Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest To Thailand
In the following excerpt from Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand, I’m going on ผูกบัต, bindabat, alms round, for the first time. It is a revered tradition in Thailand. Every Sunday morning people stand outside their houses from six to seven am offering food, water, and flowers to the nuns. After the food is given, the nuns say a blessing.
Excerpt of Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand
What an odd sight we make, I thought. Three nuns, three Thai women, and two farang (foreigners) coiling like a long snake down a side street. I felt vulnerable, as if I were missing an essential part of my clothing—a skirt you can see through without a slip.
The houses beside the road were wooden shacks, stacked one against the other, and open to the street with a sunshade overhead. Garbage was strewn alongside the road. There was a sour smell of decay in the air. Clearly these people were poor. How could they afford to donate food? I wondered.
Dhammananda’s alms bowl
The procession slowed in front of an old woman holding a tin rice pot. Her face was brown and lined with wrinkles. Eyes closed, she raised the pot to her forehead. Her lips moved silently in prayer. She picked up a cone of white lotus blossoms carefully wrapped in broad green banana leaves and placed them on the lid of Dhammananda’s alms bowl. I remained behind Dhammananda while the nuns delivered their blessing. Afterwards, Dhammananda leaned in close to me and whispered, “This woman has cancer.”
I appreciated knowing something about people’s personal stories. Living in a gated community with other expats, I hadn’t yet experienced any connection with the Thai people. Walking with Dhammananda was like entering a private world, discovering the Thailand that existed beyond the locked gates of a protected compound.
Dhammananda turned down a side road onto a dirt path. Through the trees and brush, I could see a small white house with a family seated on the porch. A young man who Dhammananda told us was small for his age sat between his mother and father. He looked like a boy, but as I got closer his face appeared older. His large head dwarfed his small body. I later learned that he was thirty-five years old.
Warm tears slid down my cheeks
Dhammananda called everyone in close. I wondered if our group might be intimidating to the man, but our presence didn’t seem to bother him. Perhaps he’d seen foreigners walking in alms rounds before. He glanced up at Dhammananda with a look of wonder on his face. All eyes focused on this Thai man as we circled around him. Laboring for breath, his chest lifted and fell as he wheezed in and out. He pressed his palms together as his mother lifted a precious spoonful of rice into Dhammananda’s alms bowl. Filled with tenderness, Dhammananda bent over to receive the offering. We paused, watching spellbound. A wave of compassion rose in my chest. My vision blurred as warm tears slid down my cheeks. My friend Marilyn was crying too. It was just a momentary flash—Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Thais, Americans, all standing together connected by an invisible thread of caring.
When my vision cleared, faces and colors came into focus. Red flowers appeared richer, pink petals more vibrant. For the first time in Thailand, I didn’t feel like a foreigner. Standing in that outdoor sanctuary, I was profoundly grateful to have found Dhammananda, a gifted Buddhist teacher, who willingly accepted me, a stranger, into her community. A sense of calm flooded through me as I fell back into the silent procession, and we headed back to the temple for breakfast.
Cindy Rasicot is a writer and retired psychotherapist. Author of Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand, her book has been a #1 best seller in spirituality on Amazon and an International Book Awards finalist.
Cindy’s life has been a spiritual journey that took on new dimensions when she and her family moved to Bangkok, Thailand for three years. There, she met her spiritual teacher, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni ⎯an encounter that opened her heart and changed her forever. This deepening relationship led to writing her debut memoir which chronicles her adventures along the spiritual path. She is currently writing her second book about her spiritual teacher. Visit Cindy at www.cindyrasicot.com
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What a tender narration – so calm, so peaceful.
such humility,serene souls