my grandparents' house. When I first heard I was going to be a monk I felt a little scared. But later I was more happy about it. Before the ordination ceremony I had to learn a lot of things. For example the 10 Precepts: don't kill, steal, have sex, lie, drink beer and wine, eat after noon, sing and dance, wear hats or watches, sleep on a soft bed and accept a lot of money. I had to learn this in Pali which is an old language and very difficult to say. Older monks have to learn and keep 227 Precepts.

    The big day for me was when I was ordained. I felt scared and excited. I went to the temple with my family and relations. First thing they did was shave off my hair and my eyebrows. Everyone took turns to cut a piece first. Then a monk finished it. We then went to the main chapel for the ordination ceremony. During the ceremony the monk said some things to me and I repeated them in Pali. I did not understand the words I was using. I also had to say the 10 Precepts. Then I was taken outside to change into the monks robes. A monk helped me put on the robe because it was difficult for me to do. Then we went back in to finish the ceremony.

    Afterwards, the monk took me with my parents to the place where I will sleep. In Thai it is called kuti. Mine was a little wooden building with three rooms. I shared it with two monks, Phra Noo and Phra Mongkhon. Upstairs were two bedrooms and the living room was downstairs. Phra Mongkhon slept downstairs. There was a t.v. (with cable t.v.), play station, radio, bookshelves, fridge, sink, kettle and clock. My bed was a thin mattress on the floor and a pillow. Outside was a bathroom and a toilet. I was very surprised when I saw the monks playing games on the Play Station. My parents didn't stay long and I was soon alone. I felt a little scared but the monks were kind to me. We played some games and then I went to bed at about 9 p.m. I was very hungry because we are not allowed to eat after noon.

    On the first day, the monks woke me up at 5.00 a.m. They told me to go and take a bath and put on my robes. We then had to meditate inside our kuti. I had never done this before, so they had to show me what to do. I sat down cross-legged and closed my eyes. I then repeated after the monk in Pali. I didn't understand the words at the time, but he told me the meaning later. Meditation helps you feel calm. We did this for about 30 minutes.

    At about 6 o'clock we left the temple for bintabat. This is when monks go walking around the village for alms-giving. I went with Phra Noo and a dek wat, a temple boy who came to help carry the food. Phra Mongkhon went a different way. We walked down the same roads everyday. We were not allowed to wear shoes. My feet hurt and I had a lot of blisters. We stopped many times for people to give us food and drink. They waited outside their house for us and then called us to come over. When they gave the food to us we are not allowed to say "thank you". When people give to the monks it is called tam bun. They do this to make merit. We say a blessing to them and then go on walking down the road. We don't carry the food ourselves, we give it to the dek wat. After about one hour our black alms bowl and four cloth bags were very full.

    Back at the temple, we chose which food we wanted to eat for breakfast and lunch. We then ate whilst the dek wat cleaned our kuti. After we had finished, the dek wat ate his share. Sometimes he gave some to the dogs and cats that lived in the temple. The dek wat also had to wash the dishes. I watched t.v., played video games and slept for a while. We had lunch at about 11.30 a.m. All monks have to finish eating before midday. We are not allowed to eat in the afternoon and evening, but we can drink milk.

    Most days were the same. I watched t.v., played video games, listened to the radio and read a cartoon book. Sometimes I went out to a local shop to buy more cartoon books. If I went out in the morning I sometimes bought a snack to eat. But I was not allowed to do that in the afternoon. Sometimes my parents came to visit me in the morning. They gave me food for breakfast and lunch. On those days I did not go out into the village. My parents had to wai me, which is how we show respect in Thai. I felt shy because usually I wai my parents when I go to school and when I come back home. But this time they had to wai me because I was a novice monk. I was not allowed to wai them back. To wai, you put your hands together up to your chest and then bow your head down.

    In the evenings, I usually took a bath at about 8 p.m. Then I meditated with Phra Noo and Phra Mongkhon for about 30 minutes. I didn't like meditating because it was very boring and uncomfortable sitting still on the ground. I then went to bed straight away because we had to get up early in the morning.

    On the last day my parents came to pick me up. We had a special ceremony first called seauk. I had to repeat after the monk some words in Pali like before. I also had to change my robes and put on my shorts and t-shirt. I was happy to leave because I could now eat after lunch. I did not really enjoy myself but I was happy that I could help my grandfather.

    --------------------------------

    You can see more pictures on my web site by clicking on this link:

    http://www.thailandlife.com/monk.html

    The story in the Bangkok Post is at:

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/education...2/grap0202.htm

    I think most of your questions have been answered but I will have a go at answering the others later today when I have more time.
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  3. #3
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    Oopsie...

    Our school also has a sectionon Buddhism at:

    http://www.thaistudents.com/buddha/

    The following might help you:

    Daily Routine at a Temple

    Two hours before the sun appears on the eastern horizon the pealing of the temple bell signals the time, 4 a.m. In the kuti the monks, having spent the night on a thin mattress under a plain cotton blanket, open their eyes and rise from sleep to start the day. The Buddha said that four hours sleep should be enough for a monk, but nowadays monks generally sleep at least six hours, and when the bell wakes them, there is no hesitation about rising.

    The bell also awakens the dogs and cats that have been taken to the monastery by people who no longer want or can afford to keep them as pets, and who know that the monks will feed them and take care of them. (There is hardly a monastery in Thailand that does not have its resident "temple" dogs and cats.)

    The monks now perform their morning ablutions and don their outer robes. They kneel before the Buddha images in their kuti and pay homage to the Buddha. Then, after whatever housekeeping may be required in and around their lodgings, the monks do their morning meditations, some sitting in their kuti or just in front of them, in the half-lotus position, others practicing the walking forms of meditation.

    When the pre-dawn darkness is dispelled by morning light, the monk leaves the monastery grounds to begin their pindapata, their food-gathering rounds. He walks silently, eyes downcast, barefoot, along the lanes and streets of the adjacent neighbourhood. He carries his alms bowl, often suspended by a sling across one shoulder. He stops only when he is respectfully and quietly addressed by a layperson waiting at the side of the road to place food offerings in his bowl.

    It is an important part of Buddhist belief that one earns merit by providing food (and other necessities) to the monks. Laypersons offer the monks ready-to-eat food of the best quality, such as: fragrant rice or sticky rice, barbecued chicken, pork, fish, curries, soups, as well as cartons of milk, fruit juices, hard-boiled eggs, cakes, cookies, fruits and candies. Some layperson offer food, sometimes along with flowers, every morning. Some do so only on special occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries of the deaths of close relatives or loved ones.

    By 7.30 a.m. the monks have usually completed their rounds. They return to the monastery with (usually) full bowls. Always food is shared with the dek wat, the temple boys who live at the monastery and assist the monks in their housekeeping, in care of the grounds and in running errands. And food is shared with the temple dogs and cats, as well as with anybody else who happens to be around at meal-time.

    After breakfast, the monks resume their meditations, or do their morning chanting, or, in the case of the young novice monks, attend classes in Buddhist intruction, or spend their time reading, or even taking a short nap. At approximately 11 a.m., the monks eat their second meal, finishing it, as prescribed, before noon. This will be their last meal of the day, but they are allowed to have liquid refreshments, important to their well-being in the hot climate. Some monks only take one meal a day.

    In the afternoon, friends and relatives may come to visit, but they do not excessively prolong their visit lest they intrude on the monk's time of solitary meditation, or on his attendance at classes. If not attending classes, monks may read Dhamma on their own or memorise and practice the many chants which are so important to monastic life.

    At 5 p.m., the temple bell peals again, this time to summon the monks to evening devotions at the vihara, after which new and younger monks often attend formal or informal instructional classes. Then all monks retire to their kuti for further meditation before going to sleep.

    Some things will be different in other temples. Some abbots allow their monks to watch t.v. or listen to music on their radios and cassette players and even smoke. Others strictly forbid such activities. Some insist on regular hours of meditation. Some insist on attendance at classes and at twice-daily worship services.

    Information was mainly taken from 'The Monastic Life' by Gerald Roscoe and published by Asia Books.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Glossary:

    kuti - the living quarters of a monk
    pindapata - the monks' early morning round of walking for food and alms
    Dhamma - the teachings of the Buddha
    vihara - a temple
    Suthee "Phong" Buayam
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  4. #4
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    I will answer the following from my own experience. Don't forget I was a novice monk.

    What is the main reason young men decide to become a Buddhist Monk?

    Most of my friends usually become novice monks for a few days when someone in their family dies. My brother has done it three times now. Adult men do it as it is tradition.

    What is the average age that young men become novice monks?

    Children are novices and adults are full monks.

    Does the family put pressure on young men to become monks?

    Maybe not so much now as in the past. But I will become a monk when I am 20 for a short time for my mother and grandmother. It is like I am making merit for them as they can't be monks.

    What happens if a young man does not become a monk?

    I am not sure about the statistics but most Thai males have been monks at one time in their life. I guess their parents would be disapointed if they don't.

    How important is the family in the Buddhist Religion?

    Very important.

    Is there a designated amount of time that one must be a Monk?

    No, anywhere from one day to life time.

    Does the young man's immediate family do anything different while he is a practicing Monk?

    For me my family had to bow down and pay respect to me everytime they met me!

    Does becoming a Monk change the life of the young man, or is it a small part of the Buddhist Religion?

    I think it changes people as it teaches you to live a simple life.

    Does becoming a Monk affect how soon a young man marries or if he marries at all?

    I don't think so.
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