Thai people and monks – on New Year’s Day
Those are pictures of mendicant monks that I took in the morning on New Year’s Day in 2011 and 2013 in Bangkok. Actually, monks go begging for offering from their followers not only New Year’s Day, but they do it every morning. I usually can’t see them because I can’t get up early enough. However, when I’m in Bangkok on New Year’s Day, I always try to get up early to go to Wat Phra Kaew because we can enter it for free. I could wake up early only three times this last decade, though.
Although monks do religious mendicancy every morning, in the morning on a national holiday, there are a lot more people donating than on ordinary mornings. When I saw those kinds of people for the first time in Thailand, I couldn’t understand why they were doing so. They don’t only donate to monks, but they also do a low bow to them. In contrast, even though monks are donated to, they don’t bow. They only chant a sutra in a small voice. I thought the attitude of those monks was very arrogant. So, why do Thai people like to donate to those kinds of monks then?
I think at the moment, the answer to this is in the teaching of Theravada Buddhism. In brief, this religion aims to get emancipation through means of seeking nirvana by means of hard training, and in order to do that, people have to be a monk because the training is too hard for ordinary people. So, the only people who can be saved from reincarnation are monks.
However, there is an option for ordinary people to get emancipation in Thailand. They consider that if they do good deeds successively, they will be able to reach nirvana. Even if they don’t reach nirvana in this life, they can continue to do so in the next life while they complete it. I’m not sure that other Theravada Buddhism countries are the same, but the one in Thailand follows that way of thinking. These deeds are called “Tham Bun” in Thailand. This is a very important word for understanding Thailand.
Thai people who are truly devout Buddhists, they want to do “Tham Bun” every day, every minute of every hour. Otherwise, they won’t be able to reach nirvana. Then, donating to monks is considered as one of the biggest chances of doing “Tham Bun”. That’s why Thai people like to donate to monks. If monks don’t do religious mendicancy, Thai people will miss a chance to do “Tham Bun”. In a nutshell, Thai people get opportunities to do “Tham Bun” because of monks, and monks give people opportunities to do it. Therefore, it is not wrong for Thai people to do a low bow to monks, and monks don’t bow to other people. The most important point is that Thai people are doing so, not for others, but for themselves. I think it is an excellent way to do good deeds for oneself. I also think about how I want to learn from them.
Finally, there are some things that I want you to be aware of. Please remember that I don’t always write the truth, but I just wrote my humble opinion that I got from my experience. This opinion also could be changed by my new experiences in the future. It might change this year. Anyway, I hope I will be able to have some great experiences this year.