Giving back to Buddhist Monks with Tak Bat - The World Overload

Photo of Giving back to Buddhist Monks with Tak Bat - The World Overload by Nicholas Rosen

While in Chiang Mai I was able to participate in the tradition of Tak bat, a very important part in the culture of Thailand. The Buddhist monks participate in this weekly activity that dates back for generations. A spiritual ritual where we gift food to Buddhist monks and teachers who have in turn taught us about goodness and virtue. It is their main purpose to preserve and practice Buddhist teachings. We are expected to take care of the Buddhist monk’s physical needs as they in turn are taking care of our spiritual needs. Thailand has the 3rd largest Buddhist population behind China and Japan. It is the official religion of Thailand, following the Theravada school of Buddhism.

When it starts

The monks start early in the morning as the sun rises, between 5 to 6 a.m. so make sure you get a good plenty of rest the day before. It’s disrespectful to interrupt the ceremony so show up early if you can. Barefooted (a Buddhist way of connecting to nature and the earth) a line of Buddhist monks with the senior monk ahead at the front will lead the progression from the local monastery.

Photo of Chiang Mai, Thailand by Nicholas Rosen

Taking up with others along the roadside you will find yourself with locals and other tourists like you who are ready to give. Keep to wearing modest clothing. You should make sure your legs, chest, and shoulders are covered. Each monk will be carrying an alms bowl and it is Buddhist tradition to place fresh food into them. Rice, a staple of Thailand is the standard food to give them. You can also buy local fruit, milk, juice, and even fish as a gift. Monks typically only have two meals a day.

Offering to the Buddhist Monks

It is customary to gift these foods to the Buddhist monks while crouched or in a kneeling position. Keep your heard lowered as you present them the food. Once the procession has been completed the monks return to their monastery and the food they have received among each other.

Photo of Giving back to Buddhist Monks with Tak Bat - The World Overload by Nicholas Rosen

This happens every day so if you are unable to participate or miss it don’t worry. If you have a local tour guide they will be able to show you where the monastery is and where is a good spot for the full experience. You might also get a few rules on what not to do. Don’t expect a thank you from the monks as they tend not to speak during this. I had to get up and move an acceptable distance away in order to take pictures and to not block or disrupt anybody else who was still giving alms.

I found it to be a very uplifting and it filled me with something I could only describe as mild spiritual fulfillment as I'm sure it will for you too.