• TravelGypsy

Giving alms in Loas

Today the beautiful people in Laos celebrate their National Day. The day, in 1975, when the royal family were forced to abdicate and the birth of the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. A new president was named and a new flag introduced. Blue, white, red. Blue representing the Mekong (or health of the country) White; the moon over the Mekong (or unity of the country) and red the blood shed for independence.

When I think of Loas a feel a sense of peace and a big smile comes to my face. I have always been personally fascinated by Budhism and here is where I experienced my first giving of alms. A practice that dates back to the 14th Century and is a tradition in Buddhist culture, and in particular Laos.

Our local guide had asked us if we would like to join her giving alms the following morning. So before the sun was up we assembled and drove to a nearby street. I was surprised to see so many local people up already. So we found our own little patch and set up something to kneel on and some bowls to put our offerings. We were given a briefing of how it must be done, most important was we were never to touch the monks (especially us women).

Shortly after sunrise we could see a procession of bright orange heading down the street towards us. I quickly noted a very long line with the oldest to youngest )sure hoped there was some left for the little ones on the end!) Locals out numbered us tourists which including young and old. Old ladies knelt down to give alms and small children sat with their own baskets. I found this interesting until I noticed some of the monks stopping and putting some of their food into their small baskets. Apparently this is ‘paying it forward’ so the child can take some food home to their family

The monks were very friendly and showed great appreciation to us foreigners. They only stopped long enough for you to place something into their bowls. A lot of people gave them rice. Our guide had kindly prepared for us rice and some candy. I figure once’s their silver bowl was full they would head back to the monastery, but one smart guy brought back up plastic bags.

In my photos I look very serious but I was trying so hard to place the candy in the bowl without touching anything or anyone! It was also important to cover shoulders, chest and knees as a mark of respect. Females have to have their head lower than the monks and not to talk to or touch the monks.

The giving of alms was all over too quick, but an experience I will cherish forever. It has left me with the feeling of respect, kindness and appreciation that has always stayed with me.

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