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Village Cycles The Seasonal Cycle The Thai Villagers Life Part 4

Except during the formal ceremony-such as when the naag swears to uphold ten major precepts to become a novice monk, and an oral examination to become a full monk -neither the laity nor the monks feel constrained to remain silent. They talk, sip tea, smoke cigarettes and chew betelnut, reflecting the fact that the Buddhist ordination is simply an admission to the brotherhood of the Buddha’s disciples, not a mystic ritual conferring priestly powers.

After the ordination, villagers gain merit by presenting the new monk with decorative trays bearing toiletries, robes, candles, Buddhist literature and other items for use during his residence in the wat Afterwards, all monks are fed by their new brother’s family and friends, another act reaping much merit.

Once ordained, the new monk finds little difficulty in adjusting to his new but hardly unfamiliar surroundings. If his is a temporary ordination, the time passes quickly. If he undertakes a longer commit-ment, he eventually discovers whether he prefers to devote himself to scholarship, administration, teaching or vigorous meditation on the Buddha’s path to Nirvana.

When the Rains Retreat ends, monks throughout the country receive new robes in an annual presentation ceremony called Tod Kathin. Besides new robes, the laity present monks with Buddhist literature, kitchen equipment, financial contributions, building materials - in short, anything deemed necessary for the Sangha’s upkeep during the forthcoming monastic year.

Combining holidays with merit-making, groups of people from clubs, govern-ment offices, businesses or just family circles and friends organize Tod Kathin cere-monies, thus providing an intricate pattern of countrywide support for temples. Many Thais residing or working in cities find Kathin trips pleasant ways of visiting their native villages.
Kathins are generally preceded by a village festival just outside the wat grounds --perhaps on the village common or the school grounds. On the eve of the Kathin, shortly after sunset, village monks seat themselves beneath a canopy at one end of the grounds. As the monks chant religious stanzas, villagers and visitors are free to donate money for the temple upkeep or sample various sideshows and entertain-ments. A generator may provide power for an open-air filmshow and a lighted stage for folk singers, folk dancers and a local orchestra. Knots of people squat in semi-darkness, older people drinking homemade rice liquor or chewing betelnut, and leavening their conversations with pithy ribaldry.

Increasingly, the daily rhythm of field-work is concerned with keeping birds away from the ever-ripening rice. During this time fish are abundant in rain-swollen streams and fields. Indeed, fish are such a
vital part of the staple rural Thai diet that the catching of them is a year-round activity. Methods and equipment used in fresh-water fishing vary from region to region and depending on where the fish are being sought - canals, ponds, rivers or ricefields.

In early November the most spec-tacular of Thai festivals, Loy Krathong, takes place. Loy means “to float”, and a krathong is a lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaves. The krathong contains a candle, an incense stick, a flower and a coin. By moonlight, people light the candles and incense, make a wish and launch their krathongs on canals, streams, rivers, lakes and ponds. Water spirits are thus honoured and it is commonly believed that the krathongs carry away the past year’s sins. Moonlit waterways throughout the king-dom are covered with tiny flickering lights representing millions of untold aspirations.
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Article Added on Thursday, January 7, 2010
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