Ordination of a Thai Monk II

This is now the final part of the ordination that I was telling you about yesterday. Nattawud had already been ordained as a novice monk about nine years ago during his grandfather’s funeral. This is actually quite common. Every now and then, a boy at school will come in with hair and eyebrows shaved off after being absent for a few days. It usually means the same thing: someone in the family had just died. The ordination of a novice monk is exactly as I described it yesterday. To become a full fledged monk, he had to be given an alms bowl by his family. He then took this to the abbot and requested to become a monk. The alms bowl was then hung over his should and the monk proceeded to teach him the names in Pali of the three robes and of the alms bowl. As he did this, he pointed at each piece. He then ordered Nattawud to go to the far end of the temple and prepare himself for the examination. I was hoping this part would be funny, but the humour came from a completely different direction.

Nattawud stood at the far end with his hands pressed together in a wai. By this time he was sweating. What followed was a close examination to see whether he was fit to become a monk. Basically, he was about to be asked a series of questions in Pali. The first four he must answer “no, sir”. The fifth question is “Are you human?” and he must obviously switch to “yes sir” and continue like that for the remaining questions. We were all waiting with baited breath to see if he would get it right. “Are you human?” No!

Two monks then approached him, I will call them Phra Laurel and Phra Hardy. They then started chanting in Pali which roughly translated as “Listen, Nattawud. This is the time for the truth, the time for what is factual. You will be asked in the midst of the sangha about things which have occurred. Whatever is so should be affirmed. Whatever is not should be denied. Do not be embarrassed. Do not be confused.”

Well, that is what they should have said. But Phra Hardy kept getting his words wrong and they had to keep restarting. Then in the middle of the third or fourth attempt they started having this discussion about what they should be saying. Then Phra Laurel excused himself with a little wai and went back to the abbot to ask permission to consult the book of chanting. We were all laughing at this stage as it was so comical. Anyway, after flipping through a few pages, Phra Laurel came back and the chanting resumed. Then it was the time for the questions:

Do you have diseases such as these….

(1) Leprosy? – no, sir
(2) Boils? – no, sir
(3) Ringworm? – no, sir
(4) Tuberculosis? – no, sir
(5) Epilepsy? – no, sir
(6) Are you a human being? – yes, sir
(7) Are you a man? – yes, sir
(8) Are you free from debt? – yes, sir
(9) Are you exempt from government service? – yes, sir
(10) Do you have your parents’ permission? – yes, sir
(11) Are you fully 20 years old? – yes, sir
(12) Are your bowl and robes complete? – yes, sir
(13) What is your name? – Venerable sir, my name is Nattawud
(14) What is your Pereceptor’s name? – My Preceptor’s name is Venerable..

Then it was finished. He had just about answered correctly though the man in white kept giving him stage whispers. If you are wondering about the human part, then read my earlier blog when I said a naga (serpent) once disguised itself as a human in order to be ordained as a monk.

The two monks then returned to the assembly of monks and chanted that they had examined the applicant and if they were ready, he would like to invite Nattawud to join them. They agreed and Nattawud came forward and prostrated in front of them three times. As he still had his alms bowl over his shoulder, one of the monk had to steady it for him. Nattawud then requested acceptance. The abbot accepted his application and asked the other monks to gather around for further examination.

I should point out that up to this stage I had pretty much free reign to move around and take photographs. Of course I did this in a humble way by continually bowing my head as I walked behind and between people. However, at this stage I had to leave the raised area. Even the back door was bolted and the side windows were shut. Nattawud was then asked the same questions as before. This time he didn’t have the help of the guy in white. No-one was allowed near.

Then more chanting continued which went something like “He is free of obstructing factors. His bowl and robes are complete. Nattawud requests acceptance from the Sangha.” This was then repeated in chant three or four times. Finally he was accepted as a monk! What happened next, was the pouring of water like before to pass some of the merit on to people not present. Then family and friends made merit by making offerings to him. Basically giving him things he would need as a monk.

The whole ordination had taken less than an hour. The lay people then left to eat their mid-day meal. Nattawud, or should I now say Phra Nattawud, went with the other monks to the sala – the place where it all started. By the time I arrived there the chanting had begun and people were preparing to offer food to the monks. I couldn’t see Nattawud anywhere and so I asked where he was? Then I saw him. Of course, there he was on the platform with all the other monks. I hadn’t recognized him. How much he had changed in such a short time.

Phra Nattawud is now living in the temple and will remain there for at least two or three weeks. I will let him settle in before going to see how he is coping with life as a monk sometime next week. It is possible, of course, that he might stay longer. It is up to him. I am hoping not as I have to now take over the internet shop. I really hope he comes back before the summer holidays finish. The thing is, if I have a problem with the shop or accountant I cannot go and ask him any questions. Monks are not allowed to discuss money matters. I cannot even ask him to disrobe and come back!

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