Once a month we like to share a story we find really interesting from a volunteer’s blog. This month we share one from Ruhamaiah B.
Ruhamaiah Bradley, 130 TESS
Bewitching and monotonous chanting reverberates through the bodies, walls, and floors of the guests at the funeral.
A funeral for a woman I had not known but I see her photo daily. The late mother of my host mae (Thai word for mother) who passed away a hundred days prior to her funeral ceremony held on Sunday February 11, 2018.
Thai tradition is to hold a funeral ceremony 100 days after the initial funeral and death of an individual. The whole event was magic, nostalgic, and enlightening.
I was informed well before that this event was taking place but it wasn’t clear until Saturday morning, the day before the funeral, what was happening. My host family’s home was filled with family members I had only seen on passing in our compound. They were hidden unless something required they leave their dwelling.
It was Thanksgiving for me. Not the food but the feeling of family coming together. I was raised by women, so seeing so many women with pots and pans cooking and talking made me feel at home. They laughed at my Thai but made me feel welcome. There was love. For me. This farang (Thai word for foreigner) they just met a few weeks ago.
This was just the beginning. The real magic took place during the funeral.
When you look at the quantity of food cooked and the small gathering of people, it’s logical to question who all the food was carefully prepared for. I thought it was for the guests but it seems reasonable to believe that it was prepared for the monks.
Is it truly a funeral if monks are not present? There were nine bronze skin colored monks with shaven heads clad in deep orange robes. They wore relaxed expressions.
Normally, the living room in my home is a huge open space with tiled floors that keeps the room cool despite the hot weather. On this day, much of it was sectioned off for the monks. The walls behind them were covered in a red and gold patterned cloth. They sat on cushions with the same pattern as well.
When all the monks were seated the ceremony began.
And more Chanting.
It was beautiful. It lasted for what felt like 30 minutes. I wish I would have timed it. Maybe it was the living room. Maybe it was how sounds bounced off the walls and floor and echoed throughout the space. What I can say is, for the first time in a while I realized I was somewhere experiencing an event that is truly amazing. I could catch it all on video, recordings, or with photos but none of it could recreate what I felt in the moment.
It was an out of body experience. I was entranced. My gaze was focused on the monks. Their mouths and voices were in rhythm while their bodies remained still.
Everyone sat with their legs crossed and with hands in wai position (palms pressed together in prayer-like fashion). I followed the masses so I could wai (a slight bow) when it was appropriate.
As the chanting reached its end, my host family began to feed the monks. I was rushed to my mae who was holding a silver bowl. She told me to put one hand on it. My piisao (Thai word for older sister) held my mae’s arm. We were all connected to the rice she was placing in the bowl, that was later given to the monks.
On this day we, the physical, were connected to the spiritual.
We sat in silence while the monks ate. When they were done the food was cleared. They chanted again then made their exit.
We then made our exit, so we could eat as well.
Read Ruhamaiah’s previous article PST Survival Guide.