A Sacred Ritual … Giving of Alms

27 March 2014

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It’s a 4.45am start as we drag our sleepy bodies from our polyester sheets. A quick splash of water & we don our sinhs and sashes, grabbing our offerings on the way out. We’re off to give Alms to the Buddhist monks, a scared ritual & age old tradition in the Heritage listed town of Luang Prabang.

Under the guidance of Mama-san from our Guesthouse we creep past the snoozing watchman and guard dogs and make our way to the street. We were quietly excited in our sleepy state to be guided by the wisdom of a 94 year old who spoke no English … for what we were doing words were not necessary. We were on our own spiritual quest where we would give gratitude, thanks and food offerings and receive a blessing by some of the most traditional monks on this earth.

There seemed to be so many rules when giving Alms … no touching the monks or their begging bowls, no eye contact, just bow your head & stay lower than them as they are a symbol of a more pure existence. All these things made us nervous, but in the end the magic of the moment prevailed.

With sunrise as your backdrop, a line of multi shaded orange monks, of all sizes, shapes and ages shuffle barefoot down the street. The reverence that rang through the air cannot be described … it was timeless and we were speechless. There was only ‘this’ moment as we shared our offerings to an endless flow of orange robes (that’s all we could see as we kept our heads bowed).

We felt honoured that we could offer something so small to this community and spiritual group who continues to help waken us to new way of being.

We were fortunate this morning. Little did we know, being in the back streets of Luang Prabang, gave us a very different experience to being in the main street. Hundreds of tourists swarmed the streets, thrusting their cameras into the faces of these spiritual beings. There behaviour seemed so vulgar and disrespectful, all for the sake of a great shot. There was no consideration for the monks, the lay people or this revered ritual.

It made me think … where do I overstep someone’s personal space or break the magic of a special moment!

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