Thai version

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ordained as a novice

The next part of the ordination was acquiring a full set of robes, which were presented directly by my parents, with all others present touching them, like a human chain, so that everyone was involved. When I took the robes to the Venerable Abbot I realized that there is quite a bit of walking on one’s knees in this ceremony! That’s something I had skipped over in the dress rehearsal. And in case I should happen to forget my lines, I was assured that my "helper" would whisper me a prompt (much like the person under the stage in a play). This was reassuring in theory, but it turned into a distraction for me. I had memorized some of my lines with a pause between lines, which always brought a prompt from my helper, which in turn threw me off my "rhythm". At some points, other helpful monks would chime in as well! I guess they have been to so many ordinations that they could prompt me in their sleep. I wonder if any of them were sleeping…

Although all but a few people present were either Thai or fluent in speaking it, my ordination was unique in that the Venerable Abbot explained everything in Thai and some in English. This was very helpful for me (but perhaps not as helpful for my grandmother and other Thai relatives). Then taking my robes and walking on my knees again, I was reminded by Phra Manus to turn left and go out the back of the Bot. Three seconds later, I was turning right and going out the front of the Bot. I guess I did have a bit of stage fright after all! Outside the Bot, several monks had me out of my white robes and securely tied in my orange monk’s robes faster than I could say "I’m never going to learn how to tie this thing". And now, standing in my monk’s robes, I realized for the first time that this moment I’d been thinking about for the past year had really come. As I walked back up the steps into the Bot I also realized that I had no idea what came next in the ceremony. My mind was a complete blank!

What actually did come next was taking refuge in the "Triple Gem" (the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha) and taking the 10 precepts which would initially ordain me as a novice. Since this part was simply repeating what was said to me, I only practiced the pronunciation of these lines.I hadn’t actually memorized them—and repeating the lines was more difficult than I had anticipated. Especially the 8th precept (abstaining from the use of garlands, perfumes, unguents, and adornments), which starts with "MALA-GANDHA-VILEPANA-DHARANA-MANDANA-VIBHUSANATTHANA-VERAMANI" all in one breath. My helper had turned into a small cheering squad of helpers who broke this tongue-twister down into smaller parts for me. My mother felt sorry seeing me struggle and discreetly placed a copy of the script in front of me. I really appreciated her help, but I’d had my glasses off since the head shaving and I couldn’t see a word on the page! Also, my pronunciation wasn’t quite up to par, and I had to repeat a few lines until I got it right but I did make it through. Officially I was ordained as a novice at this point.

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