Thai version

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ott's Ordination at WatKansas Vanaram, November 23, 2004

I decided to fulfill my mother’s long-standing dream by ordaining as a monk Kansas.
There was no question about where I would ordain. The Venerable Abbot Phra Krupaland Bunliang at WatKansas has been our church family friend since I live in Kansas he warmly welcomed me to ordain there. The dates were chosen by some sort of cosmic calculation that was beyond me. I would ordain the day before the last full moon of 2004, and disrobe 4 days later. What a neat calculation that was!

I wanted to brush up on my Thai reading, which was a bit rusty (foreigners who ordain should speak, read, and write Thai fluently), and learn some chanting. I received a script and recording of the Pali chanting I’d need to recite in the ordination ceremony, but one minute into the first listening I thought to myself, "this is impossible"! How am I going to do this, I had no idea. But as November approached, I found myself chanting in the car, chanting in the shower, even chanting in my sleep. I just wondered if I would actually get the whole thing memorized by "the big day" or not.

The most common question my friends had for me was why I was going to become a monk, which was hard to answer in a way they would understand. The biggest reason was to gain merit for my family, and especially for my mother, as women have no chance to ordain for themselves. My friends also asked me if I would really have to shave my head (yes), would I have to be a vegetarian (no), would I beg for my meals (not exactly alms food is a bit different from begging), and a host of other questions I couldn’t answer yet.

Since I live in Kansas and the rest of my family live far apart, my ordination would be a much anticipated. For this joyous occasion, not only my parents but also my two siblings, brother in-law, and nephew & niece would be there. The last time I saw my older sisters she was not long ago. All our friends and relatives in Thailand heard the news and were thrilled, the Venerable Abbot at Phra Krupalad Bunliang.

The following day was set to be my turn for a haircut, but much more than just a bit off the top.

I woke up early on ordination day and my jet-lagged brother graciously ran through my lines for the ordination with me. It looked good. The head shaving was quite fun for everyone, as family members and friends took turns cutting off locks of my hair. Then one of the resident monks shaved off my hair, which neither hurt nor tickled, even when he shaved off my eyebrows (a tradition for monks in Thailand). The breeze was cool over the top of my head and everyone had a smile on their face, so I was very interested to see for myself what I looked like. When I finally caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror with my shaved white head without eyebrows, my upper body covered with a white cloth, all I could think was "who is that alien?"

Although I’d hoped to relax a bit and go over my lines again, the time had been flying by, and it was already time to start the ordination ceremony. We all made our way to the Bot. The atmosphere there is one of absolute purity and goodness. Before entering the Bot, my family, relatives, and entire entourage assembled and walked around the Bot three times. Many Pali chants have sections that are also repeated three times, always to pay homage to the Buddha, to the Dhamma teachings, and to the Sangha community of monks. The resident monk and my mentor at WatKansas, Phra Manus, told me that I should be mindful during this walk, but I was already excited and nervous about the ceremony which was about to start.

The previous day Phra Manus had run through a "dress rehearsal" of the ceremony with me, but it all seemed a little bit different when people were actually there. I lit my joss sticks in front of the Bot and happily chanted my lines. Things were going smoothly as I entered the Bot and continued with the "going forth". By this time, the Venerable Abbot were in their places in front of the Buddha images, and my family and friends were seated on the floor, men on the left and women on the right.

More to come...

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