Giving alms on one's birthday was first introduced
in the reign of King Rama IV, who gave alms to monks while he
was in monkhood. The King continued the practice even after his
ascension to the throne. The nobility and court officials followed
suit, and it has since become a tradition to give alms as a part
of a person's birthday celebration.
On my mother's birthday, we went to make merit
at our local temple. We took with us some food and clothes for
the monk. In the picture the monk is chanting to us and we are
listening to him. We also pray as well, it makes us get some
of the merit he's giving to us. Sometimes the monk chanted with
a fan in front of his face but sometimes he didn't. He chanted
for about 10 minutes long!
In the past when lunar calender was used,
birthdays were marked by the eclipse of the moon. As international
calender came into fashion, the celebrant's age plus one determines
the number of monks to recieve the alms. The additional age is
meant to help lengthen the life of the celebrant. For instance.
if a person is celebrating his 20th birthday, 21 monks will be
invited to receive alms. Some people,
however, consider it auspicious to give alms every week on the
day they were born. A person born on a Wednesday may offer alms
every Wednesday, for instance, based on that belief. This is
called "Individual day alms-giving". Others may invite
nine monks to dine at home on their birthday in the belief that
No.9 brings good luck, as the Thai people equate it with progress.
After receiving the monks' blessing and serving them food, the
birthday celebrant may give alms to the poor or release birds
or fish as merit-making activities. Yet other people may opt
for a bigger project, such as donating money or land for the
construction of a hospital or other worthy causes.
The monk started by putting the fan in front
of his face and saying the three "refuge" formulas
of the Buddha: "I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge
in his Law, and I take refuge in his Brotherhood of monks."
We repeated these word by word. Then he said the five precepts
of the Buddhist religion: "I undertake to abstain from killing.
I undertake to abstain from stealing. I undertake to abstain
from committing adultery. I undertake to abstain from lying.
I undertake to abstain from alcoholic drinking." We repeated
these words after the monk. Then he removed his fan and placed
it nearby. He finished by chanting from the sacred texts. He
did this for our welfare and to disperse ills and disasters.
My mum is giving a monk useful things such
as medicine, monk's rope, toothpaste, tea, coffee etc. In the
picture on the right, my mother is pouring sacred water into
a cup. Can you see my father and brother touching my mother to
get some of the merit!