Buddhism & Monks, Bangkok
Thailand is officially a Buddhist country and some 95% of Thais are Buddhists. Always remember to remove your shoes and dress smartly when entering a temple (sleeveless shorts and short skirts are not allowed). Never allow your feet to point towards an image of the Buddha or ven stand taller than him. Monks are not allowed to have any physical contact with women and only the buddhist nuns are allowed to touch the thai women.
A few years ago, a Thai friend told me that it was forbidden and highly avoided that a female approach and give alms to monks. Females can do so via a male conduit.
I am not sure if this is till practiced but during my recent trip I told my husband to do so on my behalf. Better to err on the safe side than offend their customs/traditions.
Buddhism in Thailand has become integrated with folk beliefs such as ancestor worship as well as Chinese religions from the large Thai-Chinese population. Buddhist temples in Thailand are characterized by tall golden stupas, and the Buddhist architecture of Thailand is similar to that in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia and Laos, with which Thailand shares cultural and historical heritage.
The lotus plays a very important role in many aspects of the everyday life of the Thai people and is held sacred because of its close association with Buddhism and Brahmanism. Many Brahman goddesses, have lotus blooms in their hand when portrayed in paintings. A variety of water-lilies share the same Thai name as the lotus.
Since the plant is so common in Thailand, it is one of the refreshing sights that you should not pass unnoticed while travelling in this country.
Don't be supprised if you see monks all over the place, on the street or in the bus. Buddhist monks are forbidden not to close near a woman and not to touched by woman. If, as a female, you wish to give something to a monk, you must hand it to a male first who will pass it on for you.
Along highways and even on tiny country roads, signboard advertisements for Jatukham amulets such as this one are becoming an ubiquitous feature of Thailand scenery. Jatukham amulets are becoming a staple of Thai life with economic and political uncertainties and one can see many of these large cookie sized images hanging on the necks of many Thais nowadays.
Monks are not allowed to have any physical contact with women, so visiting women need to be aware. In most situations its unlikely to arise, unless in a crowd for example.
The other situation I've come across is on the plane, when a monk was seated next to me. Most times the male member of the cabin crew attended to him, but once when it was a female, I had to take his drink from her and pass it to him.
Normally the airline would not seat a monk beside a female passenger, but if something were to go wrong, the monk or the female would be allocated a new seat when on board.
- Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk, she first hands it to a man, or put it on a plate provided.
Shiva's carriage was the bird of eagle. Shiva is the Hindo deity of Destroying, and Creating! That is why this deity is considered the supreme Hindu Deity, possibly the oldest one. That is to say the Brahma, Vishnu and Shiwa as Trimurti (Trinity) representations are of a later area. Mentioning here Shiva always is together with his consort, all Goddesses with different names (like Devi, Saraswati, Sri, and the illustrious and dreaded Kali).
In despite of Thailand being for the greater part a Buddhist country you may see a lot of relics out of Hindu times. Like this Shiva image (seen in the South Sathorn Road), in the presentation of an sacred Eagle, of Garuda. It's funny this image looks like a well-muscled deity, for that very reason while Shiva should be the Creator of human life, too. By making love with his consort Kali ... though this loving moment has been presented in a dangerous and romantic dance ... is told. Maybe girls, ... and boys, dream about this heavenly creature ...
We were quite shocked when we saw this monk having a long and friendly chat through his mobile phone. In a way, they look so out of this world that you dont imagine that they have phones, computers or anything like that. We were told later that many Thai man spend a 3-month period of their youth living as monks. Perhaps this young man was not a full time monk. Or perhaps monks really have mobile phones, I dont know
Nos quedamos bastante flipados cuando vimos a este monje que llevaba un buen rato de charla divertida a traves de su telefono movil (celular). De algun modo, los monjes parecen tan fuera de este mundo que no te imaginas que tengan telefonos, ordenadores ni nada por el estilo. Nos dijeron despues que muchos thais pasan un periodo de tres meses de su juventud viviendo como monjes. Quizas este joven no era un monje a tiempo completo, sino que solo estaba pasando ese periodo. O quizas los monjes tengan realmente telefonos moviles, no lo se.
Very close to the former WTC (for now Central World Plaza) you can find the Erawan Shrine and the 4-faced Buddha. The original image concerned the 4-headed deity Brahma, while the original Erawan was named after Airvata, Indra's 3-headed elephant mount. The 4-headed image does refer to the 4 directions of the compass-card and, where the wind will blow. An ancient symbol for the divine.
Most tourists come here for shopping at WTC, also shopping at Isetan and Zen. And not forgetting the Duty Free Shop "King Power" and the famous Jim Thompson's Silk Shop.
Local worshippers come here for granting their wishes, and don't care if the image once had been a Hindu Brahma deity. Maybe the conversion to Buddhism refers to this event long ago which you can find in Thailand, China, Birma etc. All 4-faced Buddha images are very like eachother, though representing the Hindu Trimurti Deities of Creation, Destruction and Preserver. You may find that sacred image one right in front of the WTC & Zen, see my Wishful Thinking open-page. Watch the musicians and dancers near the 4-faced Buddha, who are always on hand for an impromptu performance, commissioned by the worshippers ...
For the Buddhist, going to the temple is quite special thing for us to do. We believe that there’re many angels or good spirits protect the monastery. We will not do anything to find it as disrespect way to the place. Even though some area of the temple is nice and cool to lay down and take a nap but try not to do please because it doesn’t look nice for when a hundred of people come to pray and walk pass you. We feel like you’re relaxing on the beach….
I am not sure but I think it is not a good idea to take a photograph of a buddhist monk. Well, generally, noone should photograph anyone without permission. I did try to ask some monks to have my pic taken with them but in all instances was politely turned down by them.
You can see people greeting monks and even offering them seats on public transports. More than 90% of the population believe in Buddhism. There are about 10 000 temples in Thailand and 270 000 Sangha(monks). Monks are highly respected there as most of them doubled up as counsellors, teachers and even mediators.
Thai people are very superstitious and quite religious especially people in a country side. They will try to do anything to make them get lucky. Going to a special monk in a famous temple is one of activity for them to do. They'll ask for a monk to give a special spiritual into their body such as making tattoo for protection. putting gold leave into their mouth (eat) for getting nice speech for business or love or their forehead to keep that sacred inside their body.
However, This is just a personal belief of some Thais, NOT EVERYONE in this country do. Just some do that!!!!