Getting up at 5AM is never easy for me, but I was eager to experience a ritual as old as the Buddha himself. The morning alms procession (Tak Bat) is a living Buddhist tradition that has great meaning for the people of Luang Prabang. Beginning around 6AM every day, hundreds of Monks file out of Luang Prabang's monasteries in lines resembling threads of saffron swaying in the breeze. Townsfolk and tourists take their places on one side of various streets throughout the city, rice baskets in hand, to repeat, yet again, the ancient custom of giving alms. I was privileged to take part in this truly moving experience, along with Brad and Maggie, on the morning of March 8, 2010.

Kneeling on small mats, no one wears shoes, the stillness of this silent procession at daybreak is broken only by strutting, crowing roosters, the scuffing of bare feet and the clicking of cameras as the monks quietly pass by. The alms basket of each monk receives a ball of sticky rice from each person along the route. In addition to sticky rice, bananas and other foods may also be given -- along with flowers. Alms giving results in the monks receiving daily sustenance and the givers gaining merit, which it is believed will bring them happiness, a peaceful life and the strength to overcome any obstacles or misfortune that they might encounter.

I was genuinely moved by the piety of givers and receivers and the nearly perfect silence of the procession. It seemed that, for a brief flash of time, the world stood still and I was suspended in time in a place that could be called Shangri-La.

Note: Video and photos were taken the morning of March 8, 2010. Luang Prabang, Laos


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