Monks in Thailand
The belief amongst Thai Buddhists is that monks are the most likely people to reach enlightenment. Monks follow a very strict code of conduct, an existence with no material attachments whatsoever.
A Thai monk’s life is based around the 5 major precepts of Thai Buddhism and 227 monastic rules they must abide by, including no lies, no sex, no killing and no alcohol.
While there are a great many monks who spend their whole lives living out this existence, trying to reach Nirvana, there are also a great deal of monks who only spend a short time living in the Temple.
It’s a popular custom for young adolescent males in Thailand to spend a short time as a monk, in order to receive merit for their parents and themselves.
A boy is not considered to be a man until he has spent some time as a monk, whether it’s just for a few days, weeks or even years.
There are many families in Thailand that will, even today, refuse to allow their daughter to marry a man if he hasn’t spent time as a monk. Thais believe he is not ‘ripe’, not experienced enough to marry until he has done so.
Life as a monk can be a very harsh experience. They have very few possessions, only a bowl for eating and collecting food each morning, a water bottle and filter, and their long saffron colored robes.
They are only allowed to eat food in the morning until noon after which only water may be consumed.
Men can exit this life at any time of their choosing, yet there is still a strong tradition in Thailand that implies an important or high ranking official, if he has made major mistakes or errors, should retire into a temple for a time.
There, he can ‘wash’ his errors and make merit to repay the harm he has done to society.
One recent example of this is the case of Thanom Kittikachorn, the General who presided over one of Thailand’s most repressive military regimes between 1963 and 1973.
Following his ousting, he went into exile, only to return to the country again in 1976 wearing monk’s robes.
This was an act that provoked anger of many of the pro-democracy students who remembered the hundreds of casualties from the government crackdown in October 1973, just before the Kittikachorn regime was overthrown. The students wanted him put on trial to pay for what he had done, but instead he was given immunity so long as he remained a monk.
Foreigners are also welcome to join the ranks of the monks of Thailand, so if you are a man and feel the calling, go for it. It is sure to be an experience of a lifetime.