03. clot, clots & clotting
The teachers started pointing at all sorts of stuff & quizzing the cat on the English terms for each object. When it came to the naga carvings...
Monk TYF: This?
cat: Naga (as pronounced in Lao/Thai)
Monk TYF: Naga? You sure? N-A-G-A?
Monk TYF: Have tourist tell me that correct way for N-A-G-A is pronounced 'na-jar'
For the record, the 'G' in 'naga' is pronounced like the 'G's in 'golden goose'.
After they ran out of things around us to point at, they started taking out all sorts of stuff & quizzing the cat on the English terms for each item. & then they picked up someone's jiworn (outer robe) lying near us...leading to a struggle over 'cloth', 'clothes' & 'clothing', which quite a few Lao & Thai tend to pronounce as 'clot', 'clots' & 'clotting' respectively...
Bedsheet-sized saffron 'clots':
Made by sewing together panels of 'clot' in five columns of staggered rectangles - identical to the layout of rice fields in Magadha, India. During Buddha's time, both Buddhist & non-Buddhist mendicants in India made their robes from bits of discarded cloth (pāmsūda aka. pāmsūla e.g. cloth that had been worn by the dead/burial shrouds, munched by oxen, burnt by fire, gnawed by mice, etc) scavenged from places like cremation grounds & trash heaps.
There was no standard pattern for piecing the scraps together. This confused King Bimbasara, who wanted to dismount to pay his respects to any Buddhist monk he met along his way - how was he to distinguish them from mendicants of other traditions from afar? A request for uniformity was put to Buddha, who then asked Ananda to come up with a standard design that has lasted till today...the same pattern is used for the outer robes worn by Chinese monks in the Mahayana tradition, but with bright red cloth & the pattern outlined in gold:
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore
The teachers were pretty shocked to hear that devout Chinese Mahayana Buddhist laypeople do wear robes (e.g. at left in above photo) for chanting sessions & ceremonies within temples - black ones called 海青 (hai3 qing1) & dark brown outer robes called 缦衣 (man4 yi1)...Another detail in that photo that would shock them was how laypeople (including women) could stand with their heads higher than those of monks.
Myriad uses of old 'clots':
Photos from 2007 & 2008 in Vientiane & Sakon Nakhon
Clockwise from upper left - to protect Holy 'kidnap victim' from construction dust; to partition off a sleeping area for two very young novices, & hide their Doraemon from the old chief monk of the province who shares the same living quarters; cord belt to keep unruly bamboo stems in place; bedding for temple cat.