Theravada Buddhism is the main religion and is embedded into the historical, social and political life of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. All young boys are expected to enter monkhood sometime in their lives. If not, then entering as men will also suffice. The reason being is that this is the best merit making way for him to repay his parents’ lifelong dedication to him.
The whole process of entering monastic life is a big deal, and the entire town can become involved. The hair shaving ceremony starts everything off. The parents will take turn cutting the hair, taking extra care to prevent it from touching the floor. It is then placed on a lotus leaf and floated away three days after the ordination process for luck. Having a clean shaved head stems from Buddha’s time, when long hair was considered to be of royalty.
After a shower, the future monk will be paraded around town in white garments, signifying his first steps into monkhood. After that, the young man enters the local temple and listens to a chanting session by the sermon.
ompanies the procession, everything from music, food and drinks. The monk, however, cannot join. He must resist temptation. And to further prove this point, he will throw coins over his shoulders, again signifying his detachment from materialism. The party attendees may want to grab these coins for good luck.
Before the entire procession, the monk-to-be will have studied, recited and remembered a set of chants in preparation for this event. This is where it comes to play. The third day the young man will need to actually perform these Pali chants in front of everyone. Afterwards, the white garments are exchanged for the orange clad ones, which itself is quite complicated to wear. Then, he would repeat after a senior monk vowing to honor the precepts (the fundamental code of ethics for monks), which is again done in Pali before finally being declared a monk.
Learn more about the many interesting facets of Buddhist culture and practice with our 4-day Buddhism Explored program in Laos. Myanmar’s strong Buddhist ethos is also plain for everyone to see, especially at the Golden Rock, an important pilgrimage site and a great extension to a Yangon tour.