Buddhism & Monks, Bangkok
If, on the piers along the Chao Phraya, you see a Styrofoam tray of beef on steamed rice, along with a couple of cups of tea lying around, with an incense stick rammed into the top, try not to go down the judgemental “look at the littering!” “isn’t this disgraceful?” “oh what hypocrisy about Buddhism and treating the environment this way” route. Just don’t do it.
What you have here is what we see from many of the Chinese Thai Business Owners around the Wat Arun river pier. An offering to the river, to the temple or to whatever happens to be on their minds that day. The dear old lass who laid this lot here carried on her rituals in her own world as the motor boats rolled in and the heaving crowds washed past her. She, non plussed, let them get on with it, and they, well they let her get on with her stuff too. Oh yes. Amid this chaos there is always someone in their quiet own world, considering their spirituality and the “elsewhen”.
It’s guaranteed that on your road travels around Bangkok, the rural areas and the islands you’ll get to see trees wrapped up in coloured silks and non-descript man made fibres. Often they will have old “redundant”, rotting and broken spirit houses laid at their base.
Most usually they are a sacred Banyan Tree, and more often than not, if they are not in temple grounds, they are in areas of significant numbers of motorcycle accidents. A “momento mori” with a colourful typically Thai bent to design, style and mai pen rai.
Some spirits are believed to live in trees, especially the ones with aerial root structures, creating spaghetti patterns and small crannies. The bodhi tree is one of these, and reports are that the Lord Buddha received enlightenment under one. So the Bodhi and the Banyan get wrapped up right the way across the Kingdom. Cut one down? Dread the thought, at least not with some elaborate rituals that allowed the spirit to relocate.
This sacred tree is in the back area of Wat Pho and attracts more than its fair share of incense and prayer offerings. No motorcycles or homeless spirits here thank goodness.
...am trying to think of an appropriate way to describe this nobble of culture... errrrrm.
They are "lingams" - a symbollic phallus assocated with Shiva... and not only do they bring fertility (as is your first though) they are associated with bringing in money to businesses. Believe me when I tell you this lot is in a garden full of them in a five star hotel (The Nai Lert Park) round the back of my offices, on Witthayu Road, next to the British Embassy. Hundreds of the things, and a brass plaque in there giving you the details of what each group of nobs is there for.
Do not be surprised if you see a wooden phallus used as a paper weight in a shop. It is good for business. What you may see every morning, or as the business opens, is the owner tapping around the main entrances of the premises, and the cash register, on the staff's PCs, with the phallus; all in the spirit of bringing fortune into the place. Tap tap tap. Bangkok. (I'm giggling stage left - editor)
I’m not talking about wat’s being the houses of God as was thrust into me at a North London Church of England school. What I mean about “wat’s as homes” is that a wat is in its broadest definition is an enclosed / defined area where men and women can be ordained. And once they are ordained they live and “work” in and around the wat.
A great many wats have the chapels, have the towering chedis and have the small out of the way personal shrines we all love to photograph. (And the Thais often love to cover these with as much shiny stuff they can lay their hands on.) Added to this, wats have the “life goes on bit” we don’t tend to notice on our first photographic pass.
Round the sides of the compounds there is all the “living now” stuff - the dormitories, the salas (pavilions with no walls to allow the breeze to blow through, good for a chat with an older wiser monk), and in the wealthier wats, there will be a library to boot. Great for those newly ordained wat swots.
Here we are in Wat Pho, with one of its two basketball courts. As they say strong body, strong mind. The novice monks playing on a Saturday evening are pretty good at scoring the odd three-pointer. Be the ball guys, be the ball.
Double the amount of respect then. Spiritual sites, and also someone's home.
Buddhist monks walking about in the temple areas are hard to miss.
And, if i understood this right, you can choose to be a monk for any length of time during your lifetime. From devoting your entire life to being a monk for just one day...
On some buses and river taxis, there are special seats allocated to monks. They are usually located close to the entry/exit points. They are reserved for monks and you should never sit in them-even if you are quite tired.
They say that Buddhist Monks dont talk to the opposite sex...
And if somebody from the opposite sex wants to give the monks something... the women have to hand it to a man for him to hand it to the monk...
About 95% of Thais are buddhist. However, Thais tend to respect all religions. You will see many buddhists go to a Hindu temple, a Chinese one, or even a church.
In the pic, it's the main Hindu temple in Silom area. We call it "Wat Khaek". There are always people going there to pay a respect and pray.
For Thais, sometimes it's not just about the religion you're labeled to have since you were not yet born. It's about superstitious beliefs. It's about respect.
PS It's somehow popular for some Westerners who decorate their yard, bathroom, or whatsoever, with a buddha image. That behavior is considered disrespect to our religion and ALL buddhists. So if you happen to know someone who have such a decors style, maybe you can help them out.
One constant in my travels in Thailand were the Buddha's wearing scarves or sashes. It is obviously a sign of veneration -- in fact the Emerald Buddha has 3 sets of woven gold thread outfits to suit the seasons. This Buddha was just sitting there facing away from the main malestrom of the Grand Palace.
Bells and gongs are a part of any Buddhist shrine or temple. I liked these especially as they were small and rather than being struck, rely on the wind to make their sounds. These were on a building at the Grand Palace.
If you are looking for an amazing, life changing experience, attend a monk's ordination/induction ceremony. I went to one when I was ELEVEN, and I still think of it often. It is a fantastic, beautiful, powerful ritual.
..If you are sure that you are a kind of female....
NO ACCEPTION for little girls or very old(er) women. Please do not touch or make a direct contact to monk,. and Vice versa.
This is the religious prohibition.
Buddha - the relaxing one in the famous temple of Bangkok but all over the country you will find this admiration !
it is a local custom and tradition to buy some golden leafs and put it on the statues !
I have never deeply understood all those buddhist ceremonies, but when I visit the temples I like to sit aside and watch the locals come in, prepare the incense and the flowers, put it in place, bend, pray, mutter, look up, bend again, put their shoes on and go...
I have always wonder what do they pray for... Health? Love? Fortune? and who do they pray to?... the same God (at the end)?
In many temples you will see seated golden statues covered all over with little golden shhets. These sheets can be bought at the entrance of the temple and be offered to the statues that represent old holy monks.
They put the golden sheets over the statues, covering them all over with gold...