Life of a temple boy

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696Life for a temple boy in the countryside is very interesting. Early in the morning before daybreak, he must prepare the black-bowl or alms bowl and a food carrier for the monks. Then, when the monks are ready for alms-collecting in the village, he will have to carry food for the monks. Everyday he will follow the monks who go for alms-collecting 2-3 kilometres away from the temple. Many times he has to run for safety when he encounters fierce dogs.

Usually alms-collecting will be divided into several routes especially in a temple where there are a large number of monks and novices. On some routes, only on boy is enough to assist monks while some routes may need two or more temple boys. This depends on the quantity of food offered by lay people. Usually most Buddhists prefer to make merit on Buddhist holidays (Wan Phra) or on auspicious occasion such as New Year Day. Thus, on these occasions food and other necessity items will be offered to monks and novices in large quantity.2015-07-27--5-01-24

Upon returning to the temple, the temple boys will prepare food for monks and novices immediately. As a religious rule, monks are not allowed to eat food unless it is presented by a lay man (or Praken in Thai), except water and the like. After the monks finished their meals, temple boys will keep some food for monks and novices for their second meal which must take place before midday, but some monks who are strict to the Buddhist precepts may choose to eat only one meal. Then temple boys will eat their left-overs as it is considered to be a sin for lay people to eat before monks or novices. After midday, food is not allowed except liquids such as water, soft drink or pasteurized milk etc.

Since monks and novices wear similar robes and are possibly the same age, it sometimes becomes difficult to identify them their appearance. However, there are many differences between the two, namely; while monks preserve 227 precepts, novices preserve only 10 precepts. Novices are not eligible to perform certain important ceremonies e.g. ordination and while taking part in the important ceremonies monks have to wear Sanghati (or the outer robe to be hung on their shoulder).

A temple boy will undertake work similar to that of a housemaid, but he will not get paid by the monk. On the contrary, his duty is done in exchange for merit, free food and accommodation. To be frank, the life of a temple boy is not easy as it seem to be especially in the village temple as the nearby villagers are mostly poor farmers. Food is offered to monks and novices in a rather limited quantity. As a result, it is quite common for little food to be left for the temple boys.1403233536-IMG2660-o

People may ask why many boys (girls are not allowed) become temple boys or Dek Wat in Thai. This is because their parents are mostly poor farmers who find it better to send their sons to stay with monks in the temple where they can get free food and accommodation and by way of doing work for monks and novices they will also get merit in return. However, in some cases the boys are from a well-to-do family, but their parents want them to stay in a temple which usually has a school in its compound. At the same time, if they stay with the monks, they will become good boys as monks usually give them moral instructions and train them to be disciplined and be good Buddhists.

Many people who hold high positions in the public and private sectors are the former temple boys. This indicates that life in the temple is of worth as boys can grow up in ethical surroundings. They can absorb religious teaching which tells everybody to do good, to abstain from bad actions and to purify his own mind.

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