FAQ answered by Novices
BEING A NOVICE
Why do boys decide to become a Novice?
1: My family decided to send me to the temple because they could not feed or educate all of their children.
2: My family asked me to join the temple so that I would receive the food and education that they could not provide and out of allegiance to them and to Lao culture, I agreed to become a novice to ease to their burdens.
3: I chose to be a novice on my own without any other influence.
Ordination of Novices
Between the ages of 10 and 20 young men enter one of the temples as a Novice for a limited period. The merit they gain from this is dedicated first and foremost to their mothers. Before the Novices are ordained, a Sa –Khuan ceremony is performed in the house of their parents who then accompany them in a procession to the temple. After spending some time prostrating to the Buddha, the Holy Scriptures and the Sangha – the Abbot welcomes the Novices into the community of the temple. The extensive monastic rules apply only partly to the novices. They must not kill any living being, they must not steal, they must not engage in sexual relations, or lie. Eating and drinking are restricted. They are not allowed to dance, to listen to music, to adorn themselves with flowers, to sleep on soft mattresses or accept money. This is why they are respected by the lay people and their parents, who conduct themselves demurely as is expected of anyone visiting Monks or Novices in their temple.
What do the different colored robes mean?
The colors of the robes represent the many colors of the flames of fire. This is meant as a symbol of the fire of life and spirit that dwells within each human. Monks and novices wear this color so that when we see them, we are reminded to reconnect with our inner flame … our inner truth.
Monks and Novices can wear any of these flame colors and the color they wear is determined simply by what they are offered and given by supporters, since even their robes must be donated to them.
How do you know who is a Monk and who is a Novice?
You won’t know by the colour of the robes, but by how they are worn outside of the temple. Novices wear robes with their right shoulder exposed, a large piece draped over the left shoulder and tied with a cloth belt. Monks wear robes covering both shoulders in a twisted fashion that creates a ropelike bunch of material along the front and a rippled effect over the whole body. When at the temple Monks and Novices don’t dress formally, so you won’t be able to tell by the clothing who is a Monk or Novice.
Why do you shave your heads?
We shave our heads and eyebrows every month on the full moon, and we are supposed to cut our fingernails and toenails too! Some Novices and Monks keep one finger nail long for the purpose of scratching their ear when it itches! Laymen quite commonly keep long fingernails in Lao. Buddha declared that we must shave our heads each full moon as a way of reminding us of vanity. Buddhism teaches that we are not our bodies. We are that which lives within the body and uses the body to observe and interact with the world. The shaving is a way of letting go of the attachment to the body and to the human focus on beautifying the body. Likewise we are not allowed to wear any jewelry or decoration of any kind. You will see tattoos, but they are not meant as decoration, but instead are used to teach once again that we are not our body. Through tattooing we can experience pain in the body and realize that pain also is not permanent and will pass, even though it may leave a mark or scar on the body as a reminder. In Lao, Monks and Novices also shave their eyebrows. In the time of the Buddha, a group of people attempted to infiltrate the temple by dressing as Monks and shaving their heads, so the Buddha had his Monks shave their eyebrows also, this way we could tell the real Monks from the infiltrators.
Written by Novices
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