a guide to earning merit

As Touk explained to me the importance of my 25th year, she also told me that it is believed that an individual's birthday marks the day of their worst suffering. This means it is extra important to earn merit by giving alms. Also, going into your next year giving is obviously the right way to do the damn thing. So, on the morning of my birthday, I woke up at 4:40 a.m. to make sticky rice {supervise Touk} and participate in alms giving alongside her.

President Obama, or as I like to call him B-Rock, was in town and reportedly staying near the main road. To help him out {because, obviously he was hoping to wish me a HBD}, I thought if I gave alms near one of the big temples on the main road we might run into one another. Or better yet, we'd kneel side by side and earn merit together. Nailed it. 

Unfortunately, I didn't see the Pres. Instead, I had to witness three jerk-offs breaking just about every guideline for the spiritual practice. It was brutally embarrassing. One girl wearing cut-off shorts while taking photos on her iPhone as she gave. SHE WAS TAKING ALMS SELFIES. 

I can't. 

"Tara, you live there so you know the rules. A person stopping through wouldn't." No excuses. If you are going to participate in something as meaningful as giving alms, a quick Google would at the very least give you an idea of what to wear and how to behave. Not doing your research before hand is a rookie mistake and leads to you and fellow foreigners looking culturally insensitive. 

I've written a quick guide for any of you wanting to give alms and earn some merit in the appropriate way paired with pictures from alms giving in the morning pre-Boat Racing Festival. 

1. Cover up. 

In what religious building is it appropriate to wear a tank top and shorts? Exactly. Your shoulders and knees should be covered. Also, wear a scarf across your left shoulder and you should have your shoes off, sitting behind you. 

2. Don't make contact. 

With the alms bowls the novices and monks are using to collect or with their eyes. They are above you on the social hierarchy, so keep your eyes down and your limbs to yo'self. 

3. Keep your alms off the ground. 

Put whatever you are giving as alms in a bag/basket/sack on your lap. Don't give anything to a novice or monk that has fallen on the ground or that has been sitting on the ground. 

4. Taking photos should be done from a distance.

Remember that annoying person at that wedding that was distracting and disruptive while trying to grab a shit quality photo of the couple kissing? Yeah, that's you at alms if you're standing in front of the line of novices to snap a picture for your Instagram. Respect the highly revered ritual by grabbing photos {while wearing appropriate attire} from across the road without your flash on.  

5. Buy your alms the night before. 

This is more a tip for your benefit. It is considered disrespectful to barter with locals on the price of alms, and those who are out selling the morning of will charge you whatever they feel like. If you go to a market the night before, you will not pay "falang" price and chances are you'll get more bang for your buck. Plan ahead! 

Now, go out there and give with a happy and light heart!