Nawt was ordained into the Thai Sangha on March 19. It is a traditional rite of passage for him. The idea is that it will prepare him for the rigors of adult life, which will become more difficult grueling on Monday April 9 when he is inducted into the Thai Army as a volunteer. That is a second traditional rite of passage. There are no plans at present for the third rite, which is a wedding ceremony.
This is a photographic essay documenting Nawt’s ordination ceremony.
1.The ordination began with a noisy procession into the precincts of Wat Ba Fang where Nawt was to be ordained by the “bishop” (head of the abbots of the district). The parade was led by elders from Nawt’s village bringing money trees and offerings.
2.Nawt was dressed in white in the role of a prince, reiterating the steps taken by Gautama, the Buddha, from his secular role as prince into the renunciation of those privileges into the higher role as a mendicant monk seeking Dharma-truth.
3.The bishop and most of the congregation were waiting in the assembly hall for the ordinands to arrive. Two boys were to be ordained, Nawt who would be fully ordained into the priesthood and a younger boy who would become a novice.
4.Nawt presented himself to the bishop. He was formally called a “Nag” which is short for Naga, a serpent divinity that protected the Buddha and sought to become a monk according to legend. Only men can be monks, but the Naga was told how to be reincarnated as a man and given honor by having all applicants thereafter called Nagas.
5.A solemn part of the ceremony was when the ordinands took leave of their parents.
6.After presenting saffron colored robes to the bishop, he invested them with the first piece and then gave them instructions about what the roles of an ordinand will entail.
7.Then they retired to be robed. The first of 9 articles was like a sarong.
8.When Nawt was fully robed he and the abbot of Wat Hang Dong where he spent his 15 days as a monk returned to the main part of the assembly hall.
9. The ordinands reaffirmed taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This is the basic vow of all Thai Buddhists.
10.The younger novice presented gifts to the bishop. His ordination was finished.
11.Village and family elders accompanied Nawt to an ordination hall for his solemn vows. Nawt then formally asked to be ordained. The ordination hall is called a “bot” (pronounced like boat).
12.Nawt was told to wait outside for the chapter of 9 priests to decide to accept him.
13.Two priests barred the door with a traditional bound volume of sacred text while they asked him standard questions about his fitness to be ordained.
14.When his answers were acceptable he was formally accepted into the Sangha and he joined the chapter of monks in affirming their vows, which all monks do every fortnight.
15.Nawt’s ordination was over. He was a monk. His first ordained act was to carry his bowl as he left the bot, so that his closest family and elders could make merit by presenting him with rice.
16.On his way back to the assembly hall for the final worship to end the ceremonies, the new priest accepted rice from his grandmothers and elder aunts.
17.The mood lightened as they neared the assembly. Nawt threw hands-full of colorfully wrapped coins to the crowd (and to me). These were collected as sacred souvenirs.
Nawt stayed in the temple in our village for two weeks. He could possibly have stayed for the rest of his life, provided he was not drafted into the army on recruitment day after his 21st birthday. But he was not planning on a religious career as a refuge. He has his life ahead of him.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.