Tak bat means to present food to a monk or Buddhist teacher. It’s an important part of culture in Thailand. The ritual of giving alms to monks is a way for Thai people to give back to Buddhist monks, who in turn dedicate their lives to teaching others about being good and virtuous. It’s not charity in the Western sense. Thai people see it as a virtue. Giving alms to monks is about showing goodness to others, doing good deeds, and being a good person.
By now, I had already developed an immense appreciation for this part of Thai culture – Dan and I just spent two days at a Buddhist meditation retreat, focused on the philosophy behind Buddhism, being good, and giving back.
Our local guide Pai Boon was so kind to share with us the ritual of alms in Chiang Mai. He took us to a city’s local quarter where we could participate in tak bat and learn how to give alms to monks.
How to Give Alms to Monks in Thailand
Monks go out for alms at dawn around 5am or 6am, usually around the streets by a Thai monastery. They walk in a straight line, one behind the other with the most senior monk ahead, and always barefoot. With their bare feet connected to the ground it is the Buddhist way of keeping close to nature and earth, since wearing shoes disconnects ourselves from our impact on nature. Tricia’s reasons to go barefoot are also pretty interesting.
The Buddhist ritual is to place fresh food into the alms bowls that monks carry with them. Since rice is a staple in Thai culture, families cook it fresh from home and put a portion in plastic bags to give, or you can buy a prepared dish from local street vendors.
Thais also believe in sharing alms with the deceased in a ritual callled “kruat nam”. After giving alms to monks, it’s customary to pour a small amount of water into a cup then pour the water into soil. It’s like sharing goodness with the Earth and everyone around it!
In Chiang Mai, one of the things that stuck with me most is the Buddhist teaching that it is better to give.
the more we give to others the better people we become
#ThailandInsider Tip: I highly recommend spending a morning giving alms – you absolutely have to experience this at least once if you’re coming to Thailand. I suggest going with a local because they can show you how to properly and respectfully present your alms to monks. Get Your Guide offers a small group morning tour with alms offering and Thai breakfast.
When to go:
In the early morning hours, usually between 5.30am and 8am. It usually takes place around temples or Wat.
What to bring:
Fresh food like rice, fruit, juice or milk. They take it back to the Wat to share and eat what is donated.
Thank you Pai Boon for sharing your culture with us.
I was a guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand while in Chiang Mai as part of their #ThailandInsider campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.