Monday, March 03, 2008

A day of remembrance

We will always remember.

Sunday was the 100th day following the passing of the brother of my best friend Nittaya, whom I regard also as a sister. Her family held a remembrance ceremony at a Buddhist temple in Silver Spring just outside of Washington DC. Relatives and friends gathered for a merit-making ceremony and to remember Supaporn Maphungphong, affectionately known as Piek.

The ceremony began at about 10 a.m. Paul, Piek's younger brother, lit a candle at the altar of the statue of the Buddha Image in the main chapel of the temple.

He also lit the candle at a smaller altar where we placed the picture of Piak. We also put the pictures of Piak's parents and Bill there. Piek was a sharing, giving man in life. He would love to share the blessings of this day.

We then asked the monks for a prayer.

The abbot started the prayer and the seven monks followed. They said the prayer for Piek, his parents, Bill and us. The prayer reminds us that life is just a phase of nature and that it is not permanent. What is permanent and lasts forever is the good deeds one does in life and that is what we should remember our loved ones by. Only their earthly bodies are gone. Their goodness, their kindness, their love, remain with us forever.

After they finished praying we presented the offering. Typically in a ceremony like this you offer basic staples for individual monks. You can offer a basket of personal items such as toiletries, clothing items or sundries. We did that for Bill two weeks ago. Alternatively you can offer items for use for the benefit of the whole temple community such as toilet paper, laundery soap, paper plates and so forth. We chose to do that this time.

And of course candles, incense sticks and flowers for the Buddha.

The monks received the offerings and said a blessings for Piek and us as Nittaya poured libation.

The chapel ceremony was now concluded. But as the ceremony was going on in the main chapel, some members of the family were busy preparing lunch in the temple kitchen. Buddhist monks only eat once a day and the have to eat before noon. It was quite busy in the kitchen getting the luncheon ready.

But lunch was ready at 11 o'clock on the dot.

They sat down to eat.

And we sat down to wait.

FYI for you non-Buddhists out there -- you cannot eat before the monks, or you will become a "Pret" -- an 8-foot-tall, skeletal creature with a mouth the size of the eye of a needle so you can eat nothing but vermicelli noodles. We waited on the monks in case they wanted more food or water. After desserts were served, we received the final blessings.

They departed. Then chow time for us!

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