Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Songkran Festival

(Center of the temple where you could participate in different activities.)

Last Sunday was the Thai, Cambodian, Laotion New Year celebration at our temple. I think the actual dates were 4/13 through 4/15. But here in United States, we usually celebrate holidays on Sundays to make it easy for people to attend. Now, I am not Thai and cannot give you info on how the holiday is celebrated. But I believe that people usually splash water on each other on the streets in Thailand. Here at the temple we couldn't have that. Instead people offered monks blessings by pouring water on their hands.

The day started with the monks going on alms-round. Thai Forest Tradition monks cannot take food that's not offered to them. Following a strict rule given by the Buddha. This way their time won't be spent on thinking about eating and can focus more on meditation. Also this prevents any monk going off into the wild and beomce hermit like. They rely on the community and in return they can offer knowledge they gain from their practice.

After going around and accepting rice from people, the monks went into the dining hall. It's really a multi-purpose building that's called Sala. After the monks took their seats, people passed around more food offerings to them. There can be an overwhelming amount of food on a special day.

After the offerings the monks chanted blessings for everyone. Then the Abbot gave a short sermon while the other monks started on their meals. The monks only eat one meal a day and it has to be done before noon. Again, the reason is so that they spend more time on their meditation practice.

After the sermon the people were free to go about other activities. Many people donated food and set up stalls with enough free food for everyone attending. I found two college students who just happened to come in to observe the religious practice on this day. So I ended up going around with them explaining the activities as best as I could. The pouring of water on monks' hands happened after the meal. Unfortunately I had to leave early and could not participate or take pictures of it.

(People making offerings to the Buddha. Flowers, incense, candles and gold leaves.)

(People enjoying delicious food.)

I got to the temple Saturday afternoon. I wanted to see if I could spend some time meditating. I had been experiencing some agitating feelings. Don't know what they were but it was difficult to be tranquil. It so happened that the nuns and other people wanted to make a major offering to the temple. We eneded up staying at the nun's quarter for almost three hours. Since I couldn't understand what they were saying, I sat meditating. I was surprised that the agitations that I felt througout last week did not cause any trouble at all. But legs didn't like sitting on hard floor that long. LOL

Sunday morning after chanting it was another hour of mediation. It was truly wonderful. My legs didn't give me any trouble. I was able to stay focused. I need to be more disciplined and meditate more at home.


Agnes said...

This is interesting ... and I learned so much about the monks. Thanks.
Now about meditation ... that's something I am not able to do! Not that I am not able to remain quiet and silent ... but once I do that I'll fall asleep real quick! You are not meditating if you are asleep, right? LOL!

Jason said...

Ummm... Only highly advanced meditators can sleep and be mindful at the same time. I'm not joking either. :-)

I had problems staying awake in the beginning also! I just drifted into dreamland when I got so relaxed. But if you keep trying, you will be able to get into a meditative state fast enough that you are not troubled by sleepiness. In fact you feel more alert after the meditation. Some meditators only sleep four hours a day! Now, only if that were true for me. I would be able to do so much more knitting! LOL

I had done a lot of celebrating Buddha's birth/Awakening/passing at Chinese temples in the past. So I am very familiar with bathing the statue of baby Buddha too. This should be celebrated at the Thai temples around May 12. But it's a different style.