Cutting hair and eyebrows before becoming a monk
While I have been in Thailand, I have witnessed a number of ordination ceremonies. These have been mainly for my former students when they turned twenty. It is traditional in Thailand for adult males to become ordained as monks for a short period of time. People believe that you are not a full man until you have been ordained. Some people, who have work commitments, only stay as a monk for 15 days. Others remain as monks for three months during the Buddhist Rain Retreat. It doesn’t really matter. However, if you are a government official, you are allowed full paid leave to become a monk. Though I presume there must be some kind of time limit. I know some people who ordained for a short period but ended up staying for years.
Parading around the town of Paknam
Over the last few days, there have been a mass ordinations of monks nationwide in order to celebrate H.M. The King’s 80th birthday in December. In total there were 7,476 Buddhist men being ordained. There were 89 men from each of the 75 provinces and then also 89 men from each of the main temples in Bangkok: Wat Bonornnivet, Wat Saket, Wat Chanasongkhram, Wat Paknam, Wat Trimitwittayaram, Wat Suthatthepvararam, Wat Phrachetupon Wimolmangklaram, Wat Yannawa and Wat Rama 9. An American friend of mine was being ordained at the same time though he wasn’t counted as one of the 7,476. The 89 men from Samut Prakan came from all over the province. On the morning of Thursday, each temple held the hair shaving ceremony. For this I went to Wat Chaimongkol where my friend would be living as a monk. Then, in the afternoon, everyone came together at Wat Pichai in the city centre, for some chanting and also for the parade around the town.
Then, on Friday morning, all 89 men, wearing white clothes, went back to Wat Pichai for the mass ordination. There was a lot of important people at this ceremony. Including the governor and police chief. Some of their staff were also being ordained on this day.
Ordination ceremonies that I have been to before usually only took an hour or so. However, as there were so many people, we were there for nearly three hours. After the presenting of the robes and some more chanting, it came the time for the men to put on the monk’s robes. This of course is not that easy and they had to have plenty of help from other monks that had already been ordained.
After some more chanting and a sermon it was almost time for the monks to have their last meal of the day. At this stage, all of the men had been ordained as novices. The building that this ceremony was taking place in wasn’t a sacred place. So, what they had to do was go back to their individual temples in the afternoon in order to complete the ceremony.