Alms Giving to 11,111 Monks

At the weekend, we had a very special event in Samut Prakan. Late on Saturday night the main two roads through Paknam were closed for traffic. An army of people then went about setting up for a mass alms giving the following morning. They set up, in straight rows, an incredible 11,111 seats which was the expected number of monks for the alms giving. The whole event was organized by the Dhammakaya Foundation.

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The seats were set up between the Clock Tower intersection and the police station from where I took this picture. This stretch of road is 200 meters long. For the actual alms route, they laid down a white sheet all the way down Prakhon Chai Road and back along Sri Samut Road. This is an incredible 800 meters long.

In the picture above you can only see the monks seated in the three outbound lanes. They were also on the other side of the road.  I have never seen so many monks in one place before.

The event started with prayers and chanting. I was told that they were praying for the flood victims in Southern Thailand and also for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. This went on for about an hour which allowed me to walk around a bit to get some good pictures from different vantage points.

The picture above was taken from the roof of the police station and is looking towards the clock tower intersection. On the left is the Chao Phraya River. We were very lucky with the weather as there were some storms the night before.

Once the chanting was over, the monks all stood up and filed towards the waiting lay people. Many of them had already been there for several hours. It was dark when I arrived and there were already people setting up their space.

Most people brought dried food along as well as rice. At times like this, it is not a good idea to bring perishables as they will go off quickly. So, things like dried noodles was a popular choice. Much of this dried food will be sent to the monks in the deep south who are unable to leave their temples.

I have taken pictures of Buddhist alms giving before. There are several different kinds. The normal one is the morning alms round when the monks go out to collect alms from people in the neighbourhood. During Buddhist holidays, the monks stay in their temples and set up a long row of bowls. People then put their offerings in the bowls. The monks are elsewhere. A third form of alms giving that I have taken pictures of was a bit like this one for new year. About 100 monks walked down a row of lay people collecting alms as they went.

However, this one was different as there were so many monks and probably something like 50,000 Thai Buddhists. The monks first filed down the rows and it wasn’t until they got to the end did they stop and turn to receive the alms all at the same time. However, even though there was three rows of monks along the entire 800 meter route, there were still more who were just getting up from their seats. It was an incredible sight and a wonderful experience.

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