Giving Alms to Monks in Thailand

Giving Alms to Monks in Thailand

It's 6:00 am, and Bangkok is quiet. A group of saffron-robed monks, metal bowls in hand, walk serenely, single-file and barefooted through the dim light of early morning. These monks are on their daily alms rounds, and locals and visitors to Thailand alike may participate in this special daily ceremony.

 Monks on their daily alms round

For an hour or so after dawn, Buddhist monks will walk on their rounds along the streets and neighborhoods surrounding their monastery. Monks are not allowed to prepare their own food; they depend entirely on donations from the laity. The abbot or senior monk will walk first in line, and junior monks will walk behind him in order of seniority. They may not beg or ask for food. Instead, the monastic community relies on the generosity of the people to  sustain them.

Even if you are not Thai or Buddhist, you are welcome to make a donation to the monks to receive a blessing and "make merit" for good karma.

To make a donation to the monks, prepare rice, fruits, or some vegetable dish (monks should not eat meat) and join the devout Buddhists in the neighborhoods surrounding a temple early in the morning. You can even wait just outside the temple itself if you don't know the route the monks take. As the monks approach on their alms rounds, remove your shoes, lower your head, and offer a "wai" (the Thai prayer-like gesture of greeting and respect). The monk will open his alms bowl, and you should place your offering inside. The monk will then offer a short blessing.

 Monks receiving alms

Even if you are not Buddhist, you can participate in this daily ritual. Donating to monks may be a way for the devout to accumulate good karma, but its also a good way for visitors and locals alike to really become a part of the community.

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