LUANG PRABANG (NORTHERN LAOS): WEEK 20 JANUARY (COOL AND MISTY IN THE MORNING WITH BRIGHT SUNSHINE IN THE AFTERNOON, 28 DEGREES)
26.01.2017 - 30.01.2017 28 °C
Thomas has had many questions about the Buddhist monks he has observed in Thailand and Laos - here are some of his questions and the answers.
What do Buddhist monks do all day?
Every day before sunrise, monks leave the temples in silent procession to ask for donations from Buddhist devotees (the tradition of collecting alms). They may then attend morning class in the temple before prayer time. The rest of the day might be spent tending to the temple complex or carrying out chores, and then it's final prayers before bed time.
Are monks allowed possessions?
The monastic rules forbid monks to own objects except for...eight things such as three robes, bowl, mosquito net, umbrella, medications etc)
However, today’s monks possess more than that, usually when they are taking residence at a monastery. Computers, televisions, cell-phones and even cars - It doesn’t mean they are ‘allowed’ to possess them, they just do. We saw queues of young monks in Chiang Mai, charging their smart phones at free charging points outside their wat.
Why do monks wear orange robes?
The saffron (for a more appropriate name for the color) robes monk wear dates back centuries. Orange was chosen mainly because of the dye available at the time. The tradition stuck and orange is now the color of choice for Theravada Buddhist followers in Southeast Asia, as opposed to a maroon color for Tibetan monks.
Why don't monks have any hair?
The Indian Prince, who was to become the Buddha, left his palace to seek a way beyond ageing, sickness and death and it is said that one of the first things he did was to shave off his hair and beard and put on the yellow cloth . Buddhist monks always completely shave their head and beard, showing their commitment to the Holy Life of one gone forth into the homeless life.
How young are novice monks?
It's a tradition for all Lao boys to serve some time in a Buddhist monastary during adolescence. Some boys go for only a summer; others spend their entire schooling there. For those who decide to continue as novices beyond their school days, it will usually take at least 20 years to become a full-fledged monk. Inside a monastary, a novice commits to a strict regimen of prayer and study. Many novices learn English and are quite eager to practice it whenever they can. A novice can be as young as eight years old and we saw many novices about Thomas's age roaming the streets of Luang Prabang. Thomas said he couldn't imagine being a novice monk as he has far too much energy to keep still.