Buddhism

Buddha Mantle

I think most Lao and Thai people have a Buddha mantle or ‘hing pra’ in their house, most house that I visited anyway. The ‘hing pra’ would be at the eastern part of the room or house. Some Lao or Thai people even have a room in their house just for Buddha statues; they called this ‘houng pra’. When I visited a temple several weeks ago, I’ve also noticed that there are many Buddha statues, and most temple have a room designated just for this. Some Buddha statues have rounded heads, commonly seen in Japan and some have pointy-heads, which is something that the Lao and Thai people are familiar with. One of the monks at the temple (Wat) explained to me that the pointy-head symbolizes bright, or smart (houw lam).

I’ve noticed that more and more westerners are using Buddha statues as art, decorating their house in Zen style, whether it’s out in the garden, inside a house, some even use it as a hat, or coat rack. I don’t know how some Buddhists feel about this, but I feel a bit sad that people misused the Buddha statues, to the point of abusive, in my humble opinion. When I see Buddha statues at a department store or a garden, I want to take them away from those places because I feel like they don’t belong there. I want to put them somewhere that is a bit higher than where they are, I guess it’s a bit selfish on my part but I just don’t like to see Buddha statues as a display or decorative items. I can’t imagine what kind of collection I’ll have if I end up buying all that I see. I guess if I have too many, I can always donate the statues to the temple and they can turn around and give it to those that truly want it for worshiping. My dad received a Buddha statue from a temple (Wat) not too long ago, of course you can’t buy anything from a temple, you have to ‘Bu Sah’, which means you make payment (or offering) in the form of donation, there’s no set amount, you give according to what you have, whether it’s $1, or $100, what you offer is up to you.

I’ve also noticed that many Lao and Thai people place their Buddha mantle at the eastern part of the room or house, the face of the statue facing the western direction. I don’t know if there’s a special reason why people do that. I’ve also noticed that most Laotian like to place the head of their bed toward the eastern direction. There might be a relationship between the two. My dad seems to think that if the head of your bed is toward the east, it’s for good luck and everything that you do will be prosperous, which I don’t know if there’s any truth to that. As long as I can remember, we never have to worry about which direction we have to place our beds because the east has always been the guideline for most of us.

Lao and Thai people believe that you should not point your feet toward adult or something high up, such as Buddha statue. This makes perfect sense that the Buddha mantle has to be at the eastern part of the room or house because the head of the bed is also toward the eastern direction. If the Buddha mantle is at the western part of the room or house, then when you are sleeping, your feet will be pointing in the direction of the Buddha mantle, and that can’t be a good thing. As for now, I’m happy with this explanation.

Bai’s Buddhist Altar

A note from Guess: Just thought I would share with you a photo of a little informal “altar” my wife has created in our guest bedroom where she can pray to Buddha. It would be fun to see photos of what different people have created in their homes.

My GI Joe sister’s Buddha Mantle

Her Mantle is commonly seen in Laotian home, the jar on the right hand side is ‘nom moun’ (blessing water from the temple). Those papers are sacred ‘yun’ paper from different temples, but the red ropes according to her husband are for good luck.

The middle Buddha statue is called Pra Keo Mora Ghod, or the Emerald Buddha, she told me that if you’ve ever became a novice monk (male only, even if it’s for a short period, such as one day only), then you can ‘Bu Sah’ the statue from the Wat (get from the temple, and make payment in the form of donation). Her husband became a novice monk when his dad passed away, and once again when my mom passed away.

My younger sister Buddha Alter in her hall way, updated on 9/16/2007

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14 thoughts on “Buddha Mantle”

  1. I posted a photo of ‘Bai’s Buddhist Altar’ from one of my guess, and thank you so much for sharing. If anyone else wants to share, please feel free to e-mail photo of your Buddha Mantle to nyenoona@gmail.com, thank you in advance.

  2. When I was in Laos I noticed that all of my relatives have a Buddha Mantle above their bed, hanging on the wall. My cousin Bay would kneel down and pray each night before bed.

    When I was little I don’t remember having the Buddha Mantel above my parents’ bed but more like next to the bed along the wall on table and with a sard (Lao mattress) on the ground. At least that’s how my Grandmother placed her Buddha Mantle.

    As for the direction of your bed, you can have the head of your bed pointing north. The Buddha Mantle can be on the wall up high on the east side, right on the corner where the north and east wall meet, or close to the corner. When you sleep and look to the left the Buddha Mantle will always be on the east. Your head will still be below the line.

    The rule at our house is pointing the bed east/west and if not possible then north/south.

  3. I think most Asian would choose the head of their bed pointing east because it’s the direction of the sunrise. This rule also applies to buy a house, when my parents sold our house in NYC, the first thing that they asked was which direction the house was facing, the buyer was Korean, we were lucky, and our house did face east. According to the ancient Chinese, east is the direction of sunrise and is considered good luck. It’s good to know if you are looking to buy a house, you can add this to your long list of ‘must have’. 🙂

  4. We use to have a Buddha Mantle in our bedroom. It was design to scare away ghost and bring fortunes. But lately it was removed to a location designated especially for praying/meditating. We use screen dividers to shield them when we don’t use them. Like anything else, such as TVs, Equipments, that are very distracting are covered after each use. This really helps in concentrating.

    And guess what. I’ve been having nightmares ever since. To be free of nightmares, I have to sleep with a night light. I haven’t found a solution.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story Sim, when we were living in Laos, we also had a Buddha Mantle; I think most Laotian family at one point or another have or had one. My GI Joe sister has one, her husband collects Buddha statues, and I think he has quiet a few. I’ll take a picture of their Buddha Mantle the next time I visit them. The last time he went to the beach with us, he has them around his neck, I think at least 5 or 6 small statues, I sometime wonder if they live together harmoniously or not because I heard that certain statue can only stay at the temple.

    Is that what the entertainment center doors are for? Lol…, I normally don’t close the doors, only when I’m on vacation so it wouldn’t get too dusty. I guess that defeats the whole purpose of having them.

    When I left Laos, we couldn’t bring our Buddha Mantle with us, and we didn’t have a formal one at home in Thailand. I had nightmares for over 5 years, and each nightmare was about the same but varied slightly in degree of scariness, the theme of the nightmares was the same. My thought on my nightmares was that it was such a traumatic change for me; I was so little when we left Laos that I couldn’t adjust to the situation emotionally. I don’t know how true this was, but that’s just what I thought was the main reason for my nightmares.

  6. My wife is Thai and I am planning to construct an alter for her statues. Does anyone have any additional pictures of an alter they can sent me to help in my design, and when hanging the alter, which direction should the statue be facing? Thank you.

  7. Hi Kevin, one thing to keep in mind that we didn’t mention before is that if you have a 2-story house, the mantle can’t be on the first floor because then if someone is on the second floor, s/he would directly be on top of the mantle or Buddha statues. If this is the case, some believe that your family will not live in harmony; good luck with your Buddha mantle.

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