Thailand is full of interesting history and culture and one of these such features is the tradition of Buddhist men becoming monks before getting married. While this is not a national requirement, around 90% of the country’s residents follow the Buddhist way of life, and as such, the majority of Buddhist males will be ordained as monks at some point in their life.
What Does It Mean To Be Ordained?
Unlike being ordained as a Christian monk or priest, in which it is thought to become your new way of life, being ordained in Thai Buddhism is a short-term commitment in which you dedicate yourself to the religion for between one week and a few months. This can be taken at any stage of life such as when you turn 18, before getting married or after a period hardship or crime in which the person seeks some form of redemption by entering the monastery.
Being ordained into a Buddhist monastery allows the man to gain greater respect from family, friends and society as a whole and there are some roles, such as rural village leader, which you cannot do without having spent time in a monastery.
Why Do Thai Men Enter The Monastery Before Marriage?
It is expected of all Thai men who follow Buddhist beliefs and traditions to enter the monastery at some point in their life in order to learn the way of the Dharma and to develop a deeper understanding of their religion. This is often done before marriage as a way of passing on good karma to both the man’s parents and his new spouse.
Entering the monastery also shows your future wife’s family that you are a man of good standing and that you will be devoted, caring and thoughtful. Spending time in a monastery is also supposed to prove that you will be able to help your wife and your future family stay on the right path during your lives together.
How Long Do They Have To Be A Monk For?
There is no set period as to how long you should stay in the monastery for, but it is likely that the longer you stay for the more you prove your commitment and devotion. Living a monastic lifestyle is also a character-building experience which stands you in good stead for future struggles.
Some find that they actually adapt quite well to monastic life and wish they could stay longer to continue their personal development, while others dislike the rules and rituals and get out as soon as they can!
How Does This Align With A Modern Way Of Life?
Entering the monastery is a very traditional rite of passage but one that is slightly declining in popularity as the years go on. Most young men still choose to become ordained as a monk in order to please their parents or the parents of their future spouse, but arguably the wives are more interested in the man’s job and the cash in his pocket than his obligation to his or her parents!
It will be interesting to see if this tradition continues 10, 20 years in the future…
If you meet a local guy while travelling in Thailand, why not ask him if he has been ordained into a Buddhist monastery and hear his story about his experience? It’s always interesting to get a first-hand account of someone’s thoughts and beliefs, just be sure to show respect when listening to their tales.
NB: Monks are not supposed to have any contact with females during their monastic time so don’t try to touch or speak to a monk if you are a female traveller.