Mass Ordination of Monks at Wat Phra Dhammakaya

At the crack of dawn this morning, I was back at Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani Province. I was last there for the meditation workshop for female Buddhists (see here).  This picture shows the extraordinary dome that is a wonderful backdrop to many of the pictures that I have taken here. Lit up like this at dusk you can see that it is not a smooth dome.  In fact, it is covered with 300,000 small Buddha images. Inside the dome there are even more and when complete, they aim to have 1 million images.

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Over the past few weeks, a massive project has been organized nationwide entitled “100,000 Monk Mass Ordination Program for Buddhist Rains Retreat”.  I have seen quite a few posters and billboards saying something like “If you were born a male then you should ordain as a monk for at least one phansa”. Others said that you should “ordain for your mother”.  The annual Buddhist Rains Retreat, called Phansa in Thai, starts next week. Traditionally, men ordain as monks for the three months of the Rains Retreat.

When you ask someone how long they have been a monk, you don’t ask “how many years” but instead “how many phansa”. Meaning, how many periods of the Buddhist Rains Retreat have they spent as a monk. This is important as it dictates proper seniority. When monks go out on an alms round or sits chanting at a ceremony, it is the monk that has seen the most Rains Retreats that is the senior and leads the way.The reason that it is called a Rains Retreat is because by now we are well into the rainy season. For the next three months, monks must stay in their temples and cannot move around or even be disrobed.

This morning I took many pictures of the men wearing white clothes holding onto the robes of a monk. At 6 a.m. they took part in a procession around the dome. They then knelt down and prostrated in a show of respect to the 300,000 Buddha images. The picture below shows an estimated 20,000 men who had come to this temple to be ordained. The same event was also happening at other temples all around Thailand. In fact, I left this one early to go and take pictures at a Hilltribe Ordination at the Marble Temple in Bangkok. I will tell you about that one later.

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