why?


matichon.cov1827POSTCARD 145: Bangkok: The front cover of the Matichon newspaper weekly supplement shows pictures of the Erawan Shrine with the headline: ‘why’, ทำไม (tham mai). Whoever is responsible for the bomb would have been aware of the damage to relationships with China, and aware of the damage to the Thai government for failing to protect the public. Seems strange to me that even though it’s a four-headed Hindu, Brahmin shrine, worshippers are mostly Chinese Thais and it’s popular with Chinese tourists from Hong Kong, Singapore, and the new wealth of mainland China, group-tours of families and young people mostly. Maybe it’s not political, an act of madness – the shrine has a curious history. Inevitable, though, that everyone assumes it’s political; the small cartoon character in the lower right appears in every edition of the Matichon weekly. In this one the character wears a black armband and is saying: “So now we have finally come to this!” A provocative statement – a comment about anti-government groups, trying to harm the Thai economy.

IMG_2291It’s a mystery. I visited the shrine yesterday, most of the barriers are moved away now, some repairs still to be done to the roof where the explosion blew off roof tiles. The pedestrian bridge is cordoned off with tape to stop people leaning over to take photos. The same great cloud of incence hangs in the air above a continuing throng of hundreds of people visiting throughout the day and night with their offerings and countless bowings of head and hands, burning incence sticks held in hands, and palms together as if in prayer (anjali). I’m amazed by the passion of the ritual, there’s always been some intensity of thought here – not an open free mind, it’s not meditative… it’s something ‘willed’. There’s an undercurrent of some sort of unknown energy, people cling to the idea of it, the deity can save us if we believe in Him; we worship somebody else ‘doing it’ on our behalf – we are subject to that.

Strange to see this, because Thailand is a Buddhist country and Buddhism is about not engaging with the ‘story’, it’s about understanding the constructed nature of what has been handed down to us and stepping outside of that to see the non-duality between ourselves and the world. Like the original Jesus Teachings, you simply ‘see’ the Truth of it; the reality that surrounds us all the time; like the Hindu Brahman, the Oneness, the God-state that’s here and now.

The people who visit here every day must be sincerely involved in mindfully finding their way through the busyness of their lives. Others may visit when they have an extreme situation they’re worrying about, they come for help; a desperate prayer for what ‘I’ want, what I think I need. I can’t imagine what they receive from this, only more of a focus on situations that are absent of that thing that is desired. Why? What can I learn from this? Is there a Teaching here? Or maybe there’s something wrong with the question. It could be superstition, misguided intentions, living in illusion; ‘the futile pursuit of happiness’ it’s always disatisying because it doesn’t do enough, I want more of it – the fleeting happiness found in consumerism doesn’t hit the spot.

Traffic noise echoes off the concrete structures all around. Heat and incence smoke rising…

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‘The ego’s attachment to power of any kind is linked inextricably to the fear of losing that power and thus becomes a source of suffering.” (Ramdas)

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History: In 1956, an astrologer advised building the The Erawan Shrine to counter negative influences and the bad karma believed caused by laying the foundations of the Erawan Hotel on the wrong date. Furthermore, the Ratchaprasong Intersection had once been used to put criminals on public display. The hotel’s construction was delayed by a series of mishaps, including cost overruns, injuries to laborers, and the loss of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building. In 2006, the shrine was vandalised by a Thai man believed to be mentally ill. After smashing the statue with a hammer, he was himself beaten to death by angry bystanders.

18 thoughts on “why?

  1. Strange to see this, because Thailand is a Buddhist country and Buddhism is about not engaging with the ‘story’, it’s about understanding the constructed nature of what has been handed down to us and stepping outside of that to see the non-duality between ourselves and the world.

    It seems to me Thai Buddhism as-she-is-spoke has strong Brahmanist and Shaivite aspects, from the Erawan Shrine to sai sin strings to the ceremonies around the laying of foundation pillars. Pretty much everywhere you find Buddhism you find deist beliefs incorporated into local practice. Often the Buddha himself is appealed to as a deity.

    People like stories.

    • Yes, stories are popular – thanks for pointing this out. Maybe it’s me that’s too much of a purist, and I’m commenting on popular Thai practice. Theravada being the early (pure) Buddhism, and originally all monks in Thailand were Mahanikaya (Theravadin from Sri Lanka). These included the forest monks like Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Buddhadasa. In 1833 King Rama IV created the new smaller Dhammayut group based in Wat Borworn. As far as I know, these monks spread through the city and were teaching the more sophisticated population, who had connections with Brahmanist practice and the whole attachment about ’Self’ rather than ‘no-self’. All the practicing Thais I know are Mahanikaya Theravadins, but they are maybe the minority…

      • For me, there is so much compassion in this line that you offered, Tiramit… They don’t know what they are doing… It reminds me that… neither do I, and thus we are the same… And in moments of clarity when I do know what I’m doing– what I’m doing is always such a widespread ensemble of peaceful waves echoing through the entire field of awareness, I don’t know what it even is… You just feel it, and it is good… And it is great enough to hold any moment of ignorance in its graceful hand…

        Michael

      • Thanks for dropping in, Michael. I like what you say here, there’s the seed of wise naivety we all go around with. Some people are forcefully convinced they know, others are prepared to listen – or maybe we’re a bit of both. Politicians are professional actors who sometimes believe that the role they’re playing is really real, they’re so good at it. Many ordinary people are sitting in their armchairs right now knowing completely what is True and what is not. Before anything else there has to be an awareness, and this is nurtured bit by bit…

  2. Hi Tiramit. I’m enjoying a relaxing morning sitting in my backyard drinking a cup of hazelnut flavored coffee. I can feel fall in the air in the mornings and evenings. Even though it gets very hot in the day still.
    You know I was writing something about enlightenment and how it transcends religious teachings and it’s something inate in us. Kind of like even it we didn’t have the teachings of Buddhism, Christianity, Tao etc we still would be drawn to things like meditation, prayer and so on. I know people who are simple minded, I don’t mean that in deragatory way. They don’t have much education or religious backround but I see how they live there day and I observe how they surrender their ego daily, I see them meditating at times and they don’t even know what meditation is yet they still do it.
    What struck me in “Why” was both the question “Why” and how you referenced “Original Jesus”, I learned in my twenties to never ask a lady why. It was overly apparent to me that a intimate partner can not answer that question with awareness especially if it hurts you or them. I find that true with most people unless they can see past “I” they don’t know “Why”.
    I find contemporary Jesus to be manipulated to serve a personal Jesus that caters to the ego. It’s built on a concept of need and when someone speaks with presense that “Now” is easily distorted if the person hearing it wants to know “Now”. Which of course is impossible to do. I find both Christianity and Buddhism find the same common denominator. With Buddhism it is more a teaching of oneness that lets the person “let go” and Be. Where as Christianity finds a belief Ina God to surrender the ego to which allows the person to “let go”, an be.
    “All religions are true metaphorically” Joseph Campbell
    Tiramit if you haven’t listened or read Joseph Campbell do a little internet search on him. You will find his outlook refreshing.
    I been wanting to write about “Seeing” like you spoke of in original Jesus. It’s so aligned with Buddhism. I do t believe God or awareness come to us by our own own standing. As that would limit it. In fact, God or awareness isn’t limited to how we know God or presense. We on the other hand are limited in understanding God or Presense and either comes to us regardless of the box of thought we think it in. It is inate in us. We want to think we know what we never can. That is our crux and when we see it instead of think we are no longer limited by our own “I”. We transcend it, and be.

    • Thanks tommyg, next time I go to a coffee shop I’ll try Hazlenut flavored coffee. Enlightment is innate, transcends religious teachings – reminds me of the Buddha’s story of the raft, once you’ve crossed the river or lake of water you can leave it there on the shore, don’t have to carry it around with you (the raft is the Buddha’s Teachings). Most people are in the dark, doing the best they can, making mistakes, but it’s possible to find a way through if the circumstances are right. Most of us are buffetted around a bit to start with until, as you say, we can see past the “I” – then it’s a different context. There’s a lot of helpful instructions and pointers in the original Jesus Teachings. Over the years I’ve found the Buddhist structure of Teachings to encompass nearly everything. There’s the question of ‘Self’ or ‘no-self’ but I’m inclined to leave that be. After all, if there’s Self, it’s so vast, the ordinary functioning ego self is swept away. So in a manner of speaking Self and no-self are the same.
      “All religions are true metaphorically”, I sometimes think of the metaphor as HTML coding, a series of directions for the operating system. In itself there are patterns and grouping but it doesn’t make much sense directly. About Joseph Campbell, I read ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ a long time ago, maybe it’s time I read it again.
      The people I’ve met who have gone beyond the ‘I’ have usually gone through some sort of extreme experience, illness, emotional breakdown or whatever before reaching an understanding of God or awareness. Some of them are still not quite stable, but many are.
      I can only see in my mind where people usually go wrong, and there’s a curiosity about what there is beyond that…

      • I found a way to accept and embrace Christisnity in discovering Buddhism, digesting the Upanishads, tha Bhagavad Gita… Maybe when the concept of Zen crashed on me, which was like being covered in a Tsunami of “Now” in a moment that gives you a clarity you can see infinity in and is more then 10,000 life times of words can explain. What do you do with it?, I asked myself. I find it fitting to simply “chop wood and carry water”.
        I grew up with a Jesus that I was schooled in but had no connection too. Now I find I have a connection and even though I could embrace any other teachings and limit myself to a understanding of “Niw” that I can throw words at but never touch it with, I find comfort in Jesus and I believe that is what any religion offers someone, “Comfort”. It is a simple word “Comfort” that points at somethjng incredibly huge. Comfort can make any burden bearable.
        If I look at the story of Christ for a answer to”Why people can create such hurt”, I find it “comforting” to think of this guy hanging on a cross dying and telling the people who love him ” forgive them for they know not what they do” in regards to the people that are torturing and killing him.
        I “see” something growing in my own country that will cause a incredible amount of “hurt” in the world. It’s born from a hate we have a found a way to rationalize and make “hate” okay with. Hm.

      • I can understand how, when it comes down to it, you return to Jesus and find “Comfort” there. For me it’s an easing – it’s what happens after the tension is gone. It makes sense to go back to what we knew as a child. In my case it was more of the geographcal location of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhism, Zen… ‘the tsunami of “Now” in a moment’ (wonderful group of words). Inevitable that I should see the Jesus Teachings more in the Asian context, having lived here for 30 years. When the Western overlay of power structures has been pushed back, Jesus is an Asian man, very much like the Buddha, addressing the same issues then that we have today. The depth of forgiveness is one thing but it’s not helpful to see the martyr, dying for the cause, better to focus on a clarity of insight and encourage others to do the same…

  3. PS, I don’t mean to look like I’m lecturing you or anyone else. Having the ability to share my thoughts with others that share similar thoughts helps me “See”
    So thanks Tiramit

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