I was sitting in a public place, drinking iced coffee and reading the Sunday Bangkok Post. A man walking by stopped about a foot away from me. My peripheral vision immediately picked up the saffron robes of a Buddhist monk. ‘What the ..’ I thought while my BS detector jumped. I looked up. He mimed scooping food from a bowl into his mouth while making a ‘uhhhh …. uhhhhh’ noise. The BS Detector surged higher but wavered as the guilt generator noticed that the man sure looked like a monk and who the bleep am I to disrespect a man who has committed his life to his beliefs. But everything else about the situation was wrong so doubt ebbed. I shook my head ‘no’ and went back to the paper. He stood there for about 20 seconds before he realized I wasn’t a mark.
The following is my summary of my limited understanding of the Thai Buddhist practice of alms giving. I hope I don’t screw it up too bad.
Thia Buddhists practice alms giving. Each morning monks walk an alms round. The faithful wait along the circuit to give alms in the form of food. When the monk approaches, the individual does a wai to indicate they wish to give. After accepting the gift, the monk may offer a blessing. I see this every morning I’m on the beach. What I have never seen until today was a monk approach someone with any sort of verbal or non-verbal request.
I wondered if bogus monks was a common problem, so I googled ‘bogus begging monks’ and found warnings about such con men. I also wonder how the Thais feel about them impersonating monks.