The End of Buddhist Lent

at Wat Pa Silawa, Nong Bua Lamphu

On a cool early and misty morning we recently went to the first of several end of Buddhist Lent ceremonies we will attend in the coming week or so. This one was at one of my favourite temples Wat Pa Silawa.

This is a Pa or forest wat, so the theme is mostly timber and simple in presentation. Here the locals have been busy decorating the temple with what’s growing this season.

 Depending on the pulling power of the head monk, people arrive from all over Thailand for these events and it is an opportunity to formally feed the monks, many of whom are bused in from other local wats, and make donations of money.

Wat Pa Silawa is one of the few temples I know that doesn’t seem to spend the huge amounts they raise on building projects. I have been visiting for over three years and apart from adding to the front wall everything is as it was. Maybe the monks are more focussed on the practising the principles of Buddhism rather than consumerism. A novel concept.

 

Much of the focus is on food at these festivals, as with many other aspects of life here! These hanging donations are rushed at the end of the morning in a Thai polite free-for-all where villagers end up with more than their body weight in goodies!

Waiting to feed the procession of monks. Peng and me. I am fitting right in. I like to make an effort for these events to show respect. This is my funeral/wedding/monk ceremony outfit.

 

I was worried that I would lose interest in the cycle of repetition of these ceremonies over time. What keeps my interest fresh is being a photographer, because although the format is much the same for each one, what I see through the camera lens is always different and new.

 

The local ladies have dressed up in white for the occasion. All waiting with their sticky rice baskets to give to the monks as they pass.

The giving of alms is not thought of as charity. The giving and receiving of alms create a spiritual connection between the monastic and lay communities. Laypeople have a responsibility to support the monks physically, and the monks have a responsibility to support the community spiritually. www.thoughtCo.com

The process starts. Food is placed into the monks begging bowls and then transferred to the guys with those bigger bowls when full. Many familiar faces both monks and villagers. I get a buzz to feel slightly included.

One of the local senior monks. He is abbot to a temple northeast from us. The most senior monk leads the line and it goes down from there to the most junior at the end. In days when it mattered the ones at the front got the best food just like in everyday life.

I love this very personal interaction between participants and the monks.

Pu Yauw (phonetic – probably spelt nothing like this). He’s the abbot of this wat and a lovely, friendly guy. Highly regarded and pulls the crowds. The monk in the middle photo used to be his number two but has since set up his own temple close to the family farm that you can read about HERE on Google Maps. His name is Dit and is very popular too. His wat’s end of lent festival is happening this weekend 10 & 11 Novemebr.

The food collected is dumped here and sorted. Cooked food is also prepared in vast quantities and delivered separately so the monks have a choice of this (mostly junk food and sticky rice) and real food.

Peng recording our donation to the temple.

Pickups arrive delivering cooked and other food. 

As well as this there are many food stalls set up giving away free food and drinks to anyone who wants it. The leftover food that the monks don’t take, and there is absolutely heaps of it, is given to the crowd.

The whole emphasis of the event now moves to making sure food is presented to monks, who because they haven’t eaten since midday yesterday, must be hanging out for a feed.

The food is passed around left to right – most senior first etc.

In a very unkind formality the monks can choose what they want but can’t eat until another blessing has been completed. You can feel the anticipation.

Even ice cream waiting to be served.

Underneath the Buddha hall it is all go as hungry Isan people flock the food stalls. Donating food is seen as gaining good merit so there is no shortage of choice.

I was just wandering the cooking area and this group insisted on having their photo taken. I have said this before but Thais are one of the few people in the world that can do a group photo and everyone looks smiling and happy. Photos like this should be used in advertisements for visiting Isan.

These events span generations and here is the proof

I think this girl is overwhelmed with excitement for the free food 

Pa (forest) wats tend to have more open structures with Buddha/monk shrines like this one. This wat has a terrific flower doner because it is always well supplied. Go to other wats and they are either dusty plastic or dead. Wat Pa Silawa is immaculately maintained, treed and peaceful (except today) which is why I enjoy going there.

It is unusual to see a traditional Ubosot/Bot (monk ordination hall) in a forest wat, which this is (it has a Pa in the title). Nice in the early morning light. Pu Yaw has opened this building up to let me use it, which was a real privilege.

Leaves on a temple roof. Cool season and many trees shed leaves as anywhere else in ‘autumn’. Isan becomes dry, dusty with lots of bare hills

between now and April.

Back home for coffee and Gaun hopped in the boat for a dress-up photo.

This wat is definitely worth visiting if in the area. Hidden away off the main road. It is close to Si Bun Ruang on the 228, running SBR to Nong Bua Lamphu.Google Maps HERE. You can tell it’s a forest wat can’t you 

And as always the GPS coords.

Thanks for reading and leave a thumbs up if you liked what you’ve read or please leave a comment.