Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Service - Not Same, Same?

Sunday morning here in Thailand, and we go to the local Temple to give alms and pray to Lord Buddha.

'Same, same, you country?' I remember being asked on the first of our ritual visits.

'Yah! Sunday morning, same, same,' I replied in a that Germanic toned Thai-English accent, which underscores our personal language/culture barrier.

Looking at the photo and recalling this morning's visit begs a thought? "Is this Sunday service ritual same, same everywhere?"

Of coarse a first glance reaction is, "Looks nothing like any Christian Church service I remember."

Every Sunday morning my girlfriend and I make the trip to a local Buddhist Temple and I sit watching Thai people, and a handful of farang's (foreigners) give alms and donations for the poor. I watch people be blessed by a monk and pray to Lord Buddha for luck in the eternal fight against karmic forces. Less formal than a Christian Sunday service, people wonder in and out of the main Temple building, taking whatever time they wish to perform any number of traditional rituals.

Elements of Ritual & Reverence?
I never join in these ritual devotions, preferring to simply observe and soak up a calm and wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. I always sit on the floor of coarse, respectfully keeping my head below the feet of the main Buddha image, often triggered into childhood memories of Christ on the cross though. Today I listened to the monk chanting, as he flicked water onto head bowed, kneeling devotees and I smiled back as he enticed me with a flick of his wrist, the holy water feeling like rain.

I was reminded of listening to sermons as a child, a church father standing in his pulpit delivering life lessons from on high. Here the monk sits at the back of the Temple, slightly elevated from his fluid congregation, with lessons more focused on the body than the mind, it would seem? As I looked intently at kneeling postures, head bowed with hands clasped together in traditional wia, implicit memories of silent prayer moments flowed through my mind.

Hmm! "Perhaps Sunday Service is different, yet similar everywhere?"

As a bipolar with more than thirty years on the clock, I came to Thailand in hope of finding space and time to write a book. Eighteen months ago though, I did not anticipate just how much this journey would lead me home. Not back home to external structures of house, church or school though, but back home to my own body, with an easing of habitual flights of dissociated mind.

As I watched the respectful reverence of traditional wia's this morning, I was struck by thoughts of respect and the body as house to our spirit? Looking up at the main Buddha statue, I wondered about these elements of ritual, wondered about tendencies to elevate the mind above and beyond the wisdom of the body? I wondered about the depth of meaning in these physical acts of respect and reverence. I wondered, "just where does spirit comes from?"