Buddha here, Buddha there…

Buddha at Wat Pa Pao

Buddha at Wat Pa Pao

Buddha is everywhere!

In case you didn’t know it, Buddha is big here!  I mean really big here! With 95% of all Thai’s being Buddhist there is not much room for the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses to pitch their tents. Everything centers on the observances of Buddha. Religious Festivals fill the calendar…there are sixteen official holidays most of which are religious in nature.

Chedi at Wat Buppharam

Chedi at Wat Buppharam

Everywhere I go I run into the Buddha…not unusual when you consider that there are 30 active temples within the old city and many more in surrounding area.  It is impossible to walk down any street or narrow lane without running into at least a Chedi, a monk or a fully fledged monastery. The Chedi or Stupa is solid bell shaped structures that contain relics of kings and monks. Hundreds of the Chedi dot the Chiang Mai landscape, many of them date from the 13th – 15th century and if they are not on the temple grounds then they are in the most unlikely places…school yards, nestled between buildings on main streets, or in the middle of roadways.  They are repaired and protected by the citizens because they represent the cosmic body of the Buddha and the law of the Dharma.

Monks in the morning At Chiang Mai Gate waiting for offerings

Monks in the morning At Chiang Mai Gate waiting for offerings

In Thailand the religious world consists of 200,000 monks and 85,000 novices (although this number swells by a third during Buddhist Lent) and they are highly visible throughout the community. Every morning at 6AM the monks walk barefooted around the neighborhoods while local people earn merit by offering the monks food. We in the West think of this as the monks begging for alms, but this is not the case at all.  The monks are giving people the opportunity to do a good work and earn merit. In Buddhism lay people have a responsibility to support the monks physically and the monks have the responsibility to support the community spiritually. A win win situation!

Young monks and novices are often times delighted to get a chance to practice their English and often engage you with “Hi, where you from”.  It is a perfect opportunity to find out more about Thai culture and Buddhist practices.

And monks are in demand! If you buy a new car or a house you get a monk to bless it for good luck. If you are getting married it takes 9 monks for the ceremony. How many monks does it take for a funeral? I don’t know exactly but a bunch and they chant for three days. A monk’s life is full…prayer, meditation, study and tending to the daily needs of the faithful.

The Pra Singh Buddha

The famous 15th century Pra Singh Buddha

I am just learning the inn’s and out’s of Buddhism in Thailand. While it is in the Theravada School it is much more…. it is a blend of Brahmanism, Animism and Buddhism and a dash of Astrology, Numerology and a few talismans thrown in for good measure.  The Northern Thai believe that all things such as trees, rivers or stones all have a living soul…when you combine this with the belief in local spirits known as phi…you have an amazing mix of superstitions and beliefs that is hard for a Farang (we white devils) to comprehend.

I have learned one thing…there is no such thing as a good Buddhist or a bad Buddhist (unlike Christians). Buddhism is more of a personal philosophy than a group religion. An individual following the “middle path”, the long road to Enlightenment, encounters and overcomes obstacles at his/her own pace.  How good a Buddhist or how far along the path he has traveled is unimportant to anyone but himself. Writing this it reminds me of an old Alberta Hunter song “Ain’t nobody’s business but my own”……can I hear an AMEN!

I’m really starting to like this Buddha guy… I think he is on the right path…..even if it is eight fold.  More on this later.

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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9 Responses to Buddha here, Buddha there…

  1. jim voyles says:

    AMEN! You are a fine writer and photographer Larry. Keep up the great blot.

  2. Maggie says:

    Larry,

    Just love the pictures I have Buddist, friends Muslims, Hindu but I like the philosophy that innate objects have souls….we are a recycle world…and remember in the Catholic faith once a year you have the ashes and priest says “remember man that you re dust nd into ust you shall return”..le meme pas..

  3. Love your travels , Mostly knowing where you are. Miss seeing you around. Love and Light

  4. Claudia Hammer says:

    Hi Larry, So when are you going to be wearing orange and going barefoot? Love receiving and reading your blogs, you are a natural. Great photos too! I guess you are on the middle path, you can always don orange, go barefoot and get food.

  5. Larry King says:

    Larry, I’m sporadically dipping into your blogs which make fine reading over a cup of early morning coffee. The more I read, the more the paths of Buddah seem so right to me. I’m passing your link to Alan Chapin, a friend who’s spent several months each year for the past 15 or so in Thailand and other SEA countries. He still has all his wordly possessions (may lost a few marbles along the way), in fact lives in his parents’ (deceased) home in Hicksville, NY when not on the road. He’s taken many images of his travels, but he doesn’t blog…just a few quick markers about what/where his sojourns have led. Anyway, yours are enjoyable reading, so keep ‘em coming. Larry

  6. Fran Bell says:

    LARRY
    You are truly a great friend to have. I enjoyed all of the Great info on the Buddha here Buddha there. Keep up the good work.

  7. Gordie cleland says:

    Great blog Larry! I look forward to reading them as you get them done. We are talking Thailand as our next exploration!
    Cheers from Canada!

  8. Barbara Ray says:

    It sounds like Buddhism, like Catholicism, has adopted some of the cultural flavor and religious predecessors of each place it has gone. I remember the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in “panama” hats in one of the small towns around Cuenca, Ecuador. I’m enjoying your blog!

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