Chanting and a Sermon

I told you yesterday about the first steps Nattawud took to become a monk by shaving his hair and eyebrows. After that he went for a ride around the neighbourhood to announce to the spirits that he was about to become a monk. Back at the temple, he went straight to the sala which is a kind of a large meeting hall. As you can see, this place has Buddha images. People will come here to listen to the monks chanting and also to listen to a sermon. You can just see the pulpit on the left of this picture. However, ordinations cannot be held in this hall. This will take place in the bot which usually houses the main Buddha image. The difference is that the boundary of the bot is marked by sacred stones called semas. You will probably see them in the photos tomorrow of the parade around the ordination hall. Don’t ask me about the dog in the picture. I have no idea whether it had official duties during the chanting. However, at one stage it did get up on the raised platform. No-one seemed to mind.

If you have ever witnessed monks chanting you might have spotted that there always seems to be nine of them. Nine monks went to Nattawud’s wedding. Nine monks went to bless his aunt’s new house. The number nine is seen as an auspicious number so that is why we have nine monks. After the chanting had finished, everyone presented the monks with a traditional offering of incense, a candle and a flower. You can just see that in the left picture that the woman is placing her offering on a piece of cloth. That is because women are not allowed to have direct contact with a monk. Also notice that the man behind her is holding onto her blouse. He is doing this because he wishes to receive some of the merit that the woman is making.

The final chanting is shorter and is basically offering blessings to everyone. This is when people take part in a ceremony called kruat nam. What is happening here is that a portion of the good merit they have just made is being passed on to someone else not present. This could be a living person, though quite often they are doing it for dead ancestors. They do this by slowly pouring water over the index finger of either their right or left hand. At the same time they have to think clearly of the person or persons they are passing the merit on to. They might also murmur something in Pali or Thai.

Once the chanting was finally over, most of the monks then left the hall. Then Nattawud lit a candle and incense sticks in front of another shrine. This one was at the base of the pulpit where the monks deliver their sermons. You cannot really see in the small pictures, but at the base of the pulpit are all the items which will be used in the parade the following day.

The monk then chanted a sermon for about half an hour. He read this not from a book but from words written on palm leafs. I asked Nattawud before it started what the monk would preach about. He just said that he will talk about the importance of family and parents and that the monk will be doing his best to make him cry. Judging by some of the pictures, there were certainly some tears in his eyes.

That concluded day one of the preparations for the ordination ceremony. Some people do everything in one day. However, for Nattawud, this was split over two days. For the actual ordination, many more people will turn up.

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