Monday, 2 January 2012

Early mornings in Luang Prabang, Laos

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

5.30 am starts were never a problem for me in Luang Prabang, I couldnt wait to hit the streets and join in the daily religious rite of almsgiving.

The streets were peaceful and yet busy, awash with orange robes and  baskets of sticky rice, fruit and other offerings.

Almsgiving in Buddhism as I have recently learnt is a rite in which laypeople give alms to the monks in order to ensure monastic continuity and to show humbleness and respect to the monks in the presence of society.  This connection between the monks and the laypeople is a very important part of their everyday lives.

Each monastery has a different route which the monks follow every morning (7 days a week), the  walk generally takes around 45 minutes after which time the monks return to their monastery and take their breakfast (their offered food) together.

This is a religious rite it is not an event for tourists as I have heard some people claim, and if the tourist or visitor steps away from the main street they may get more of an understanding of this. 

However, as a visitor you are more than welcome to take part and there are plenty of vendors on the streets ready to sell their sticky rice and other food items to you..... they may even supply you with a mat for you to kneel on.  Below is my first morning's offerings (on a very bright and lovely mat), I do admit to having been a little surprised by the addition of some packaged food in my bowl (these may be more of a hit with the younger Novice monks)!

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
My basket and bowl of offerings

They do ask (and quite rightly so) that visitors who partake in this rite do so in the spirit that it is intended and that they show the utmost respect for the occasion.

The monks also have the opportunity to share their food with the locals by placing it in baskets that are dotted along the streets.  

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012
Two young children showing their respect and waiting to receive food to share with their families.

During the day the site of monks in the street going about their daily business, in the grounds of their monastery or simply walking to and from their school was for me a constant source of beauty. 

© Copyright Millie Brown 2012

No matter how long I stayed in Laos, I knew I would never tire of seeing these graceful monks in their simple and vibrant orange robes.

Millie x

©copyright Millie Brown 2012

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