Tak Bat / morning almsround @ Luang Prabang

Posted: July 11, 2010 in Sights
Tags: , , ,

Woke up to HC screaming ‘it’s already 5 ‘.

 The alarm was supposed to come on at 4:45 a.m , so we had less 15 minutes of preparation time. The getting ready routine was paced at 2x the usual speed and we  managed to get out of the door at  5:15 pheww…

The purpose of this early ( yawwnnnn) outing was to witness the Tak Bat  that happens early every morning. We walked towards Wat Xieng Thong and on the way, saw that some devotees had already gathered and were ( almost) ready with the offerings – pix below showing  2  guys negotiating with a sticky rice peddler .

 

There were some last minutes preparation where peddlers and devotees (buyers) were still negotiating the items that they need and the quantity. A few paces away, we could make out the approaching  saffron robed monks  I was a bit confused about the purpose of a row of children holding baskets and lining up opposite the kneeling devotees.

 

The bare footed monks were closer, a representative from one group of the devotees spoke to the leader of this particular group of monks and dropped some bank notes into his alms bowl , I guess this to be donations to the respective temple.

 

Most of the devotees had a few rattan containers filled with sticky rice by their side and while the monks open the cover of the bowl, the devotees pinch some of the rice and dropped them into the bowls. Biscuits, bananas and  cakes were also offered.

 

While one group of monks were collecting the alms, another group was on standby patiently, waiting for their turn..

 

The children with their plastic bags and baskets then start to approach the monks that had their bowls filed and some of the monks will give some of the collections to these street kids.

 

As the almsround come to an end , i.e. from that there were no more monks waiting their turn, we saw a devotee that seemed to still have quite a  lot  of sticky rice left in her rattan container  dropped all the rice into one of the monks alms bowl. I could have imagined it but I thought I saw the shoulder of the young novice buckled for a bit as he was suddenly thrown out of balance from this sudden weight into his bowl.

The alms giving session lasted about 30 minutes and after the last of the monk make his way back to the temple, another round of collection took place..i.e from the peddlers, who started to collect their money from the devotees that bought the sticky rice from them..

 

 Some further details about the Tak Bat can be found at this link http://laovoices.com/2008/09/18/a-guide-for-tourists-in-luang-prabang/

 Extracts :

The meaning of the Tak Bat
The Tak Bat is a profound expression of generosity, a cardinal virtue for the Lao people, and is a significant source of religious merit for the Buddhist community. It is probably the closest religious interaction between lay people and monks. Whenever it is performed, it is done with a profound sense of beauty and affection, with piety, care, thoughtfulness, and with deep commitment. Most of the Buddhist believers of Luang Prabang practice this ritual every morning. At sunrise, they prepare the offerings by cooking the rice and kneeling on a mat, in silence, waiting for the monks to approach, their heads and feet bare in humility. They quickly and silently place a small amount of rice in the monks’ alms bowl without making eye contact. Sometimes cakes and fruits are offered. They practice this generous act with joy knowing that it will benefit them, their living or departed relatives, and all beings.
For their part, the monks meditate on impermanence and on the meaning of the offerings they receive, which symbolise their intentional poverty, humility, and dependency on the lay community for their material needs. When they return to the monastery, they share the rice, accompanied by other dishes prepared by the community. They eat this first meal of the day in silence.
How to respect the Tak Bat
Although the monks’ morning almsround has become a tourist attraction, it is primarily a religious act for local lay people. It must be performed in serenity, silence, and concentration. Please show this ritual as much respect as you would your own religious ceremonies.
  • Observe the ritual in silence, and contribute an offering only if it is meaningful for you and you can do so in a respectful manner. Please purchase the rice at the local market earlier the same morning. The cakes or rice from street vendors along the monks’ route are not free and their activities can be disruptive.
  • If you do not wish to make an offering, please keep an appropriate distance and behave in a respectful manner. Do not get in the way of the monks’ procession or the believers’ offerings.
  • Do not photograph the monks too closely; please understand that camera flashes are very disturbing for both monks and lay people.
  • Dress appropriately: shoulders, chest, and legs should be mostly covered. Do not make any physical contact with monks.
  • Large buses are explicitly forbidden within the perimeter in the Luang Prabang World Heritage Site* and are extremely disturbing. Do not follow the procession on a bus – you will stand above the monks, which in Laos is disrespectful.

 Taking advantage of the cool weather , we decide to take a stroll by the river….

and came to the group of street kids that had earlier joined us at the tak bat. The kids with their dusty faces and shabby clothes were chewing on sticky rice. it was kinda a sad picture…

Later, they headed down the concrete jetty ,across the wooden bridge, to the other side of the river, 

going home, I guess they must waking up very early every morning, and crossing the river to  be in time for tak bat

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