I am writing this post at 3:30 am in my guesthouse in Luang Prabang, Lao (a world heritage town). As a Buddhist and a mother, I’m feeling anxious to participate in the alms giving ceremony and ritual with M in less than three-hours.
This is a ritual I grew up witnessing and participated as a child in Burma. This is a ritual practiced all over Burma. How lucky a Buddhist am I to behold this experience and share it with M and J in Luang Prabang.
UPDATE: Today, 16 Feb 2011, we participated in the alms offering ceremony (along with few tourists offering alms, many acting like paparazzi flashing away as if they were on the red carpet). Many tourists showed up to take pictures,but NOT from a distant.. more like “in your face approach!” Several showed up completely inappropriately dressed as if they are out at the park and not at an age-old religious ceremony. There were many locals, but many selling items to tourists to use for alms giving. Only a handful in our areas were Laos people. It felt a bit awkward.
I had a lot of time to observe and witness prior to the arrival of the Monks. However, during the ceremony, I did my best focused on being present for the ceremony. It felt surreal. As the senior and junior saffron-robbed-monks approached from both sides of the direction, I reminded M of the important rules for us to follow while offering alms.
– we need to use our right hand or both hands to offer (never the left hand)
– we keep our head lower than the monks
– we make little eye contact
– we bow our heads and pay respect when possible
– we dress appropriately which means covered shoulders, midriff, and legs, and drape a scarf along the left shoulder
An Important note to photographers: I realize this is a fascinating photo opportunity. We took pictures too. But PLEASE, try to remember NOT being in the way or disruptive when taking pictures. Be kind, be polite and respectful to the procession, the monks, those participating in the alms offering ritual. Use zoom lens, that’s what they’re made for. Don’t use flash if at all possible. Don’t be an obvious ignorant and arrogant tourist. Do the right thing!
If you see this inappropriateness, make time to educate otheres.
It is posted everywhere in hotels, restaurant reminding tourists to be respectful of the daily event.
Lonely Planet dedicated a section on how to behave and dress appropriately during this important ritual. Please read it!
Overall, I am grateful I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the ceremony.
I do look forward to the day when we are in Burma again to participate in the alms offering without the imposing tourists and the flashes. Hopefully this will happen in a couple of months.
For now, we will do the offering again on Friday which is full-moon, a Buddhist holiday, and hopefully this time in a different location. For now, we are relishing our time and spiritual moments in Luang Prabang.
Message to M: “It is in ‘Giving’ that We Receive the Greatest Gift of All!” Unknown
We Say NO to the Status Quo.
Live Green. Live Small. Give Large. Take Little.
Take Notice. Take Action