Merit Making Traditions During the Buddhist Lent

The tradition of Buddhist Lent or the annual three-month Rains Retreat known in Thai  and Lao as Khao Pansa marks the beginning of the three month Buddhist ‘Lent‘. Laypeople provide monasteries with stacks of new robes for Lent monks, since during the Lent period monks are restricted to their monasteries for a prolonged period of spiritual retreat. Ordinary people are also expected to be rather more religious during this time, marriages do not take place and it is inauspicious to move house. This is a good time for young men to temporarily enter the monastery. (source)

As for our local temple, Wat Greensboro or Greensboro Buddhist Center, we’ve Buddhist service and Alms Giving every Sunday during the Rains Retreat.  Our Wat (Temple) is looking to expand the Sala Hong Tham (worship hall) and we’ve the opportunity to broadcast part of the sermon on TV, I think it is going to be on NatSat TV.

Some Buddhist worshipers were there to Tum Boun (merit making) for their passed loved ones, the deceased names were written on a white piece of paper, then burned during the ceremony.

Lee Wai to pay respect during the ceremony.

Some pay respect by the big Buddha.

The money trees or Tun Phapa were presented to the temple by individuals, and this lady was there to Tum Boun (merit making) for her dog that passed away, the money tree on the right hand side was hers.

There was also a basket of goodies for dog, this was donated to the temple, kind of odd you might think but not at all since our local temple have several dogs.

One of the dogs is Boy, Miss Little Sunshine went to tell him the good news.

A bowl for Alms Giving, looks like it’s made out of real silver, a beautiful handicraft from Laos judging by the mystical three-headed elephant design on the rice basket.

Buddhist tradition of Alms Giving, men are allowed to stand when give Alms, but ladies have to kneel down.

The presentation of Tun Phapa or money tree, and food offering to the monks.

Then the sermon afterward and this concluded the end of the service.

She is adorable, remember her?

Mangoes for sale at the temple, only $1 per pound, they’re huge, each mango is a pound.

Lum-Yai or Longan, they were selling it $3 per pound and I bought 9 pounds, needless to say that I have a bad sore throat now, I think I ate too much.

The Jackfruit or Ka Noon was so big that they had to cut it up, the portion on the scale was over 5 lbs, she said it was $31.  It was too pricey for me but the aroma is to die for.  And no, this is not Durian (Thu Rian), you might die if you smell that, after all, it is considered the King of all stinky Tropical fruit.

I wonder if it tastes as good as it smells and looks.

Two spirit houses, and a bench in the middle to sit and relax, I’m just not so sure, so I asked for permission to take a picture and left.

Rows of Persimmon trees.

The persimmons are not ready to harvest, and I did do a taste test and it’s definitely not ready, might be ready at the end of September or beginning October.

It’s nice to see the Bodhi tree again, it’s everywhere in Laos, but not in America.

There are plenty of fruits on Tun Kathun in Lao, Putsar in Thai, and Chinese dates or jujube in English.

They look so good, I also did a taste test and it’s not very sweet, might not be ready for harvest yet.

The Buddhist monk garden, rows and rows of vegetables.


  1. Thanks for uploading all the photos Nye, I am learning more about Lao traditions from your blog 🙂

    I visited a Lao temple recently in Sydney, but it was definitely much smaller than your one!

    Here’s a photo I took of the one I visited in Sydney:
    Wat Phrayortkeo

    • Hi Will, I’m glad you don’t find it too boring. Sadly our Temple is so old that needs renovation badly, but the good part is that the head monk is giving the okay to do the expansion, I’m looking forward to this.

      The Lao Buddhist Temple in Sydney looks real nice, there must be a lot of Lao people there, and sorry to hear about your Grandma, most younger generations are forced to learn about the culture through events such as funeral, wedding and the like. I see you uploaded more photos, I need to check out later, and thanks for the link. 🙂

      • Definitely not too boring 🙂

        And I was told that the Lao Buddhist Temple in Sydney is actually in need of repairs too. The paint is already peeling on the pillars (see gray patches), the roof also needs to be cleaned and fixed up. I’m not exactly sure on the history of the temple, but I would guess it’s been around since either the late 70’s to early 80’s (which is roughly when many Lao people migrated to Australia, probably similar timeframe to you folks in the States). They do have a new’ish community hall though, which was probably built less than 10 years ago.

        Yeah, unfortunately that seems to be the case these days that we do have to experience these events in life to learn more about certain aspects of our cultures. Doesn’t help that I don’t speak/understand Lao though!

        • Will, not tooo boring is good. 🙂

          It is to my advantage that I could read Thai and some Lao and understanding the language is a plus. I write so much about the events at the temple because I feel that some might not have the opportunity to visit the temple like I do, I know some might be yawning while reading or looking at the pictures and that’s okay, I can’t please everyone.

          I think this is a bad time to expand but we’re in need of doing something about our situation, the worship hall doesn’t have walls and it gets real cold during the winter months and the Buddha’s room is too small to hold a sermon up there. Since the NatSat TV is offering to help with airtime, and we’d do most of the construction work ourselves, and I think we’ve got our work cut out for us already, but I’m looking forward to that.

          • Definitely a plus to have those language skills 🙂

            But I shouldn’t complain as I can speak 3 different Chinese dialects. Some fairly good Mandarin and some Cantonese (my dad’s dialect) and Teo Chiew (my mums’ dialect). Reading and writing skills are pretty poor these days though 😦

            A younger cousin of mine is pretty good, she can speak pretty good Lao, Thai, Teo Chiew and Mandarin! Which I think is awesome (she’s the only one of my cousins younger than me that can speak Lao/Thai). Many of my older cousins (who were all born in Laos – I was the first of that generation to be born in Australia) speak Lao and I’m always a bit lost when they’re all speaking Lao (along with my uncles/aunts). But I think I may have picked up a few words here and there just by being exposed to them.

            I’m sure if the heart is there, things will go well for the temple.

            • Will, one of the thing I found out about language is that if you don’t use it, you lose it and that’s why I try to read Thai everyday and translate into English helps me tremendously. When I first came to American, I almost forgot how to read Thai and had to teach myself by reading my dad’s newspaper, that will never happen again.

              I can’t speak Chinese at all, but some of my sisters can speak because they used to work with Chinese people and some are married to Chinese. My dad is half Chinese and half Thai and can’t speak Chinese at all, his dad never taught him since they were living in Laos whilst he was growing up. But I think it’s not hard to learn another language, but most of us don’t apply ourselves, I’m guilty also.

              As for our temple, the heart is definitely there, and I think he embraced this idea more because of us, we took the initiative and painted the inside of the Temple last year and we were able to do it in just a few weekends. He is asking us to help again this time and I think we can do it, but I wish that we live closer to the temple, it’s almost 1.50 hrs drive one way, and by the end of the day, we could hardly move our bodies. 😦

  2. Nye, pai het boun yu Wat bor? dai boun lai bor?? 🙂 Awesome pictures as always and thanks for sharing. By looking at all those pictures, the property of this temple looks pretty big. I went back to Laos few years back to enter the monastery for about 8 days. It was tough thing to adjust to, but I’m glad I got to experienced it. The three most difficult things for me to adjust to are.. 1. getting up at 4am to pray. 2. to walk around village bare feet to collect morning alms. and.. 3. you can only eat once a day.. I think I’ve lost about 15 pounds on that particular trip.

    Older people said… every man should go through monastery prior to starting a family. At same time, to pay tribute to your parents.

    • Hi seeharhed, they normally have tuk badt every Sunday during the Buddhist lent, but last weekend my brother in law and his sisters tum boun for their deceased parents and we went with them. Also others that live near Wat visit on a regular basis, so it’s kind of festive. The temple ground is over 5 acres, so quiet big.

      As for some, to enter the monkshood is the rite of passage to become an adult but not as commonly practiced nowadays. Lao people in Laos get up early in the morning, and my aunt lives near Wat, so when we visited her, we heard the Wat gong early in the morning also. I think that’s a priceless experience to have the opportunity to boud in Laos, your parents must be proud and thanks for sharing your experienced as a novice monk.

  3. I really really really want to attend one of these events!! I know there are some temple here in GA, but I’ve no idea where they are at.

    • mozemoua, there are several events coming up that most Buddhist temples would celebrate that you might want to check into. At the beginning of October is the End of Buddhist Lent or Ork Phunsa. Beginning of November is Loy Krathong Festival, this should be real pretty and most would take place at night.

      • I’ll have to talk to my Laos friends and co worker if they know of any of these events here in GA. maybe I can tag along with them, I would totally love to attend! thanks Nye, I will look into it.

        • mozemoua, you’re welcome. I’d love to see your photos of the festive events, I actually enjoy visiting events more now since I started taking photos.

    • lady0fdarkness, Aok Punsa is in October on a full moon, but most Wat in the US would celebrate on a Saturday or a Sunday, ours is Sunday October 4th. Here is a link to all the Lao holidays.

  4. after “ork pun sa” is like the wedding season in Laos. If you’re in Laos during that time of the year, you’ll see weddings almost daily.

    • Hi seeharhed, I attended my cousin’s wedding in Laos in November, right after Ork Punsa. I guess 3 months of no wedding might hurt the business some, this is also good to know that you can’t get married during this time.

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