20 YEARS A SIAMESE MONK
Ordination in 1996
20 years a Buddhist monk! In 1996 I came to Thailand with the express intention of ordaining as a Buddhist monk. Here’s how I looked on my passport … handsome fellow at 27 years old:
Some guy I never met before or since wanted in on the merit of shaving my head. The hair is saved on the big leaf, and then floated off on the canal.
Seems like everyone wants in on the action! Ordination is considered very ‘meritorious’, and often people ordain as an offering to their parents (mine were not so keen).
Freshly shaved and ready for the ceremony the next day. Those were real Levis – I left them somewhere, and saw a workman wearing them a few weeks later. I tried to explain that these cost 70 quid, but he did not get it.
My ordination sponsor was Mae Chee Renu, and her friend Khun Boon. I weighed about 67 kilos – I wasn’t sure if they would ordain me or bury me.
Venerable Monthon oversaw the ordination. He’s still there in the temple, in Rajaburi province. The young guy next to me stayed for a few years. The lay woman on the left I still see from time to time – she has a small Abhidhamma school in her house on ekkamai.
Preliminaries before ordination. First you become a regular ‘samana’ which in Thailand means ‘novice’, but in India meant a renunciate monk. After that you take a second ordination as a Buddhist Samana. All fresh and ready for action! One dresses in white to take the 8 precepts before proceeding with the double ordination. It can all be done on the same day though.
The temple is a beautiful countryside park in Rajaburi, with lakes all around. The abbot speaks fluent English.
There’s tons of bowing, here there and everywhere. I’m sure they just look around for things to make you bow to! Here we pay respects to the boundary stone for the consecrated hall.
And finally a proper monk – almost. There is more ceremony to go.
Below is the ordination party. I ordained with 2 Russians. In front is the ‘sponsor’ of the abbot – actually means his wife, but of course, after he became a monk he does not call her his wife anymore. On the left are the abbot’s daughters, who helped sponsor the ordination (costs quite a bit!)
This is my upajjaya – the one who ordained me. He’s 89 years old here. He is still around, and I really must go visit soon.This was a couple of years after ordination, with a once close friend Titus Leber; we don’t see each other much now, but are still good friends.