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Life of a Novice

Herein, description are provided based on ordination held in Samathidhammaram Centre and Samnak Wimuttidhammaram.

Precepts to be observed by a Sāmanera (Novice):

A Sāmanera wears a yellow robe like a full bhikkhu- except he does not have the saṅghāti (double thickness robe)- and leads a very similar life. The sāmanera keeps the Ten Precepts and the 75 Training Rules (sekhiya) and some other rules of the bhikkhu. The trainings help to establish the mindfulness of the Sāmanera so that he becomes aware of his behaviour. An observer who observes a sāmanera adhering to the training rules would undoubtly notice the care and refinement in which he stand, walk, sit, takes his food and lie down.

Some examples are:

As layperson, we can often make our own drinks and beverages. However as a sāmanera is not allowed to carry cash or purchase items with cash. Any drink and food would have to be offered to the sāmanera. Usually an open invitation (pavārana) is made by the nuns or 8 preceptors to the sāmanera to inform us when they require anything. With that, they may ask if they require anything.

Previously at home as a layperson, the sāmanera may be used to getting whatever items he wishes on his own but when he is ordained, he need to wait for an invitation. When offered, the offerings have to be received with a receiving cloth to avoid touch with the donor. After accepting the offering: the sāmanera would chant blessings as a gesture of gratitude towards the offerings.

In the picture above, the sāmanera had just completed their ordination ceremony and is receiving their first offerings- water and hot drinks by their own school teacher who had accompanied them to Khun Mae’s temple for ordination. It was their first time holding out the receiving cloth and accepting the offerings- so that was some awkwardness.

For children and teenagers who have undergo novice ordination, it teaches them self-restraint, patience, moderation and gratitude.

Usage of mobile phone or internet access

Sāmaneras would be asked to give up their mobile phone as well as not to access to internet. In the modern age, most of us would not would be able to imagine life without mobile phone, internet and social media. But it is easier than it sounds.  A number of adult the novices who had undergo ordination in Khun Mae’s temple either hold demanding jobs or have their own businesses. Initially they were stressed at the thought of losing connection with work or business partners as conduct a lot of business and communication via their mobile device. But after a few days, they start to relax considerably.

One of them shared that he had no idea who stressed up he was with his business until not having the internet and mobile had helped him let go of the wordly matters for just 9 days. He said he had not felt so relaxed in years. and would like to take things more easy.

Learning to wear the robes

The monks’ and sāmaneras’ robes requires skill to wear and to put together. If one is not careful in tying, the robes could fall at the sides or at certain angles. When wearing the robe, the sāmanera would always need to be mindful of his movement- standing, walking, sitting and lying down.  Often, not wanting to trouble anyone, each sāmanera would make an effort to learn to tie the robes on his own. Once one is skilled at tying the robes, he would offer to assist his fellow novices in tying. Sometimes when novices have to go for morning almsround or evening chanting, a novice who is struggling with trying to twist and put together his outer robe would immediately be assisted by other novices.