Monday, March 14, 2011
Monk's House Blessing
Jai and I were invited to our Thai neighbour's House Blessing Ceremony.
This is an important part of Thai Culture....but there is also the complications of Social Status to take into account. Status is reflected by the number of monks who are invited to come to give the Blessing. 9 is the maximum.....and only for those at the top end of the social hierarchy. A family who are not wealthy or do not have the required status may only be able to afford one monk. But, on the other hand, the main thing in terms of Buddhism, is not the number of monks who attend but the quality and sincerity of the prayers offered by all those in attendance! Well, YOU figure it out. Thai Culture is massively complex....and I am just skating along the surface....and probably always will.
Our neightbour, Khun Tony, is the owner of J.B. Pools and exports pools all over the world, especially to China. He was telling me that this year he had a big export contract to Libya ...so that's all out of the window with the troubles over there.
Thai upper class people are famous for their politeness. It is EXTREMELY important for everyone to be VERY polite. Correct greetings, correct social etiquette observed, correct behaviour at all times.
Also, the Thai upper class ladies are very easy to tell. Not only are they incredibly polite and courteous, they pride themselves on being 'white skinned'. If you are tanned...it means you work out in the sun. Only the 'lower class' have to work out in the sun...builders, farmers...and fishermen. I am, of course, at the very lowest end of the social scale...I am tanned, I work in the sun, I am a fisherman. We are known in England as 'Scum'.....and that's about my level over here!! Ha Ha...it gets very confusing for the Thai's because status is also accorded to Education and apparant wealth. We Europeans can afford to travel.....thus by Thai definition we are rich...and so we are high up the social scale. But then we like to go out in the sun and go brown! Oh dear, very confusing!! I have many entertaining converstations with my confused Thai neighbours.
You can see in this photo above how elegant...and white....upper class Thai ladies are!
Tony lives 2 houses away. Since I have been here, he has been a terrific neighbour. We have been to each other's parties. Remember, I confused everyone here as I was the first person on the project to hold the Monks House Blessing Ceremony (with 7 monks; Tony had 9...ooops!), and then the Spirit House Ceremony and finally a full on House Warming party 3 years ago.
in which we all got drunk on Thai Whiskey and threw each other in the pool.
I really like the hypnotic chanting that the monks perform for at least an hour at these ceremonies. They chant in Sanskrit...the old Indian language ( a bit like our Church services were held in Latin not so long ago) so the Thais understand the actual meaning of the language as much (or as little) as me!
The monks are extremely nice people. They come from all levels of socail life...but once they become monks, everyone is equal (is there such a thing?). Most Thai men enter the monkhood for at least once in their lifetime. They can stay for at least a month...but can remain as long as they like. Last year, I met a fisherman who had entered the monkhood for a month 'to please his father'. But this year, he is still there. He says it has given him a different outlook on his life...and he can stay as long as he likes....Many of the monks can speak good English. They study English and skills in the Temple and will often go to outlying villages to teach children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.
Food is really important in Thailand. Again, the correct rituals must be observed at such a gathering. And it is important to have STACKS of food. you might recall the HSB adverts on TV when the Bank representative is in China.....and is in a Chinese restaurant. He finishes his meal...so more (and larger portions) are brought; he finishes that as well...the Chinese are disconcerted...in the end they bring him a bloody gurt conger eel and slap that on the table in an attempt to satisfy him!! It's polite in Europe to finish your meal....in Asia, it means your host has not provided enough!!!!! Oh no, the disgrace!!
So, if there isn't enough food to offer the guests...then this is terrible for the host! Everyone should end up more than full with plenty of food left....this shows the household can provide for everyone with plenty to spare. This spare food is then distributed to the 'poor people' via the monks. (Luckily, I get a doggy bag...am I regarded as poor or just an eccentric Foreigner who loves Thai food?)
Thai food is richly varied in colour and texture...........and believe me, real Thai food is spicy. I don't just mean a whimpy tingle on your tongue like in the restaurants catering for us mamby pambies......I mean 'eyeballs leaving their sockets and going into orbit' level! Wow!!!.......on fire for the rest of the day!!
And here are our charming hosts with Khun Tony on the right with his wife, Khun Jaa and then his son and wife.
The morning ceremony started at 0800 and The Jai and I left at 1300 in the afternoon!!!......but the 'party' continued until evening. The Thais certainly know how to throw a good House Blessing.