Monday, July 30, 2007

Buddhist Lent at Wat Dam Nak

Today was the first day of the Buddhist Lent (or Vassa). They were celebrating it at Wat Damnak right after class so we go the chance to participate in the ceremony. It was one of the best experiences from the entire trip!

Information from Wikipedia:
It is the traditional retreat during the rainy season that lasts for three lunar months approximately from July to October. During this time, the Buddhist monks remain in a single places, generally in their temples. In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation practice. During this time, many people give up certain thing for a more ascetic leaving style like alcohol, meat, or smoking and reinvigorate their spiritual training.. This is why it is commonly called "Buddhist Lent." The focus of celebration by the laity is the first day of vassa during which worshippers donate candles and other necessities to the temples for the monks since they are not supposed to leave during that time.

So the entire community gets together to bring the monks all of their necessities. They were prepared in these Easter basket style platters covered in the colorful cellophane. They had a huge variety of things in side of the platter with anything from soap, toothbrushes, pepsi, and even antibiotics. Everyone carried them three times around the wat saying "Ah kun" or thank you! The boys carried these huge yellow candles that you can normally seen in the place where the statues of Buddha are kept.

The monks were wearing their dress robes which has many more parts than what they wear everyday. Everyone was very dressed up and even the nuns were there sitting in long columns. We sat with people in the community but we didn't know what they were saying. I believe that they were reciting the five precepts of Buddhism in Khmer, but I guess I can't be sure!

1. Do not kill.

2. Do not steal.
3. Do not indulge in sexual misconduct.
4. Do not make false speech.

5. Do not take intoxicants.

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