Thursday, April 19, 2007

5:30 Wake up Call
I did it. Got up and went to the market before sunrise to give alms to the monks. Wow. I just bought things like milk and rice wrapped in banana leaves, and then when a monk came around (about 100 came around within 1/2 hour), I held it out and he opened a little brass bowl to accept it. Then, following the example set by others, I put my hands in a "Wai" (prayer like with fingertips touching forehead) and bowed to the monk. He said some Thai words to me - probably some blessing in thanks for the food.

People give food to the monks because they believe it earns them "merit" for the next life, which in my view is not part of the selflessness of Buddhist beliefs. I gave it because I'm very supportive of a person who lives this monastic life, most for a short time, to learn how to be a better person by following the Buddha's teachings. It takes sacrifice and will make the world better, even in a small way (the "butterfly wing flapping in Amazon causing a hurricane" concept).
Then came the "little monks!" A line of little boys in saffron robes. I bought a box of Ramen-type packages and gave one to each boy. Most were very pious, but a few had big grins to see a Farang (foreigner) offering food.

When the bowls were full of food, they dumped them into baskets in a scene that reminded me of US kids dumping their Halloween candy at home. But these monks collect alms of food every day at sunrise, eat before noon, and don't eat again all day. I did see a few sweets in there, though.
Me (and my new pal), giving food to the "little monks"

I'm always amazed to see people up and active at such an early hour. I rarely see it at home because I'm snoozing, but it seems that the world comes alive in the wee hours - for me this is like what happens behind a closed refrigerator door because I don't see it and can only imagine :-). Here in Sarat Thani, lots of people buying their day's fish and vegetables at this market before they go to work.
The Morning Market at Surat Thani - yummy veggies above and rice in banana leaves below


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