Into TGL: The Start of Rain Retreat in Laos
July 19, 2016
Yesterday marked the beginning of the Rain Retreat and so, many of our programs such as Kindergarten and Teaching in Laos did not run. It’s a public holiday and of course, the Lao children wanted to join the celebration with their parents.
We decided to join the locals at a nearby temple in order to get a first-hand experience on how the Lao people in our village were going to celebrate the beginning the retreat,
More commonly known as vassa, it is a three month-long retreat; a time when forest monks will seek refuge inside monasteries and temple grounds. Their retrieving from society dates back to the time of Guatama Buddha; the retreat became a tradition in order for traveling monks to not harm crops when walking on them and also as a way to keep them safe, away from heavy storms and the dangers that come along with them.
Vassa is observed by Theravada Buddhists, usually lasting from July until October (the duration of the rainy season).
Veo (A.K.A our most adorable coordinator) guided our way to the temple. Once there, we sat on the floor waiting for our turn to give our offerings to the monks.
The tradition became so important, that a monk’s monastic life is measured through the number of vassas (rain retreats) he has observed. Many monks choose to spend these three months to immerse themselves into intensive meditation, and many Lay Buddhists decide to restrain from alcohol, tobacco, pork, etc.
After making our offerings, we headed to the back of the temple, where Veo explained to us another tradition. We lit candles next to trees and plants for the spirits, usually those close to us who have passed away.
Later on in the afternoon, we headed to a field to play a football match, which both coordinators and participants took part in. The final score being 5-5!
Once back at the accommodation, the rain began to pour. It’s the start of the rain retreat, after all!
We finished the day by dancing and having water fights while the sky unleashed the water. This, of course, did not pass unnoticed by the locals, who found it amusing seeing “farangs” having fun under the rain instead of protecting ourselves under umbrellas (because… where’s the fun in doing that, anyway?) 🙂