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Thu 27 Apr 2017
I Was a Novice Monk
Written by Panrit "Gor" Daoruang   
Friday, 09 February 2007 01:44

When my grandfather died, I ordained as a nehn or novice monk. In Thai this is called buat nah fai which means ordination in front of fire. Thai people believe when they die they will go to paradise by holding on to a monk's robe. So I became a monk to help my grandfather go to paradise. My grandfather was cremated about seven days after I became a monk. Most boys, like my younger brother, are monks for only one or two days. But I was a novice monk for a month because it was the school holidays.

I was a novice monk at Yohthin Phradit Temple next to my grandparents' house. When I first heard I was going to be a monk I felt a little scared. But later I was more happy about it. Before the ordination ceremony I had to learn a lot of things. For example the 10 Precepts: don't kill, steal, have sex, lie, drink beer and wine, eat after noon, sing and dance, wear hats or watches, sleep on a soft bed and accept a lot of money. I had to learn this in Pali which is an old language and very difficult to say. Older monks have to learn and keep 227 Precepts.

The big day for me was when I was ordained. I felt scared and excited. I went to the temple with my family and relations. First thing they did was shave off my hair and my eyebrows. Everyone took turns to cut a piece first. Then a monk finished it. We then went to the main chapel for the ordination ceremony. During the ceremony the monk said some things to me and I repeated them in Pali. I did not understand the words I was using. I also had to say the 10 Precepts. Then I was taken outside to change into the monks robes. A monk helped me put on the robe because it was difficult for me to do. Then we went back in to finish the ceremony.

Afterwards, the monk took me with my parents to the place where I will sleep. In Thai it is called kuti. Mine was a little wooden building with three rooms. I shared it with two monks, Phra Noo and Phra Mongkhon. Upstairs were two bedrooms and the living room was downstairs. Phra Mongkhon slept downstairs. There was a t.v. (with cable t.v.), play station, radio, bookshelves, fridge, sink, kettle and clock. My bed was a thin mattress on the floor and a pillow. Outside was a bathroom and a toilet. I was very surprised when I saw the monks playing games on the Play Station. My parents didn't stay long and I was soon alone. I felt a little scared but the monks were kind to me. We played some games and then I went to bed at about 9 p.m. I was very hungry because we are not allowed to eat after noon.

The picture on the left is when we became a novice monk. On the right I am listening to the monk chanting at my grandfather's funeral.

On the first day, the monks woke me up at 5.00 a.m. They told me to go and take a bath and put on my robes. We then had to meditate inside our kuti. I had never done this before, so they had to show me what to do. I sat down cross-legged and closed my eyes. I then repeated after the monk in Pali. I didn't understand the words at the time, but he told me the meaning later. Meditation helps you feel calm. We did this for about 30 minutes.

At about 6 o'clock we left the temple for bintabat. This is when monks go walking around the village for alms-giving. I went with Phra Noo and a dek wat, a temple boy who came to help carry the food. Phra Mongkhon went a different way. We walked down the same roads everyday. We were not allowed to wear shoes. My feet hurt and I had a lot of blisters. We stopped many times for people to give us food and drink. They waited outside their house for us and then called us to come over. When they gave the food to us we are not allowed to say "thank you". When people give to the monks it is called tam bun. They do this to make merit. We say a blessing to them and then go on walking down the road. We don't carry the food ourselves, we give it to the dek wat. After about one hour our black alms bowl and four cloth bags were very full.

This is my kuti where I stayed while I was a novice monk. The monks are getting dressed, ready to go out.

Back at the temple, we chose which food we wanted to eat for breakfast and lunch. We then ate whilst the dek wat cleaned our kuti. After we had finished, the dek wat ate his share. Sometimes he gave some to the dogs and cats that lived in the temple. The dek wat also had to wash the dishes. I watched t.v., played video games and slept for a while. We had lunch at about 11.30 a.m. All monks have to finish eating before midday. We are not allowed to eat in the afternoon and evening, but we can drink milk.

Most days were the same. I watched t.v., played video games, listened to the radio and read a cartoon book. Sometimes I went out to a local shop to buy more cartoon books. If I went out in the morning I sometimes bought a snack to eat. But I was not allowed to do that in the afternoon. Sometimes my parents came to visit me in the morning. They gave me food for breakfast and lunch. On those days I did not go out into the village. My parents had to wai me, which is how we show respect in Thai. I felt shy because usually I wai my parents when I go to school and when I come back home. But this time they had to wai me because I was a novice monk. I was not allowed to wai them back. To wai, you put your hands together up to your chest and then bow your head down.

My mother is giving me some food. I have to eat alone because I am young, I am just a novice monk but they are monks. There is a rule which says: "novice monk cannot eat together with the monk" I think.

In the evenings, I usually took a bath at about 8 p.m. Then I meditated with Phra Noo and Phra Mongkhon for about 30 minutes. I didn't like meditating because it was very boring and uncomfortable sitting still on the ground. I then went to bed straight away because we had to get up early in the morning.

On the last day my parents came to pick me up. We had a special ceremony first called seauk. I had to repeat after the monk some words in Pali like before. I also had to change my robes and put on my shorts and t-shirt. I was happy to leave because I could now eat after lunch. I did not really enjoy myself but I was happy that I could help my grandfather.