Life Under The Saffron Robe - Part 4

Accepting his Robes
Originally uploaded by Wardman.
This is part 4 of Suriya "Nuk" Chitchulanon's journal describing his Buddhist ordination ritual and subsequent monkhood.

The ordination ceremony started at 8:00am inside the hall where monks were assembled for rites. Five monks including the abbot sat surrounded me in a pentagonal arrangement. I sat facing toward the Buddha image towards the front of the hall. I was a little worried that I would forget the lines I was required to recite in Pali or do the wrong thing at the wrong time. After some introductory chanting, I came forward on my knees and entered the group of monks and did a prostration three times. Although I forgot some notes, I thought I did a good job in memorizing the Pali scripture. Five minutes later, Maha-Sunthorn placed the robes over on my forearms, joined my hands in respect and then started chanting in Pali for 5 more minutes. Then he taught me that being a monk (in the Sangha) is not that easy and requires patience, discipline, and individual devotional practice as a result of “seeing the truth of life”. At this point, he accepted me as a samanera (novice monk) who would be required to keep the ten precepts as the code of behavior. I took off my white shirt and Maha-Sunthorn placed the amsa (a saffron shoulder cloth) over my head covering my left shoulder. I chanted, which basically translated as: “I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the Dharma for refuge. I go to the Sangha for refuge” and then recited the ten precepts. He then ordered me to go with monks to get changed into the rest of my robes.

Once I was done changing my clothes from white lay to yellow monk, I stood behind the line (10 feet away from Buddha image) with my palms pressed together in a deep wai. What followed was a close examination to see whether I was fit to become a monk. Basically, I was about to be asked a series of questions in Pali (which is a foreign language to me). The first four I must answer “no, sir”. The fifth question is “Are you human?” and I must obviously switch to “yes sir” and continue like that for the remaining questions.

Two monks, Maha-Udom and Maha-Prasert, then approached me and started chanting in Pali which roughly translated as “Listen, Suriya. This is the time for the truth, the time for what is factual. You will be asked in the midst of the sangha about things which have occurred. Whatever is so should be affirmed. Whatever is not should be denied. Do not be embarrassed. Do not be confused.” Then the questions began….

Luckily, I answered them correctly. Maha-Udom and Maha-Prasert then returned to the assembly of monks and chanted that they had examined the applicant and I was ready, they would like to invite me to join the assembly. They agreed and I came forward and prostrated in front of them three times.

To become a full fledged monk or Bikkhu, I had to be given an alms bowl by a monk. I then requested to become a Bikkhu who would obey rules of conduct, 227 precepts as set out in the Vinaya, and is devoted to the Buddhist religious life. The alms bowl was then hung over my shoulder as the monks proceeded chanting and chanting. It went something like “I am free of obstructing factors. My bowl and robes are complete. I request acceptance from the Sangha”. Finally I was accepted as a monk!


Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, conclusion.