We dust off the sleep from our eyes, throw on our warm clothes and step out into the streets of Chiang Mai. The crescent shaped moon is very much alive and bright this early hour, illuminating the contrasting night sky. The time is 5:20 am in the morning. The day is Saturday, December 28th.
Tuk tuks, songthaew’s (red trucks with benches), mopeds, buses and cars begin to fill the streets. Many make the pilgrimage by foot, while some arrive barefoot for this most auspicious occasion.
Today, is the celebration of the 10,000 monks procession. Buddhists monks from all around the city and throughout Thailand have made the pilgrimage to gather here on Changklan Rd in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, on this chilly winter morning. The monks have graciously come here today to receive gifts of alms from the people.
Alms are money or goods given to those in need as an act of charity. Monks receiving alms is as an act of merit making. The act of giving alms has been practiced by Buddhists for thousands of years. It is considered an act for doing good things and the belief that this will bring about peace and happiness.
The procession begins with a series of prayers, chants and a group meditation. The crowd sits in two long extending rows that billows out into the city streets for quite some length. Young service men in uniforms keep the peace by holding space for all to flow harmoniously. Each holds in their hand a tightly rolled cylinder of plastic bags for collecting the alms from the monks when their alms bowls become full. The alms are gathered and will be distributed following the ceremony.
Gifts of food, money and bouquets of flowers spill out from the hands of the crowd. It is a joyous occasion. Barefoot, robed in orange and carrying a golden shiny bowl in hand, the monks move forward graciously in procession towards the crowd, one by one.
Novices and the ordained, the youth and elders appear in radiant form. Their skin speaks of health, well-being and a simple yet disciplined life. Their expressions and movements offer a glimpse into their unique nature. While similar in appearance, each monk truly carries an energy and vibration uniquely his own.
There is something rather beautiful about being among and looking into the eyes of these wondrous monks. To share a moment in time, a smile and a loving gesture is a wonderful way to promote peace and harmony on our beloved planet.