Living For The Dead

Thai temple wall by reflection1

I found an interesting article in Kullastree Magazine, written by Thienchai Easondath in Thai language, which gives people an odd reason why people should not commit suicide. Personally, I think that there’s always an answer to a problem, you just have to take a step back to be able to see it. I think that committing suicide should not be an answer to any problem, if anything it only creates more problems for those that are still living. Read on to see what this article has to say about why people should not commit suicide.

In modern Thai society, the majority of people think that they only live in this life time, and only live for a few people around them, if life gets tough, some might think that committing suicide is an easy way out, put an end to all problems. There are many reasons why modern people commit suicide, such as they think that they are not important to anyone, no significant impact if they are no longer in this world, and there’s no reason why they have to continue with their suffering. Another twisted reason is revenge, hurt or killed themselves because they are the love of the person that they are revenging. This one is classic among Japanese fighters, committing suicide to restore their pride, especially if they lost in a battle, it is an honorable thing to do. For whatever reason, people will try to justify why it’s okay for them to commit suicide, and their reasoning might varies and seems like a good idea at the time.

Thai and Lao way of life and traditional have a strong belief why a person should not commit suicide. From a religious point of view, ‘committing suicide is a sin’, which is a way to prevent people from taking their own life. From the perspective of those that don’t have much personal problem, they think that those that kill themselves only think in short term, Thai and Lao traditions believe that life is longer than the time we are here on earth, there’s the past life, the present life, and the future life, therefore it’s a long journey that have no ending. Worst, our religion, Buddhism also stress that committing suicide is a sin (gum), therefore every life you will end up committing suicide and the vicious cycle will never end, until you come to realization and able to pass that past sin (gum gao).

For some people, life has no meaning, there’s no reason for living. For those that try to commit suicide, they might think of their children, parents, and this might give them enough reason to change their mind and live for these people. Those that don’t have children, parents or ‘do’ have but might ‘better off not having’ at all, then it’s a lot easier to carry out, to them life has no meaning and there’s no one for them to live for. Another reason that might make it easier/harder is the number of people that they left behind or might hurt; those that come from a small family might not think twice about it, but for those that come from a larger family might try to reason themselves out from committing suicide.

For those that have children, there’s a universal answer why they can’t commit suicide, they have to live for their children, therefore they are living to protect and give a better life for the younger generation, this does not always hold true, some still do it to end their problems. Young people that are not married might give reason that they have to live for their parents, which is not a bad reasoning at all; at least it prevents them from committing suicide. Those that lost everything from natural disaster, such as from the recent tsunami, life has no meaning, there’s no one to live for, therefore there’s no reason for living.

Another tradition in the southern part of Thailand that’s a bit odd, but gives reason why people should not commit suicide, even if you don’t have children, parents, nor anyone to live for, but there’s still a reason for living. They have to live for the dead.

Living for the dead is based on the belief in the story of ‘ching plaid’, which they claim that on the 10thmonth of every year, the door from the spirit world would open to the human world, this is the opportunity for those ghost that don’t have any living relative, to do good deed for them, such as offering foods and other miscellaneous items to the monk at the Wat (temple) and indirectly offering them with ‘boun’ (charity), they would come back on this day to receive ‘boun’ from other people that are not related to them. These wandering ghost spirits are called ‘Phee Plaid’, without ‘boun’, they will not be able to go on to the next life, therefore stuck in the spirit world until they received ‘boun’ that’s offering to them. Food offering through the monk might be a strange belief and concept to some, but it’s something that most Thai and Lao people are familiar with, and has been a part of our tradition for centuries.

There’s an interesting article that I found that is related to this article and it’s called “In contact with the dead: Nora Rong Khru Chao Ban Ritual of Thailand.” By Jungwiwattanaporn Parichat, which explains that “Nora is a performance tradition in which dance, drama, ritual, and magic are intertwined to create a bridge between the mundane world and the supernatural. An ancestral rite known as nora rong khru chao ban is an important part of a living tradition in a certain southern villages of Thailand. For three days, the nora master prays, sings, dances, and acts out a dance-drama, while directing the ritual sequences invoking the ancestral spirits to descend from their heavenly realm to enter the trance mediums. The ritual not only gives opportunities for the nora practitioners to have a significant social and artistic function, but it also serves as a social/cultural/spiritual net that brings about an ideal of “communitas.”

Back to this article, now you know why I call it ‘Living for the dead.Thai southerners believe that even if they have no one to live for, they still have to live for their dead ancestors and continue to do good deeds so that their dead relatives will get ‘boun’. They also believe that the ancestors’ ghost spirits will help to protect them and make them prosperous, and in return, they would give offering of food to the monk or any type of charity work which indirectly will be able to give their ancestors’ spirits ‘boun.’

Whenever you are offering ‘boun’ to your pass love one, it is very important for you to mention that person’s name, so it’s a good idea to have a list of all your deceased relatives’ name when you’re visiting a temple. If you don’t mention their name, they will not be able to receive your ‘boun’ that you might have the intention to give it to them, such as your mother or grandmother. It’s okay to mention as many names as you know, even if they are not related to you, but if you want them to receive ‘boun’ then you have to mention their names and ask them to come and receive their ‘boun’ that you are offering to them. This is very important, otherwise what you’re offering might go to waste, and this is their belief.

I find the above information interesting and informative. For those of you that want to commit suicide because of family problems, personal problems, or economic problems might be because of how you placed yourself in this world; that the world is a very small place and that it’s closing in on you. If you look from another angle, that the world is a big place, then your problems might not seem so big after all. I think it’s a good comparison; look around you, there’s many people that are in worse position than you are. For most Buddhist, life is a long journey; we are living in this life, next life, and so on. For the Thai southerners, they are living for the dead. I personally believe that when there’s a will, there’s a way. If you are at the end of the rope, please talk to someone and get help, life is precious, you are special and there’s only one of you.


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