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Thu 30 Mar 2017
Ordination as a Monk
Written by Richard Barrow   
Thursday, 21 April 2005 01:07

After all the lead up, it was now time for the ordination of Nattawud as a monk. You can see in the above photograph that Nattawud is facing towards the Buddha images and directly opposite the abbot. He is surrounded by 22 monks. I was actually quite surprised how casual the whole affair was. The abbot was just sitting there chatting away and a monk to his right was busy making him a cup of tea. I know for the past week or so that Nattawud was worried that he would forget his lines or do the wrong thing at the wrong time. They had given him a small yellow book which contained all the words for the ordination. Most of this he would repeat after one of the monks, but some sections had been underlined as these ones he had to learn off by heart.

After some introductory chanting, Nattawud came forward on his knees and entered the group of monks. He put the robes down to his left and then did the five-point prostration three times. To do this, your forehead, two forearms and two knees must be touching the floor. He then made an offering of different trays to the monks. Finally, he again placed the robes over his forearms, joined his hands in respect and then started chanting in Pali. That is right, the ordination is not in Thai. They use the ancient language of the scriptures. This is what makes it so difficult. But, the monks around him were very kind and kept prompting him if it looked like he had forgotten his lines. After about five minutes or so, Nattawud took off his white shirt and the abbot placed the amsa (the shoulder cloth) over Nattawud's head covering his left shoulder. He then told him to go with one of the monks to get changed into the rest of the robes.

They then went to the back of the ordination hall behind the Buddha images. I can imagine it is not at all easy to put the robes on. You can see in the left hand picture Nattawud is trying to slip off his white trousers and underpants and still keep some dignity. Notice how the monk smiles at him. I think I am right in saying that the robes consist of four pieces. And as I have mentioned before, underwear, for some reason, is not allowed. Obviously he would have to be careful when he goes back to do his prostrations. The lay people in the audience might get more than they bargained for!

Once he was properly dressed, Nattawud went to kneel down near his family in front of a single monk. Here he requested the Refuges and Precepts. The basic translation goes like: "I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the Dhamma for refuge. I go to the Sangha for refuge." Then the monk informed Nattawud that he is now a samanera (which is like a novice monk). He then told him the ten precepts he would have to keep as a samanera. This was again done in Pali and Nattawud had to repeat after each line. Do you see the guy in white? He has been at Nattawud's shoulder for most of the time. In some of the pictures you can see him making a loud stage whisper whenever Nattawud couldn't quite repeat after the monk.

Here is a rough translation of the ten precepts:

(1) Refraining from killing living beings
(2) Refraining from taking what is not given
(3) Refraining from unchaste conduct
(4) Refraining from false speech
(5) Refraining from distilled and fermented intoxicants which cause carelessness
(6) Refraining from eating at the forbidden time
(7) Refraining from dancing, singing, music and going to see entertainments
(8) Refraining from wearing garlands, using perfumes
(9) Refraining from using high or large beds
(10) Refraining from accepting gold and silver

Nattawud then prostrated three times which concluded the first part of the ordination. This is as far as he got last time when he ordained as a novice monk during the funeral of his grandfather. What happens next will make him a fully fledged monk. I will tell you the rest tomorrow and about the incident which had everyone cracking up with laughter.