Bangkok in the Morning perhaps is a better representation of the real Bangkok, rather than the touristic image it has during day time and during night time. No wonder, most tourists searched for those attractive places during day time and the entertainments at night time. Not many tourists want to wake-up early in the morning to see the people of Bangkok getting ready and rush to work, to beat the traffic jams.
Even less tourists wake-up earlier than 6AM to see the monks go on a daily alms round to collect their food of the day. I happened to woke up early in the morning one day and went with my camera to the see the early morning roads and to visit Wat That Thong temple located in the heart of Bangkok, Ekkamai area, that is not on most tourists itinerary.
On the streets and at the Wat That Thong temple, I saw many monks in orange robe wandering with a bowl in their hands. Traditionally in Theravada Buddhism, monks would get up as early as 4 am, do some prayers to the Buddha and meditate, and then have a light morning meal. After that, they might go for alms round in the community, return to monastery and have the meal together before 12 noon.
Mothers have been cooking food for monks and giving alms since the dawn of Buddhism over 2,500 years ago. Specifically, almsgiving is a tradition of Theravada Buddhists, who are an overwhelming majority in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Laos. By bringing monks food each day, the faithful are investing in the faith, and in doing so they too make merit to nourish their own souls.
So, on that day I felt like giving alms to the monks, but we must remember that most of the monks are vegetarian. The food should be simple as the monks generally must eat whatever foods are given to them. But it is not charity as presumed by Western interpreters. It is closer to a symbolic connection to the spiritual realm and to show humbleness and respect in the presence of the secular society. Indeed, it was always the best food from our kitchen, as it was intended not just to give food to the monks but also to demonstrate the giver’s selflessness and commitment to the faith. It is the worldly duty of the layman, as a way to maintain a direct connection with the Lord Buddha.