July 18, Woman's Ordination Ritual at Songdhammakalyani
It's now Friday but I will try to describe a bit of what happened yesterday on July 17. I have been at the monastery of the first woman monk/bikkhuni of Thailand since Tuesday evening. But yesterday was quite amazing. At 5:30am I went with Ven. Dhammananda and her "novice" (like a deacon) and 7 or 8 volunteers making begging rounds in the nearby town. The devotion of all those who gave these women was palpable. I took video and pictures and will try to get them up on this blog soon.
Flowers and food were offered. Begging rounds are done on Thursday and Sunday. From this food, all the guests were fed who arrived for the ordination that same day. At 8am the young woman who was to be ordained had her shoulder length thick black hair cut off. I participated in this with 20 other women. She held a lotus leaf that caught the hair as it was clipped off. All the while she chanted: hair, nails, skin, flesh---to remind her of the impermanence of our bodies.
At 9am the ordination ceremony began.
A day earlier I had given Ven. Dhammananda a gift of a clear glass chalice with the words "Women's Ordination Conference" carved into the glass. WOC, as most of you know, has been organizing for women's ordination in the Catholic Church for 30 years.
And I have been a board member for the past 3 years. So it was with much gratitude that I saw Dhammananda place the chalice on a table to be used in the ceremony.
The main liturgical space is actually a beautiful large house with 3 floors. This ceremony was held on the 3rd floor. Some 40 people were in attendance. The young woman, only the second to be ordained as a "samenaris" (deacon) at this Wat, and one of the very few in Thailand, made promises (not unlike those that I made as a deacon in 2004). She was given her new robes the color of rusty orange and the color that all monks wear in Thailand and went to a back room to change. When she emerged, radiant, she then took the WOC chalice filled with water, and offered blessings to all those gathered. Afterward, each person there offered her gifts, either of money, or food. But of course these gifts were not for her--but for the monastery.
Once again the devotion of all those attending was so clear.
This particular day was also auspicious because it was a full moon and the celebration of the completion of the 3 integral parts of Buddhism: the life of the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings), and the Sangha (his disciples). So this day celebrated the Sangha. In the evening we all walked around the grounds of the monastery (it covers 9 acres)carrying incense, a lotus blossom and a candle celebrating discipleship. We ended up at the Medicine Buddha, a separate large temple in the back of the monastery with a blue Buddha. We sat outside on the steps under the full moon chanting (they chanted I meditated!). Afterward, Ven. Dhammananda had us all sit in a circle and share our feelings from the day. Many of the women and men who were there are volunteers at the temple and come often to help out and practice. Once again I was filled with gratitude to hear the beauty of what each person offered (translated by Dhammananda for me)--most of which was great gratitude for a new samenaris and gratitude for their growing sangha/community.
JUST A QUICK WORD ABOUT TODAY, FRIDAY.
In a few moments I will be interviewing Dhammananda, which is the real reason I am here. To look for parallels between her women's ordination movement and my own.
And tomorrow, Saturday, I will leave here headed for Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
Blessings to All,