After the jahn hahn prayer and chant are made, the villagers and guests withdraw, after more bows. It is actually considered impolite to be around when monks are eating; definitely impolite.
The leftover food the monks have not selected for themselves is then brought back to the temple kitchen area where a kind of Thai buffet is partaken of. This is a time for socializing, as several groups form, sitting on mats with food all around. Between 20 and 30 people regularly attend/participate in the daily jahn hahn at our temple, which – of the two local temples – ours is considered the forest temple as opposed to the village temple. This is because our temple follows the Forest Tradition in Thai Buddhism, as propagated by Ajan Mun and is a little distance away from the village; a ten minute bicycle ride.
After people have eaten, they drift off to begin clean-up or leave or go talk with the monks when they have finished eating. Some people take on regular duties and two or three of the stronger men are actually hired by the wat to do the hard labor required to maintain a complex of approximately 20 buildings and several trucks.
Lately, Thip’s been using this time for additional meditation in the hope that it will help her to attain nirvana in this lifetime. I have no such lofty hopes or aspirations for myself. I’ve messed this lifetime up plenty good enough to ensure that I’m a lost cause this time around, but maybe in the next life!
The role I’ve fallen into is to water the trees surrounding the main temple. I was prompted to take this on by a comment that Ajan Boon Long (our head monk and a direct cousin of Thip’s) made about this being the driest part of the year and that the plants need extra watering until the rainy season begins around May.
Watering grounds is something Guy Kelly taught Lanny Kaufer, me and others back in the “Stone House Farm” days of summer 1971, when I married my first wife Yanna. I didn’t know much about growing food, but I easily picked-up on water management. So, here in the Isaan, I’m putting that knowledge learned 41 years ago into play once again.