Dawn broke across the wide expanse of the Tachine River revealing another steamy day in Thailand and the prospect of a Buddhist blessing.
I left my cool room and comfortable bed in Sampran Riverside in Nakornpathom just an hour from Bangkok and walked down to the jetty to await the arrival of a monk from the local monastery visible in the distance on the other side of the river.
I really didn’t know what to expect as I’ve never encountered a monk before in my travels and five years of secondary schooling at a school run by the Lutheran church has left me with an intense dislike of anything connected with religion.
Just simple gifts for a blessing
A tiny speck of orange in the front of a canoe was the first sign of the monk’s approach. The boat glided silently across the oily water, negotiating oddly shaped bunches of greenery floating down the river, pulling up at a large jetty outside the hotel.
It’s a common misconception in the western world that giving alms is charity, but it’s not. Giving alms is a sign of respect and is a connection to the monk and what he represents. My blessing gifts were very simple – rice, water, a lotus bloom and incense sticks.
Alms giving ceremony
Like most things to do with religion, there’s a ceremony involved in giving alms. You have to kneel on the ground and place the cooked rice in the bowl, followed by the wrapped rice on top, and then the flower and incense sticks.
It’s also considered appropriate to dress modestly with shoulders covered.
An alms bowl is the only dish, according to Buddhist rules, that a monk can possess.
After receiving the gifts, the monk blessed water as we poured it from a jug to a bowl. We then trickled that water around a tree to give life to the animals who drink it giving a rather large centipede a bath at the same time.
Strangely, I walked away feeling indeed blessed, and it stayed with me the whole day. It was a touching experience that made me count my blessings and realise just how wonderful is my life and the people around me.
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Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled courtesy of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.