From the Blog

July 1, 2017

Monks Alms Rounds in Thailand

Merit Making

Monks Alms Rounds in Thailand


‘Merit’ is not charity as perceived by western people and it is offensive to many Buddhist followers, to hear others imply that when monks leave their temples to gather alms, (known as “BIN THA BAT” – บิณฑบาตร), that this is in some way begging. Buddhist people believe the giving of alms is a way of connecting the giver to the monk or nun and to show humbleness and respect to what they represent.


Bin Tha Bat – Monks Alms Rounds

Alms giving is a daily ritual in the Kingdom; Monks will leave their Wat (temple), each morning at around 5 -6 am, having risen at 4 am, meditated for one hour, followed by one hour of chanting. (Except during the 3 months’ Buddhist lent, when they are prohibited from leaving their temples)

During their alms rounds, they will carry their alms bowl (บาตร – Pali patta; Sanksrit patra) with both hands held close to the stomach, the bowl is seen as the monk’s emblem and according to Buddhist rules, it is the only dish that monks can possess. The bowl is usually stored and carried in a cloth or crocheted bag, both for protection and ease of carrying.



Monks Alms Rounds in Thailand alms on water


Traditionally the monks walk bare footed in a straight line one by one. (But can be seen in boats in the many Khlong’s within the Kingdom). The oldest or the temple abbot leads the monks, while the others follow by seniority.


Waiting Buddhist Lay people

Tradition has it that the elder matron or her youngest daughter will wait kneeling in front of the house, (Thai men will stand). The people greet the monks through a “WAI” (ไหว้) and place food inside the monks bowl. At no time must the women touch the monks or their belongings. This is a silent ritual and no words are spoken by either party, but if a young novice receives food from his mother, he can bless her.


Silence is Golden

The monks do not thank the lay people for the food nor will they look directly at the women. Offering food is one of the oldest and most common rituals of Buddhism and is a meritorious act that also reminds a Buddhist not to be greedy or selfish.

In this daily occurrence the giving and receiving of alms creates a spiritual connection between the monastic and lay communities – Laypeople have a responsibility to support the monks physically, and the monks have a responsibility to support the community spiritually.

If a monk bowl falls in front of a hose, it is seen as a bad omen.


Monks Alms Rounds in Thailand


Alms Bowls

An alms bowl is one of the most basic but equally most important objects in the daily life of a Buddhist monk. It is primarily a practical object, used as a bowl in which to collect alms (either money or food) from lay supporters and as a means to carry a monk’s meager possessions.

This inconspicuous bowl also has symbolic significance associated with Buddha. According to one legend, when he began meditating beneath the Bodhi Tree, a young woman, thinking he was the divinity of the tree, offered him a golden bowl filled with rice. Buddha divided the rice into 49 portions, one for each day until he would be enlightened, and threw the precious gold bowl into the river.

This and other legends, combined with its humble monastic uses, have made the simple alms bowl, a symbol of the Buddha’s teachings on nonattachment. The Vinaya, (the regulatory framework for the monastic community of Buddhism), states that monks may use bowls made of either iron or clay, and they can be small, medium, or large.


Monks Alms Rounds in Thialand


Appointing the routes

As a village or specific area can contain several Buddhist temples, the respective Abbots agree the path reserved for each temple. The same Abbott’s will also agree which monk’s will receive any donated robes

If the bowl becomes full, the monk will replace the lid (ฝาบาตร), in order that laypeople can place the last food offerings on top of it. Offerings are normally simply cooked rice but people also offer curry dishes, sweets, fruits, flowers, or incense sticks.

Monks will return to the Wat, at around 8am, where they will share the food with the temple community, after which they will then make a blessing for world peace. Before 12.00 noon – Some monks choose to eat again as this is the last solid food they are allowed to consume until sunrise the following morning.


Monks Alms Rounds in Thailand comes in all ages and sizes



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