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Thu 27 Apr 2017
I Was a Novice Monk
Written by Gor   
Tuesday, 02 April 2002 00:00

One of my jobs is taking pictures for a web site called www.paknam.com. It is all about tourist attractions in Samut Prakan province. The other day, I went out to take some pictures in a local temple. While I was walking around, I came across a big group of people. They were standing in a line in front of the main chapel. Then I saw them starting to walk clockwise around the chapel. I stood there and tried to work out what were they doing. Then I saw a man with no hair or eyebrows wearing white clothes walking in the middle of the line. Then I knew that they were doing a ceremony called "Buat Phra" which means "becoming a monk" in English. Watching the ceremony reminded me about my time as a novice.

About six years ago, I was a novice monk for three months during my grandfather’s funeral. The reason I became a novice monk was to help my grandfather go to heaven. That is what Buddhists believe. Actually, it wasn’t only me who became a novice monk. My younger brother did it too. However, he was only a novice monk for about four hours. He stopped because he couldn’t handle the rule for novice monks that says you "can’t eat after midday". He cried to my parents and said that he was very hungry!

It was a very good experience for me while I was a novice monk. I felt like I was living in another world. Everyone respected me and treated me like I was an adult. For example, my parents and everyone had to wai me even though they were older than me. Really, older people are not supposed to wai younger people.

While I was a novice monk, I had to stay in the temple like other monks and novice monks. Luckily for me this temple is near my grandmum’s house so I didn’t have any problems with homesickness. The place that monks live is called a "kuti". The kuti I stayed in was very comfortable. It had lots of modern things that I thought monks weren’t supposed to have. For example, we had air conditioning, play-station games, video and a 24 inch television. It was so comfortable that I didn’t want to stop being a novice monk. I also got lots of money from my family every time they visited me.

But the monk’s life wasn’t as easy as I first thought. I had to get up early at about 4:30am every day to do a morning chant. Then at about 5:30am I had to go out barefoot to get some food. I had to walk for a long way on the rocky road and had to stop every time I saw some people waiting. In Buddhism we believe that giving food to monks is a way to make merit. After they finished giving me food, I had to stand there and chant to them. I had to do that every day. If I didn’t do it, I might not have any food to eat for breakfast.

Returning to the present, the new monk has now gone to the back of the chapel to get changed into his robes. Some monks are helping him because it is very difficult. I go closer to take some pictures. I don’t know why, but I get lots of letters from people asking how to put on the monk’s robes. This monk looks about 20 years old. So he is not a novice like I was. It will be harder for him because he has to keep 227 precepts and not ten like I had to keep. Most Thai men become monks for a short time when they are twenty. I will do this for my mother when I am older. Women cannot become monks so when I become a monk I will be making merit for her and my grandmother.