Monks stand before giant golden UFO-like Thai temple to receive alms.

In a ceremony like no other, 100,000 monks gathered to receive alms in the magnificent and the humongous Wat Phra Dhammakaya, a Buddhist temple in Khlong Luang District, located just 16km from the Bangkok International Airport, Thailand.

Giving of alms is an age-old tradition where devotees provide monks with material goods, mostly food for their basic meals. Traditionally, walking in a single file, monks leave their monasteries carrying their alms bowls awaiting filling by the devotees. It is believed that monks have the responsibility to in return support devotees spiritually as they are supported with food.

The temple is owned by the controversial Dhammakaya Sect Movement, which was founded in the 1970s. Its controversies lie in accusation made against it for its unconventional religious teachings and apparent commercialization of Buddhism in addition to allegations of corruption which they have adamantly denied. The temple’s intentions have constantly been questioned by conventional Buddhists.

The unorthodox $1 billion temple resembles a UFO with an enormous golden stupa and sits on over 1,000 acres of land. Inside it is a huge dome known as the Dhammakaya Cetiya which is covered with 300,000 gold-coated bronze statues of Buddha with an extra 700,000 inside the temple. The golden dome contains Phramonkolthepmuni’s Memorial Hall, who is the founder of the sect and is surrounded by a huge circular concrete platform that serves as the Meditation Amphitheatre. Daily mass rituals and meditations are held there with the aid of thousands of volunteers and with over 100,000 worshippers. As of now, the temple has the largest group of inhabitants in the predominantly Buddhist Thailand, estimates being a total of 3,000 monks, novices, laywomen and laymen.

According to the Dhammakaya’s website, Wat Phra Dhammakaya was built based on the four factors contributing to the cultivation and development of virtues, as taught by the Lord Buddha which include Pleasant food, Pleasant location, Pleasant Dhamma, and Pleasant people.

The site also outlines the activities, teachings and history of the temple and the movement at large.

In this, one of a kind ceremony, the biggest of its kind, over 100,000 monks and novices dressed in orange robes chanted as white-clad devotees flocked to give alms. The white robes were a symbol of purity of the Buddha.

Buddhists prayed while monks and novices walked among them to gather to receive alms. Many Buddhists described the opportunity to give alms at this grand ceremony as a once-in-a-lifetime, must-attend event.

Despite all the controversy surrounding the Dhammakaya Sect, they still managed to put together what they referred to as the world's largest offering of alms to monks and novices.


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