The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 23 , 2014
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Pledge for life of austerity

- Thai security personnel turn monks
The would-be monks at a procession

Officials of the armed forces and police of Thailand took oath as monks under the Bodhi tree at Mahabodhi Mahavihara in Bodhgaya on Tuesday.

A function was also organised at the Royal Thailand monastery where around 204 officers-turned-monks offered prayers. A monk of Thai monastery in Bodhgaya said: “There is a tradition in Thailand that each devotee has to become a monk once in life for at least four days, seven days or 14 days or one month. After the period they can return to their normal life. They even perform meditation, prayers and other rituals during the period. The purpose of this is to realise the mistakes committed as a common person like consumption of alcohol or atrocity on someone.”

The Thai officers wore a robe (civara), the traditional attire of a Buddhist monk, under the guidance of Bhikkhu Veridho, the president of spiritual leaders of Thailand in India and Nepal. They would stay in India for 14 days and during the period visit different places in Bihar like Rajgir, Nalanda, Vaishali, Shravasti, and Lumbini in Nepal. The officials in white dresses arrived the shrine on Tuesday morning.

The monk of Thai monastery in Bodhgaya, Bhikkhu Pandita, said it was up to the devotee whether to return to normal life or continue life as a monk. During the period, the common man-turned monk takes only two meals a day, chants shlokas from the holy Buddhist text known as Tipitaka, visits places of Buddhist importance, meditates and offers prayers. It is compulsory for such monk to visit four places, including Lumbini — the birthplace of Buddha, Bodhgaya — the place of enlightenment, Sarnath — the place where he delivered his first discourse and Kushinagar — the place of nirvana (death).

“The new monk has to get u before sunrise, chant, have breakfast and then set out for begging with a bowl in hand. The monk has to eat only what he gets as alms. He has to take part in cleaning the monastery and wash clothes on his own. Dhamma teaching (discourse) by senior monks are also included in the daily routine of such monks. The Tipitaka is divided into three parts, Vinays Pitaka (discipline), Sutta Pitaka (chanting of sutras) and Abhidhamma Pitaka (philosophy),” Bhikkhu Pandita said.

Earlier too, officials from Thailand have visited Bodhgaya and become monks. In Thailand, students of colleges and universities become monks. People who become monks in Thailand also visit India at least once to travel to the holy places.