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Holy water sprinkling a respected Buddhist tradition

The holy water sprinkling ceremony that took place at That Luang on Sunday to honour the country's most senior and revered monk carries great meaning for all monks and Lao people.

The ceremony, known as Aphisek-hodsong ' in Lao, is an ancient tradition used to promote monks to a higher rank and congratulate, honour, and show gratitude to monks who have been ordained f or many years and dedicated their lives to their religion, society and the country by preaching the tenets of Buddhism, learning and teaching the Dharma, and teaching people about the Buddhist precepts and morality.

His Holiness Manha-ngon Damrongboun is the honoree at Sunday's water sprinkling ceremony at That Luang Neua temple.

The ceremony is also a way to unite monks and Buddhists, promote Buddhism and ear n merit for society and the nation, as well as giving laypeople a special opportunity to make merit.

In ancient times it was also a royal ceremony that involved sprinkling holy water on monks as a way to show gratitude.

This is not an easy event to arrange because it is expensive and involves the preparation of various rituals, while a few pieces of gold and silver must be included in the many offerings that are made.

The most important offerings are the traditional orange robes and everyday consumer items. The host family or group can donate whatever they want and believe they will receive what is donated when they die. This means many people try to give as many items as they can, including clothes, household goods and even electronic appliances.

The President of the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organisation, His Holiness Manha-ngon Damrongboun, is one of those monks who have proved worthy of the title and so merits the congratulations and honours heaped upon him.

His stature resulted in the ceremony held on Sunday, in which holy water was sprinkled on His Holiness.

The event was very colourful and meaningful. The ceremony began with a large procession that circled the That Luang stupa three times before the watering took place.

During the procession, His Holiness Manha-ngon Damrongboun was carried in a special ornamental carriage. He was preceded by 17 cultural and traditional groups carrying national and religious symbols and traditional spears, and followed by monks, officials and members of the public.

After the procession, the monks, officials, and laypeople took turns to gently pour a trickle of holy water while monks chanted and bestowed blessings on His Holiness, who sat in a specially prepared place.

Devotees murmured blessings as they poured water down a long spout in the traditional way, while monks chanted and recited blessings in unison.

The ceremony was attended by a large number of people and monks from around the country, who were all happy and proud to take part in this important occasion.

The sprinkling of water took place after an almsgiving and was attended by officials, monks from Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, and the general public.

The ceremony was especially meaningful because it honoured the President of the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organisation as well as promoting the country's culture, traditions and customs. It also created solidarity among monks and Buddhists and strengthened belief in the religion.

The event was organised by the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organisation, Lao Front for National Construction and other groups to honour the fifth Manha-ngon Damrongboun.

The ceremony also marked the one year anniversary of His Holiness's appointment as president of the monk body at the end of 2015, as well as his recent receipt of an honorary doctorate degree.

The occasion comprised various rituals starting on Saturday morning, which were attended by a large number of merit makers who offered donations and prayers and engaged in chanting, meditation, and recital of the Dharma, led by representatives of monks from all over the country.

His Holiness Maha-ngon Damrongboun is the fifth President of the Lao Buddhist Fellowship Organisation which means he is the leader of all monks in Laos. He was appointed on December 17, 2015. He is 86 years old and has observed 66 periods of Buddhist Lent and is widely recognised as the most revered of all monks in Laos.

He was born on February 10, 1931, in Nakala village, Songkhone district, Savannakhet province.

He was ordained as a novice in 1944 when he was 13 years old and became a monk on January 14, 1951.

He graduated from various schools in the study of the Dharma and the Pali language and has worked in several fields.

On Sunday he received one more accolade in the form of an honorary doctorate from Chulalongkorn University in Khon Kaen province, Thailand.

By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update February 7, 2017 )

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