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Mon 24 Apr 2017
Making Merit on My Mother's Birthday
Written by Panrit "Gor" Daoruang   
Tuesday, 20 February 2007 19:03
Giving alms on one's birthday was first introduced in the reign of King Rama IV, who gave alms to monks while he was in monkhood. The King continued the practice even after his ascension to the throne. The nobility and court officials followed suit, and it has since become a tradition to give alms as a part of a person's birthday celebration.
On my mother's birthday, we went to make merit at our local temple. We took with us some food and clothes for the monk. In the picture the monk is chanting to us and we are listening to him. We also pray as well, it makes us get some of the merit he's giving to us. Sometimes the monk chanted with a fan in front of his face but sometimes he didn't. He chanted for about 10 minutes long!

In the past when lunar calender was used, birthdays were marked by the eclipse of the moon. As international calender came into fashion, the celebrant's age plus one determines the number of monks to recieve the alms. The additional age is meant to help lengthen the life of the celebrant. For instance. if a person is celebrating his 20th birthday, 21 monks will be invited to receive alms. Some people, however, consider it auspicious to give alms every week on the day they were born. A person born on a Wednesday may offer alms every Wednesday, for instance, based on that belief. This is called "Individual day alms-giving". Others may invite nine monks to dine at home on their birthday in the belief that No.9 brings good luck, as the Thai people equate it with progress. After receiving the monks' blessing and serving them food, the birthday celebrant may give alms to the poor or release birds or fish as merit-making activities. Yet other people may opt for a bigger project, such as donating money or land for the construction of a hospital or other worthy causes.

The monk started by putting the fan in front of his face and saying the three "refuge" formulas of the Buddha: "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in his Law, and I take refuge in his Brotherhood of monks." We repeated these word by word. Then he said the five precepts of the Buddhist religion: "I undertake to abstain from killing. I undertake to abstain from stealing. I undertake to abstain from committing adultery. I undertake to abstain from lying. I undertake to abstain from alcoholic drinking." We repeated these words after the monk. Then he removed his fan and placed it nearby. He finished by chanting from the sacred texts. He did this for our welfare and to disperse ills and disasters.

My mum is giving a monk useful things such as medicine, monk's rope, toothpaste, tea, coffee etc. In the picture on the right, my mother is pouring sacred water into a cup. Can you see my father and brother touching my mother to get some of the merit!