When you visit Myanmar, you will encounter ah-lhu one day or another. What is ah-lhu? It is a religious donation ceremony, deeply ingrained into the culture of Myanmar people. Myanmar people usually do ah-lhu when they donate food and offerings to the monk or the monastry. It can be a sole even. Or it can be in celebration for the wedding, anniversary, or to mark the day a family member died. People usually do ah-lhu at home or at the monastery.
Usually, on the day of ah-lhu, monks are invited to the home. They are then offered food and offerings, usually comprising of the new monk’s robes (thin-gan) after which monks recite Buddha’s scriptures and give sermon. The event also involves a ceremony called ye-sat-cha, where the donor pour water from the pitcher while monks are reciting sermon. The ah-lhu is always concluded by ah-mhya, the tradition of sharing your merit with anyone, either humane or inhumane, believing that those who feel happy about the donation will equally gain merit from the donation. People show their happiness about the donation by chanting sa-du (or tha-du) after each ah-mhya. This is done three times, after which the donation ceremony is concluded. After the monks go back to the monastery, meal is served to the invited guests. This is usually a Burmese formal lunch, although sometimes, it can be monhingha, a popular Burmese noodle soup.
Ah-lhu is an integral part of Myanmar Buddhist life, and most Myanmar people, if they could afford, will do ah-lhu quite frequently. By making ah-lhu, Myanmar people believe they could not only gain merit, but will also bring good luck to the donors, the family as well as to the community who share in the gratitude of the ah-lhu. In rural areas, when ah-lhu is done, usually several people from the same community will share the work together, including sharing donations to the monks as well as cooking meal for the monks and the guests, decorating the venue, and serving food to the monks and the guests. In such cases, usually not only the whole village, but also people from nearby village are also invited to the ah-lhu ceremony. To really understand Burmese culture, I encourage you to have a chance to attend one of the rural ah-lhu ceremony while you are in Myanmar.
Original article posted in Myanmar Man’s Diary.