You may recall my adventure about a week ago, talking to a monk at Wat Arun and being introduced to the leader of the local meditation center (Hartanto). I also met Sean (my apologies to him if I'm spelling his name wrong). I can't say I know him well, but I found out that he's from Colorado and he'd already done his month as an initiate. He mentioned at the time that he was back to be ordained as a monk.
I showed up yesterday at Wat Arun about an hour and a half early for a meditation class and found out there was to be an ordination that day - Sean's. So I sat quietly along the wall of the wihaan during the hour-long ceremony, as he was led through agreeing to the 228 precepts you must uphold as a monk - mostly in the Pali language. Of course when he didn't understand, the monks (who are all Thai) would try to explain in broken english. He did have some support from Hartanto, who is his sponsor, a former monk, and speaks good english. One thing I love about Buddhism: when something didn't quite work out, the monks simply laughed instead of getting bent out of shape. Hartanto (who is visible in the background here, in white) told me later that Sean is the first westerner ever ordained at Wat Arun.
If you look at the picture, you'll see that he's carrying his new alms bowl on his back. Since you become a monk with nothing, at the end of the ceremony people gave him things he needed - sandals, toothbrush and toothpaste, a sleeping mat. I suspect that there's something of a cottage industry preparing bundles for new monks, because they looked like they were kind of standard packages. The gifts were laid before him, and he picked them up: men can pass things directly to a monk, but women aren't allowed to and must place gifts near the monk. Monks may not touch women (one of those 228 precepts). You'll see women bending well out of the way when a monk passes them on the sidewalk or public transit - just one of those ingrained cultural things ... I followed a monk off a ferry recently, and the ticket-taker (a woman) bent well over to avoid touching him, but as I passed she straightened up.
My departure for Myanmar is tomorrow evening. I've said this before, but I think it probably bears repeating: there's a very good chance that I won't be able to post to the blog or email while I'm there. And if I can post or email, there's also a possibility that half way through the visit my connection will go silent. So don't worry about it, and I'll try to have some updates when I get back online.