Tak Bat, monks’ alms, Luang Prabang, Laos

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Luang Prabang was formerly the capital of the Luang Prabang kingdom. It was also, until the communist takeover in 1975, the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. The whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Luang Prabang is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. The monks’ alms round or Tak Bat, is a living Buddhist tradition for the people of Luang Prabang.

The Tak Bat is a profound expression of generosity, a cardinal virtue for the Lao people, and is a significant source of religious merit for the Buddhist community. It is probably the closest religious interaction between lay people and monks. Most of the Buddhist believers of Luang Prabang practice this ritual every morning. At sunrise, they prepare the offerings by cooking the rice and kneeling on a mat, in silence, waiting for the monks to approach, their heads and feet bare in humility. They quickly and silently place a small amount of rice in the monks’ alms bowl without making eye contact. Sometimes cakes and fruits are offered.

For their part, the monks meditate on impermanence and on the meaning of the offerings they receive, which symbolise their intentional poverty, humility, and dependency on the lay community for their material needs.


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