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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Buddhism, a way of life in Thailand

In search of One World?... On the wings of SriLankan Airlines :
Buddhism, a way of life in Thailand

by Lionel Yodhasinghe, reporting from Bangkok



A farm field outskirt Bangkok,

Children take meal at a Sunday school


The evening is colourful in any townlet in Thailand as many Thais are used to visit the temples in the evening. Many parents with their children, after the hard day work take time in the evening to go to temple and pay homage to The Triple Gem and seek the blessings of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

Later, they switch to the markets adjacent to every temple for shopping to buy the daily needs for the household. As the sun sets small time businessmen in every temple premises put up their temporary trade huts and display many varieties of food, clothing, toys and many other consumer items at these market places, it is a common sight in Thailand.

The temple going of Thais thus continue till mid night and business of trade stalls in these places as well as in other streets in the city too goes on till midnight. People are free to walk across the city, as the city environment is virtually safe even in the night in Thailand.

However police patrol streets in the city to prevent any crime or snatch thieves and other hooligans in the city. The city buildings are illuminated throughout the night adding more glamour to this tourist city in this South East Asian city of Bangkok.

Thais practise Buddhism more as a way of life believing in Buddhism brings them worldly things rather than solace in the future lives. To gain such fortune, they make vows at temples and other places of divine and wear trinkets embossed with replicas, Buddha statues and other symbols related to Buddhism.

The younger generation in Thailand work hard. They are eager to earn intending to make a better future. Thus they engage in business and do other jobs in the city as well as in the provinces. As a result, many are compelled to remain single, and they think of settling down in life in their 40s.

Job, an employed youth in Jomthong Bangkok said that his first lover ditched him now married another person as she found him financially sounder. With a broken heart, Tob did not want to think about another match. He said many Thai girls today act in the same way as they are more concerned about money than anything else.

This has been a major reason for many village girls to migrate to tourist areas in search of better-paid jobs.

Thai girls are shy, innocent and beautiful as their counterparts in Sri Lanka. They treat men as guardians; the typical Asian values such as hospitality and kindness are inherited by them. This could be one reason for tourists' world over to choose Bangkok as their holiday destination, and to seek hospitality of Thai women.

However, women in the provinces help their male counterparts to thrive their farms. Agriculture is the main source of income in Thailand; a lot of people are engaged in farming and agricultural related activities. Farming is done in the modern way, and even village farmers are doing quite well. Thai markets are full of local agro products, fruits and vegetables which are testimony to thriving agriculture in the country.

Bangkok Municipal authorities take extra care to keep the city clean and as a result, the garbage disposal activities are maintained regularly. City landscape with religious monuments, greenery and other decoration catch the eye of any visitor. Every street in the city is benefited with flowers and plants in pots.

However, some parts of Bangkok are still polluted due to the garbage and other refuse gathered in canals and sewage lines This has caused a severe health hazard in Bangkok, and the newspapers reported this week that the dengue killer is rising in Bangkok hitting over 26,000 people in the city. Therefore taking special care should be taken to protect from mosquitoes when visiting Bangkok.

Suitable accommodation is a must in this regard as ordinary places where facilities are lacking could expose any visitor to the killer diseases such as dengue.

Visiting the outskirts of Thailand is a mesmerising experience. One would see the vastness of Thailand; its hard working and simple people when visiting the provinces. The majority of Thais do not speak English but they are helpful and do not hesitate to assist you in directing you to some place or a temple.

Another special feature in the city is vehicular traffic. Though traffic is sometimes hectic as in Colombo, one would avoid such traffic and save time provided he uses the paid roads, the highways. However, people at wheels, despite his or her position and power, obey road rules and discipline themselves very well. It is very rare to hear a vehicle hooting in Bangkok. Reckless drivers and other road demons are conspicuously absent in Bangkok as everybody patiently wait for their turn.

Infrastructure development is another showpiece in Bangkok, and high-rise buildings and fly-overs are eye-catching scenes in the city and among them is Bangkok's latest showpiece, the King Rama VIII Bridge built over the river Chao Phraya. This has been built in the form of a triangle to facilitate vehicular traffic to enter and leave the city from every direction.

Tourists vary from one visitor to the other. Some visit to Bangkok on Buddhist pilgrimages as there are over 2000 temples in the city itself. Some tourists go shopping and others in search of pleasure and entertainment.

However, visitors should be careful of touts and others who voluntarily offer their services. Public transport, train, bus or metered taxies are safe. Threewheelers (Tuk Tuk) abound on the roads but many believe that riding a Tuk Tuk would end in a peril where you lose your every valuable article especially in the night.

People find time to come to temple and consult the monks in every important occasion of their lives. Besides attending to daily religious rites at the temple, the chief monk in any temple is busy counselling his dayakas and advising them to solve their household problems.

Therefore the relationship between the temple and the layman is closer and strong, and the monks are ready to visit any household at any time of the day when they invite the monk, for dana, dhamma chanting or giving blessings. Small children especially scouts come to temple early morning and help the temple in its cleaning and other chores.

They learn the Buddhist way of life from childhood, and this training and the company of the Buddhist monk and the temple educate them on simplicity and disciplines them to lead a successful comfort life.

Pix : Vipula Amarasinghe

lionel@sundayobserver.lk

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