WAT LAO Page 3

This is inside the first floor of the monks' house. It is where they eat, and talk to the faithful. The members of the Wat bring food out for the monks once every day. The monks adhere to 270 commandments, once of which is that they must "beg" for their food. Normal people need to keep only 5 commandments: No stealing; no killing; no drinking to excess; no lying, and no cheating. During this ceremony people dressed all in white had to keep 8 commandments, but we never found out what those were.

Inside the temple proper are silk flowers on tall stalks to which money is attached, sort of like a "money tree." These are offerings to ancestors, offerings for favors granted, offerings for the temple, etc. The bills are stapled together into "sheets."

These are small ancestor shrines. People's ancestors are believed to need money, food, paper towels, water, a bed, and other comforts in the afterlife. Chinese people burn "fake" money, called Hell money, and paper examples of things they believe their ancestors can use in the afterlife, but Buddhists give them the real articles.

This gong makes the most beautiful, haunting sound when it is rung. The gong was moved outside for the blessing ceremony. Hearing it reminded me of when we visited the temple complex where Buddha's toe was enshrined in Thailand. There's something very stirring about hearing the gong and chants.

This is a special rock. It sits beneath an Indian Buddhist shrine. This is a fortune-telling rock. How it works is: You ask a question, such as "Will my son get married soon?" and then you try to lift the rock. If you can lift it, the answer is "Yes." You can also phrase your question in negative terms. If you wish for bad things, the rock gets heavier and heavier, and you will be unable to lift it. Therefore, it behooves people to wish for good things.