Buddho - Practices - Customs

Customs

A prominent characteristic of the Forest Tradition is great veneration paid toward Sangha elders. As such, it is vitally important to treat elders with the utmost respect. Care must be taken in addressing all monks, who are never to be referred to solely by the names they received upon ordination. Instead, they are to be addressed with the title "Venerable" before their name, or they may be addressed using just the Thai words for "Venerable," Ayya or Than (for men). All monks, on the other hand, can be addressed with the general term "Bhante". For monks and nuns who have been ordained 10 years or more, the title Ajahn, meaning "teacher", is reserved. For community elders the title Luang Por is often used, which in Thai can roughly translate into "Venerable Father".

In Thai culture, it is considered impolite to point the feet toward a monk or a statue in the shrine room of a monastery. It is equally considered impolite to address a monk without making the anjali gesture of respect. When making offerings to the monks, it is considered inappropriate to approach them at a higher level than they are at - for instance, if a monk is sitting it would be inappropriate to approach that monk and stand over them while making an offering.

In practice, the extent to which this cultural code of behavior is enforced will vary greatly, with some communities being more lax about such cultural codes than others. The one element which the forest monastic community are not lax about is the standard Theravada monastic code (vinaya).

Although Forest monasteries exist in extremely rural environments, they are not isolated from society. Monks in such monasteries are expected to be an integral element in the surrounding society in which they find themselves.

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