‘Tambun’, the act of giving and merit making is an integral part of Thai Buddhist culture and one of its most widely observed aspects is at home in the ceremony known as tambun baan, at which a group of monks visit your house to bestow a blessing.
Five monks from the local Wat ensuring the Tambun Baan is a success This practice is not restricted to the important parts of building or moving into a home, but anytime it seems like there is a need to ensure that the home is ‘in sync’ with the elements. In this case there were two motivations. Firstly, the main householder was having a birthday which in itself could have led to ‘tambun wan gert’, but also there had been a string of small problems in the house.
Just annoying issues such a water leak, the water pump was playing up and then the air-con was malfunctioning. Each of these problems was simply fixed, but when the TV screen started to show bright spots on the screen it was clearly time for action! This meant that a house blessing was required, so arranging Tambun Baan was the way to go. A visit to the local temple or ‘Wat’ to check that the date was in order and a deal was struck to invite some monks to the home.
Always a number which can be one, five or nine, in this case five. Extras were available to ‘borrow’, such as a mobile shrine and receptacles for the all-important food and cooking preparation. After invitations were given to neighbours, family and close friends, lots of shopping done and the scene was set. The ceremony, led by the chief monk or ajaarn, started mid-morning, so that everything was finished and more importantly, the monks fed, before midday, their religious cut-off time for food. Earlier, one member of the family set off to fetch the monks while the guests were arriving with lots of chatting, joking and catching up on gossip. On the monks’ arrival in their distinctive orange robes, a hush descended on the gathering and in a blink of an eye, the ceremony, with its wonderfully soothing low-level chanting, began. No idea how they each monk remembers all the words.
Chanting the ancient scripts then a sprinkling of holy water Part of the ceremony involved string or sai sin with the head monk starting the process of unraveling a ball using a special object from the temple, before passing the thread between fingers and then handing on the ball to the next monk and then the next, until a holy circle is formed. With the chanting giving the thread and anyone within its circle a sacred quality, a blessing and protection was provided to prevent all things bad. At the end, one of the monks then moved around the congregation sprinkling holy water on the heads of all present. Even the children stopped playing at this point and knelt obediently to get a light dousing.
The monks enjoying the fruits of their labour then setting off before midday
Those things over, the serious stuff started with a feast laid out at the monks’ feet. This had been prepared over the previous days with some of the guests donating to the feast to produce meat, fish and vegetable dishes, alongside delicious desserts (khanom). The monks, once sated, didn’t hang around but were delivered back to the wat (temple), with the guests then able to tuck in, helping themselves to two or three servings.
Plentiful ‘leftovers’ but no booze for the guests This was a no alcohol affair and in a charming manner reminiscent of children’s parties, left-over desserts are quickly packed in little bags for taking home and after just a few hours, with blessings given, evil warded off, good deeds done, everyone fed and watered and on their way home, the tambun baan was over. Happily, this ceremony is a very common part of life, so no need to wait long till the next one. We expect that the household will no longer suffer from any more annoying defects. This was a much more enjoyable occasion and cost-effective than a visit from the home maintenance man (they hope)!