A Buddhist Monkhood Initiation ("Buat Phra")in a Rural Thai Village
Last night, a freak electric storm with tree-rending winds - and rain reminiscent of waterfalls - hit our village. The winds downed a major high voltage power line, and the entire region, for kilometers around, sank into darkness.
For Note and Joy, our two eldest twins, it will be a night to remember - as it was the eve of their Buddhist merit-making ceremony.
This morning started early as we prepared food for the hundreds of guests - villagers, friends, relatives and local officials - who started to arrive in the morning. Whisky and beer started to flow. At midday, under a cerulean sky and a relentless sun, Note and Joy each sat on a chair, holding a lotus leaf in front of them. Friends and respected elders then took it in turn to briefly wai them before cutting a small bunch of hair from the head of each and placing it in the lotus leaf.
Gradually, their carefully-crafted carefree coiffure dissipated, until a cutthroat razor was used to finish the complete shave of the head and eyebrows... They then dressed in white, were positioned atop a pickup truck, and paraded slowly through the village, surrounded by well-wishers who danced around the vehicle to the tempo of morlam songs.
This evening, for those still sober, suckling pig will be served and more alcohol consumed, and at dawn tomorrow morning a procession will be arranged for our sons to the village temple. Here they will dress in Buddhists' traditional saffron robes, observe the hours, tenets and restrictions of temple life, and call the temple home for the next seven days.
In Thailand, nearly all young men will at at some stage go through such an ordination ceremony, to make merit for their parents, and particularly for their mother. Karma remains a reality in the Isan spirit, where we believe that both good and bad deeds follow a man as surely as does his shadow...the shadow follows the bod