efe-epaBangkok

Thai student Jatuporn Kaewsaipan is approaching the end of his month-long stint as a Buddhist monk.

In April, the 21-year-old joined the scores of people his age following the Thai Buddhist tradition of being ordained into the monkhood as young adults for a short time to learn scriptures and practice Buddhist principles.

Devotees typically spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months in the monkhood, with Kaewsaipan opting to dedicate a month-long break from his university studies to the tradition.

“I am very happy and proud to do this,” he told epa, explaining that spending time as a monk would bestow honor on his parents.

On the eve of his ordination at a temple in Thailand’s Nonthaburi province, Kaewsaipan underwent a physical makeover in preparation for his upcoming spiritual journey.

His mother and other loved ones took turns in trimming his hair, before it was shaved off entirely by a Buddhist monk, as a symbol of renouncing all worldly goods.

After his head was shaved, Kaewsaipan took part in a ritual bathing ceremony, where family members blessed his body by covering it in turmeric powder and cleansing it with water.

The student was then dressed in white robes to await his ordination.

The following day, nearly 100 relatives, friends and neighbors gathered to watch Kaewsaipan’s ordination, which is viewed among Buddhists as a transition into manhood.

As per tradition, Kaewsaipan was carried on the shoulders of his relatives in a circle around the ordination hall, before joining a group of monks assembled to lead the ceremony.

The aspiring monk then took part in prayers and was finally dressed in the saffron robes that he would wear for the next month.

The following morning, the newly ordained monk took to the streets of a local village to collect alms, including a food offering from his mother.

While such ceremonies have traditionally been reserved for men in Thailand, increasing numbers of young women are now seeking their own spiritual enlightenment.

At Thailand’s first female-only monk temple, 24 young women were ordained last month as Bhikkhuni, or female monks.

While the full ordination of female monks is forbidden under Thailand’s conservative monastic clergy, the Songdhammakalyani Monastery in Nakhon Pathom province is pushing for change.

The temple’s abbess, Dhammananda, was officially ordained as a Theravada monk in 2003 in Sri Lanka, and the young women she ordained in last month’s ceremony came from Buddhist families with no sons.

Like Kaewsaipan, they took part in the traditional rituals, including having their hair shaved.

Despite not being officially recognized, it is believed there are now more than 100 female monks nationwide, compared to 300,000 males.

Since being ordained, Kaewsaipan and the female novices have spent their days emerged in the monkhood.

Each morning before breakfast, monks are expected to wake up early and chant until dawn, and then walk barefoot to collect alms from devotees.

They later receive a blessing and have lunch before noon, in what is their last solid meal of the day, and spend their afternoons learning Buddha’s teachings and working in the temple.

At the end of their brief time in the monkhood, they will return to their jobs and studies, now with knowledge of the Buddhist scriptures and disciplines that they hope to apply to their normal lives.