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The order of monks, or Sangha, is well organized in Thailand. Monks can gain a religious education by completing various levels of dhamma study, including university level. In Thailand there is no order of female monks. Women may live in some temples as nuns (seen wearing white robes) but they cannot be ordained. Temples in Thailand, except for some forest temples, function as community centers and there's a lot of daily contact between monks and lay people. Lay people supply food and shelter for the monks and the monks in turn provide teaching and merit-making ceremonies and act as role models to the community.



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In Thailand a man can be ordained as a monk when he's twenty years old and can leave the monkhood at any time. It's a common practice to be ordained for a short time before getting married or when a relative dies and older men sometimes retire into the monkhood. They can see their families but must follow the vow of celibacy. A person can stop being a monk at any time. There's no stigma attached to this. Instead, the person is honored for having been a monk.
     A person can be ordained at any time but it's most often done for the three or four months during the rainy season—from July to October or November. This period is called phansa in Thai. In English it's called “Buddhist lent” but a more correct term would be “rains retreat”. The two holidays associated with it are kao phansa (“enter lent”) and awk phansa (“leave lent”). Between these two holidays monks must stay in their temple of residence. The word phansa can be used to express the length of time a person has been a monk. If someone is a monk for one phansa it means three months but the term can also be used for years—ha phansa refers to five years as a monk.

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