Thursday, July 25, 2013

Morning Almsgiving in Vientiane

Another exciting activity we had in our SSEAYP International General Assembly (SIGA) in Laos was the almsgiving. It is a practice for the Buddhist religion to share food, incense, flowers, fruits, rice and money for the monks. We had the ceremony early in the morning infront of the Don Chan Palace Hotel. We assembled first by forming two lines by placing mats and we knelt down. We put the the food and fruits in golden bowl. 

Almsgiving is called tak bat in Laos. It is the respect given by a lay Buddhist to a Buddhist monk. It is presumed as a charity but its more like a symbolic connection to the spiritual realm. It is a way to show humbleness in the presence of the secular society. This humble act establishes connection of the human to the monk. It is an act of virtue that exists in regions and present in other religions such as Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. 

A few minutes later, the monks arrived in queue and went almsround. They are clad in saffron and walks silently in single file with the older monk first. They carry with them a large lidded bowl attached to a strap hanging from their shoulder. They passed us one by one to collect the alms. We were advised not to touch their alms bowl in putting inside the food. Aside from the food and fruits, we also gave away sticky rice placed in a small woven container but just a scoop for every monk. Lastly, the water was then poured into a plant or tree by the almsgiver and made a wish. 

This almsgiving ritual is done in silence. I have observed that no one talked while the monk walked in meditation. The ritual establishes the symbiotic relationship between the monk and the almsgiver. The monk needs the food while the almsgiver needs spiritual redemption.

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