From the battle hardened routine of the army to 13 days of penance in absolute Buddhist monkhood, it has turned out to be quite a journey of self discovery for a group of men from Thailand.
Following the Buddhist tradition, which prescribes a stint in a monk’s robe for a devout Buddhist, 329 Thai officials was ‘ordained’ as Buddhist monks for a fixed period of 13 days on March 7.
The ceremony took place in the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya, some 140 km south west of Patna.
A temple official said the it was not often that such a large team of high ranking foreign officials, many of them from the military, to take to monk's robes in pursuit of a religious tradition. This, he said, attracted much attention.
After being ordained as monks on March 7, the Thai team members served and prayed as monks on the Mahabodhi premises for the following two days.
Thereafter, they travelled to Rajgir, Vaishali (both in Bihar), Kushinagar (UP), Lumbini (Nepal) and to Sravasti and Sarnath (both UP), before returning to Bodh Gaya on March 17 to serve and pray at Mahabodi for another two days.
“Today, many members of the team have returned to uniform and their worldly duties”, said Bhikku Deenanand, caretaker monk of the Mahabodhi temple, counted among the holiest of Buddhist shrines and a Unesco world heritage site.
“Many other members of the team have decided to shed their monks’ robes only after returning to Thailand”, the caretaker priest of the temple told HT.
Bhikku Deenanand confirmed it was part of the Buddhist tradition for any true follower of the religion to become a ‘bhikku’ (monk) for a period of time, at least once during their lifetime.
Bhikku Deenand said all members of the team made donations to the temple. “But what they gave is a secret only each donor knows for himself”, he added.
“The team is leaving for Thailand on Saturday”, Bhikku Deenand said.