Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

Trial by chant

Here’s an amusing incident from my time in Thailand. I needed to renew my visa, which in this instance involved going to a town some 50 kilometres away from the wat and talking with the immigration people there. After an uneventful busride sitting next to a monk who carried money (tsk tsk!), I found myself having to convince a somewhat dubious official that I really was staying in a monastery and would continue to do so for the length of my stay in Thailand. Even though I was wearing the white robes of a pahkow (the transliterations of this Thai word are many and various — I’ve seen pakow and pakhow as well; the Pali term is anāgārika) and had no hair or eyebrows, still the suspicion was that I had done this just to get a visa extension and would soon be gallivanting around Thailand doing whatever it is unordained foreigners do there.

At one point the official, who had been away doing something behind closed doors, returned, said something which I didn’t catch, followed by “namo tassa” and an expectant look. A little startled, I managed to say “bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa”, and after that things went swimmingly. Obviously I’d proven my credentials as a proper Buddhist by knowing that opening phrase of veneration which occurs in so many chants.

Posted by jamie on June 2, 2003 10:28+12:00

Comments

Thanks for the entertaining story.

Strictly speaking, the Pāli term is anagārika, though the PTS Pali English Dictionary does have something to say about analogical spreading of -āgāra in end of compounds.

Posted by: Stefan Baums on December 16, 2003 16:41+13:00

Hmm, the only reference for anagarika (sadly searching using the very characters used in their transliteration does not work) uses the spelling I gave. What am I missing (aside from any knowledge of Pali apart from the cross-over from my scant knowledge of Sanskrit)?

Posted by: Jamie on December 16, 2003 20:49+13:00

Look s.v. agāra in that dictionary. There they explain about the analogy at work yielding ‐āgārika. Etymologically, there is no doubt that anagārika (which is well‐attested in its own right) is original: an‐ is the negative prefix, and agāra means “house” and is related to Greek ἀγορά with Proto‐Indo‐European ‐o‐ > Old Indo‐Aryan ‐ā‐.

Posted by: Stefan Baums on December 16, 2003 21:22+13:00