Saturday, July 23, 2011

Giving of Alms

Waking up at five o’clock in the morning can be a daunting task for any one, especially considering I had lots of energetic teaching to follow. But nevertheless I arose on time and met my fellow volunteers outside to proceed with the Monk ceremony known as Alms; a ceremony I knew very little about up until this point.

The first thing I noticed was how cool and fresh the city of Luang Prabang was at that time in the morning. Walking towards the location of where we would be giving Alms, I noticed how calm and deserted the river was except for the lone fisherman rowing across it. The roads were empty and the air was clean. Not having to shelter your eyes from the sun, you notice things you have never seen before and you begin see the city in a new light.

Upon arrival to the main street we all took our place along the side of the road. The women dressed modestly in a traditional Sin and scarf, kneeling on the ground. The men dressed in long trousers and a shirt accompanied by the scarf tied in the traditional way. Then in the distance you see a line of orange approaching you, as if it is the first ray of the rising sun coming to greet you. As the line of monks approach, people begin to prepare themselves for giving the food offering (Alms giving). Being briefed earlier, I knew that I shouldn’t touch the containers the monks carry for their food collection as I place my offering and I should offer a sincere pray as a mark of respect. I gave a food offering to about 90 monks and novice monks in total, which was a fraction of the total number of monks I saw walk down the street. Watching from afar you see how the subtle morning light and bright orange robes of the monks create a picturesque and soothing scene.

I found the Alms ceremony to be more than just giving a food offering. It was also to experience the other extreme of city life; where you are greeted by a cool, fresh and silent morning. Where the normal hustle and bustle is non existent and your daily routine is yet to start. Beginning the day in a relaxed and humbling way as oppose a manic western morning rush was a great experience; even if that meant getting up at five o’clock in the morning.

Sushil Pal