some families in the north sell their daughters so that they
can give ordination to their sons?
Thai people hold on to the value that to have their sons ordained
is the highest form of merit making. In the village, when a
son is 20 years of age, it is a popular practice to arrange
for ordination with 3 days celebration
prior to the actual ritual of ordination. The 'calling kwan'
ceremony could last through the night by hiring the best vocalist
to narrate the story of how the mother had to endure suffering
of childbirth. Therefore, the merit for ordaining a son is believed
to go directly to the mother. Then the family has to pay for
the parade, taking the would-be monk to the monastery with various
kinds of offerings handed by pairs of young girls. The procession
could be so elaborate that it takes up half a kilometre long.
Then there are offerings for the preceptor, and a pair of teachers
responsible for the teaching and training of the would-be monk.
A chapter of a minimum of 10 monks is required. Each one of
them is expected to receive an offering. These are the expenses
that well-to-do families are willing to go through at an ordination.
Other families with less income always try to live up to this
standard of having elaborate celebration. Ordination, a simple
ritual of a person to let go of defilement, turns into a social
function for a family to show off their wealth. When the original
purpose shifted, some families without their own means to meet
such expense are willing to sell their daughters, the only valuable
property, in order to provide an elaborate ordination for their
daughters of the family are usually requested by their parents
to 'sacrifice' for their younger siblings and to be 'grateful'
to do this favour for their parents. The parents receive 'advance
money' from agents from Bangkok so that their daughters can
go to 'work in Bangkok' which could include working as sex-workers.
on the value of ordaining a son is a very highly recognised
social value particularly in the village. Ordination is the
only time that the mother is given highest honour as she actually
is allowed to lead the precession, a place of honour to walk
in front of the would-be monk holding the robe in her hands.
Normally it is the men who would take the lead in all rituals
in connection with the monks and the temples.
custom still practised is to ordain a son before he gets married,
with the belief that all the merit would go directly to the
parents. But if the son is already married, the mother might
have to share the merit with the daughter-in-law. Such belief,
though common, is not the real Buddhist understanding. Buddhism
allows women to be ordained themselves. Spiritual salvation
is completely her own achievement, not based on devotion through
her husbands as held in Hinduism. Women do not have to wait
for the sons to perform the final rites to allow her to enter
heaven. The fear of a daughter-in-law sharing the merit with
the mother is also based on insecurity. Merit may be compared
to candle light, by lighting other candles, the light from the
original candle does not minimise in any way. On the contrary,
the more one lights other candles, the more one brings light
into the world.
point that Thai women put much emphasis on ordination of their
sons is because they themselves have no opportunity to be ordained,
so they depend totally on their sons to bring them this highest
form of merit. If women have opportunity to be ordained, daughters
can equally bring the highest form of merit to the parents.
Instead of being asked to 'sacrifice' to have younger brothers
ordained, they themselves can bring about that highest form
of merit by being ordained themselves. Then she no longer has
to play the 'second fiddle' and can equally express her gratitude
towards her parents directly through her own commitment and