MANDALAY — The usually quiet northeast corner of Mandalay’s ancient moat was alive with activity early on Sunday as youth and laymen prepared for a donation ceremony for some 10,000 monks from Burma and Thailand.
As dawn broke, empty seats were quickly filled with thousands of monks in their distinctive saffron or orange colored robes. A giant statue of the Buddha looked on from a stage among a sea of flowers and plastic white and red sheets were spread from the old moat’s corner along the main roads heading north and east.
The alms giving ceremony was organized in cooperation with the abbot of Thailand’s Dhammakaya monastery, Luang Por Dhammajayo, and Mya Kyauk Sayadaw Baddanda Khaymarsara of Mandalay. Of the thousands of monks in attendance, around 100 were from Thailand.
“The idea of the ceremony is to unite Buddhists and to promote Buddhism,” said Pharamaha Nopporn Boonyadhamma, a spokesperson from Dhammakaya monastery. “Mandalay is a center for Buddhism in the country, with many Buddhist monks and monasteries, which is why our honorable abbot wanted to make this happen.”
“The event intends to strengthen Buddhism, to conserve the Buddhist tradition and to strengthen ties between the two countries as well,” he added.
Mandalay Division Chief Minister Ye Myint also attended the ceremony along with the divisional minister of religious affairs and other Burmese government officials.
After monks from both countries chanted Buddhist prayers, they walked through the long lines of alms givers to collect contributions.
“I’m so happy to participate in such a mass donation,” said San San Maw, a local donor.
Burma has hosted mass donation ceremonies for monks in the past but Sunday’s event was unique for its inclusion of monks from Burma’s eastern neighbor.