After chanting at a ceremony, each Thai Buddhist monk gets a donation of products. This may be offered on a pedestal tray, but more often comes in a bucket. Coloured saffron like their robes, the bucket has become a symbol of practical Thai Buddhist faith today. It contains all the Thai Buddhist monks’ needs, which is proscribed by their vows: things like a robe, soap, incense. candles, matches and flip-flops.
As the Buddha proscribed if it is donated before the monks' last mealtime at noon, this may contain also contain food. Thai Buddhist monastic retreat is a simple life, a model one in fact. Everything else is surplus, the stuff of craving. Thai Buddhist monks stop craving on behalf of everyone else, so it's incumbent on the Thai Buddhist lay people to support their noble poverty which mirrors the lessons of the Buddha. Do that and you tamboon (make merit). This act of giving improve prospects in the next life, so tamboon is popular. Thais often make merit by financial donations, releasing captive animals, or giving food on the Thai Buddhist monks' morning alms round, but also in rites at festivals, weddings, business blessings or overnight bus pilgrimages to sacred sites.
Thai’s never unwrap gifts in front the recipient and the same goes for Thai Buddhist monks. On opening the. plastic covering back at the Thai Buddhist temple , the monk must accept what he gets with equanimity, as with the mixture of food scooped into his alms bowl. Luxuries, adornments and intoxicants are forbidden as with the life and example of the Buddha . Tamboon is meant to be humble supplication and a bucket is considered more useful than the metal offering pedestal used for such rites as holding the protective white string that monks tie around wrists and places being blessed. In theory, Thai Buddhist monks shouldn't handle gold, silver or money.
That said senior Thai Buddhist monks often get better products. After all, donating to Buddha novices accrues less merit. The Thai Buddhist monk’s lifestyle increasingly reflects secular tastes. In some notorious cases, abbots may be seen in Mercedes, while in 2003, the National Buddhism Office saw the need to stress a ban on Thai Buddhist monks drinking alcohol, having dinner, walking on beaches, cheering at boxing matches, publicly using a mobile phone, or browsing department stores.
While the gifts are good and practical, the intent isn't always selfless. With Thai Buddhist karma in mind, Thais seek to get back in kind what they offer. They may give candles, become enlightened. Give medicine, gain health. Give food, never starve. Give flowers, gain beauty. Give money, gain wealth. To donate a Buddha image, statue or sculpture brings future wisdom, while financing a Thai Buddhist chapel gains sanctuary from harm. These come only in your next life, unfortunately. But do the math. One package per monk. Several blessings a week. Multiple monks per event (at birthdays they number the celebrant's age plus one, to ensure longevity). That's an awful lot of buckets. And soap. And incense.
Monks do keep very clean, but they limit their robes to two and just how much toothpaste can a mouth take? Where does the bucket surplus go? What's not required goes into temple storage, or may go to charity, a poorer temple, or the local poor. Anything left may be given to a nearby shopkeeper, who in turn makes equivalent monetary merit to the temple fund. This ad hoc market operates informally, and isn't a fixed system with dealers. As for where the fund surplus goes, some wonder, and scandals do get reported. The point of the giving is not the gift, giver or receiver, but the sincere act of giving. Tamboon oils the wheel of life. "
Supporting Thai Buddhist monks in their mission to live without possessions or ego has, however, been commoditized into a standardised ritual by secular lifestyles in which the gaining of possessions and boosting of ego seem to get more attention than following Thai Buddhist moderation. As society gets more materialist, the act of giving to Thai Buddhist monks has flourished as a tangible token of their Thai Buddhist faith. Not only does it contain consumer products, the Thai Buddhist monk’s bucket is itself a consumer product. There's now no need to assemble the supplies yourself. Since the coming of chain stores, ready-made packs get sold from shops near a Thai Buddhist temple. Any foods are dried or tinned, not fresh, as was the norm until recent decades. A huge range of baskets fills supermarket aisles, alongside sacred powders, cloths, and spirit house dancer offerings. Plastic cups, plates and tubs come moulded in shades of saffron.
Tesco-Lotus superstores even stock sachets of gold leaf, regalia for sprinkling holy water, and urns for your loved one's ashes. Packages cater to every budget and taste, from 99 baht lunchboxes to 999 baht buckets and innovative designs like saffron-hued first aid kits. At funerals, instead of wreaths (a Western import). you can offer blankets folded into animals, or towels shaped as gibbons, for re-use by the Thai Buddhist monks. The latest idea is to give satchels of study materials for temple school pupils.