Every morning in Buriram and all over Thailand, hundreds of thousands of people dutifully rise around 5.00 am to give food to local passing- by monks.
No matter what the weather conditions, even in winter, the monks travel barefoot to collect a bowlful of something to eat.
Bowls in hand, they humbly accept the gift of food each morning.
Many miles are often travelled by the monks to carry out this daily tradition.
Why is this done?
To us laymen it’s easy to assume this is a sort of charity towards monks. In fact we would be quite wrong in thinking this. Giving food to monks is certainly not charity as we would normally know it anyway.
Containing great significance within Thai culture, this simple act operates on a number of levels that go way beyond an ordinary charitable deed.
Firstly, monks are believed to be on a higher spiritual level than others. By giving to a being of a higher spiritual level you are making a spiritual connection with that higher being. Thereby moving you closer to that higher level.
Respect and Humility
Respect and humility are highly revered virtues within the Buddhist religion.
Offering a meal is seen as a display of those virtues. Respect is being shown through giving and humility through expecting nothing in return.
Consequently, once again, you are moving towards a higher spiritual level.
To Buddhists, performing good selfless deeds is termed as “making merit”. Making merit is about the accumulation of good deeds in this life. Those good deeds shall carry through to your next life where you shall be rewarded.
The more merit you can make to others in this life, the better your next life will be (Karma). Donating food to monks in a selfless manner and with the right intention is deemed as a merit gained.
Giving food is seen as the first step to Nirvana.
Nirvana, where all desire (ego) has disappeared and a complete spiritual awakening is experienced, is the state of spiritual enlightenment that all Buddhists aspire to.
Giving food is the beginning of this journey to enlightenment.
The more you give the wealthier you become. As you give more you become more spiritually wealthy and are growing into a higher spiritual being.
So there you have it. It’s not, as it may have seemed, an ordinary act of charity at all.
It is an act of selflessness that moves the giver to a higher spiritual level, gains merit points for the next life, begins the journey to Nirvana, and increases overall spiritual wealth.
A very complex and meaningful act indeed.
I hope you enjoyed that little insight and we hope to bring you more insights into Thai Culture and traditions in the near future.
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