One of the greatest things in the life of a Thai man is ordination which is regarded as an act of a great merit dedicated to his parents. It is a Thai custom for a young man to enter the monkhood for a certain period of time in their life, but usually before marriage as Thai people believe that if a man enters the monkhood after marriage his wife is certain to receive half of the merit in stead of his parents who need most of the merit so that they will be born in heaven after death. To enable their parents achieve this goal, most Thai men therefore take this opportunity to express their gratitude to their parents by entering into the monkhood immediately after they reach a mature age of not less than 20 years old.
A man who has not been ordained is not considered a mature adult and he seems to gain less repect from his community while a man who has already been ordained will be called “Thit” which derived from the word “Bundhit“. Bundhit means a “learned man” or “scholar”. Thus, in the countryside, we will frequently hear the elder people call the already-ordained man beginning with “Thit” and then to be followed by the person’s name for example Thit Chom in stead of Khun Chom as we generally hear in the Thai daily dialogue. The word “Khun” is a polite from of title which is used for both man and woman.
Though ordination can be performed at any time of the year, it usually takes place in July or August of each year which marks the beginning of the rainy season as during this period monks throughout the country are committed to stay only in their respective temples throughout a 3-month Rains Retreat or “Khao Phansa” in Thai.
Indeed, the ordination ceremony is a religious event in which the entire village is drawn to take part. The participants gain merit by accompanying the “nak” or the “white-robed shaven head candidate for monk-hood” in a colourful procession to the temple. The procession is very joyous and elegant as the nak’s relatives and friends dance to the music in a festive mood.
In brief, the formal ceremony begins with the oral examination of the ordainee’s qualifications. Some of the questions to be answered by the ordainee are, “Are you male? Are you free from debt? Have you your parents’ permission to become a monk?” All these questions are meant to ensure that the young man has been really relieved of all worldly burdens so that he can devote most of his time for religious studies during this valuable time of his life. After fulfilling the prescribed regulations, the ordainee will then be given the yellow robe and hear his first admonition before becoming a full monk.
At the end of the 3-monuth Rains Retreat and after the Kathin robe is presented to their temple, some monks will leave the monkhood and become laymen while some other still continue their monkhood for a longer period and some may spend their entire life in the monkhood for the profit of attaining enlightenment in the many lives to come. However, this depends on the individual’s merit and his endurance in preserving the 227-Buddhist precepts. Sometimes, it is very unfortunate that a young man is able to stay in the monkhood just only for a few days, even then he also gains merit from his good deed.