Friday, October 23, 2009

New Truck Blessing


We were up at 5:30 A.M. this morning in order to get out to the Wat near Tahsang Village in time to offer food to the Monks. After making merit, our truck was going to be blessed by one of the senior Monks.

On our way out to the village we stopped in Kumphawapi to buy some ready made food from the morning market. We then stopped at Duang's mother's house so that she could join us. Today was a holiday so the roads were not very crowded. Despite it being a holiday, the fields were busy. Farmers were busy harvesting sugar cane, preparing the harvested fields, and planting cassava in the former sugar cane fields. The sugar cane harvest has just started and is limited to small trucks - so far. Later in the harvest which will run well into the new year, large tandem trucks will take over hauling the harvested cane to the large sugar refineries.

Today we drove out to a Wat that I had not been to before. This Wat was set out in the middle of the sugar cane fields towards the flood plain. Duang said that it was very old and had been there for 100 years. As we drove along the dusty dirt road towards the Wat, we came upon a road crew. Local villagers - men, women and children were busy trimming the heavy vegetation from the side of the road and were busy - very busy filling in some of the many ruts in the road. Later men were in the trees cutting off branches. Some red, white and blue pennant flagging nothing to do with any delayed 4th of July celebration, they are also Thailand's national colors)lined parts of the narrow road to the Wat. Later I found out from Duang that the next day, representatives from one of the local bus companies were going out to the Wat to present a check to the Abbot to help support the Wat.

The Wat was very primitive but very impressive. It's beauty was in its simplicity. The grounds were very well maintained and filled with trees, flowers, and plants. The buildings were plain wood and cement block. Situated throughout the grounds were wood cages with various types of birds in them. Some of the birds may have been talking birds but I couldn't really tell - they may have been speaking Lao but don't know it well enough to distinguish it from normal bird squawking.

The entire grounds had been swept with brooms. It was more of a nature preserve than a Wat. It was very peaceful.

Some women were preparing the offerings of food for the Monks. Duang gave them our offerings and she went to a smaller building where there a senior Monk. he appeared to be the Abbot. Two other women were there to make merit. The elderly Monk was quite a sociable person. He talked and talked. It was obvious to me that it was small talk rather than any spiritual lecture or dissertation. Later it all made sense to me - the Monk's last name was Veeboonkul - Duang's family name. The Abbot was one of her many uncles! I often tease her about how many relatives that she has around here - today she had the joke on me! This also explained why her mother accompanied us out to the Wat.



















After the Monk finally finished with the normal merit making ritual, he started the ritual to bless our new truck. Once again the ritual was more of an incorporation of Animist beliefs and practices than a true Buddhist ceremony. After having me open the truck front doors, the Monk walked around the truck counter clockwise while carrying a small plate with thin yellow candles on it, an amulet that we had received before from another Monk, and a small statue of some sacred religious person, a Buddhist ornament that we had purchased at a "special" Wat in anticipation of having a vehicle, small laurel type leaves, and some money on it. He also had a hunk of cotton rope with him. As he walked around the truck he was very carefully checking out the vehicle almost to the point of giving the truck the "evil eye".



Upon completing his circumambulation of the truck, Duang's Uncle climbed in and sat behind the wheel. He seemed to be imitating driving the truck as he was chanting so softly that I could not hear him. Upon completing his incantations, the Monk took the cotton rope and wrapped it around the steering column at the bas where it penetrates the firewall. At this point, the ritual hit a technical snag. The cotton rope was not long enough to tie around the steering column. As much as he tried, he could not bind the strings together. He called out to one of his lay assistants who rummaged through the small building before he finally came to the truck with some colored cotton strings that are used for Bai Saii rituals (binding the 32 spirits inside a person's body to ensure good luck and health). These strings did the job just fine - completing the loop and binding the spirits of the truck. I was busy photographing and filming the ritual.

The Monk then honked the horn of the truck three sets of three distinct and LOUD honks - completely taking me by surprise - much to Duang's amusement. Having scared the bajeepers out of me and most likely the spirits, the Monk pulled out a magic marker and drew three symbols on the steering wheel hub. He then focused on the headliner above the driver's seat. He seemed to be either praying or meditating as he drew a complex graphic on the roof above the driver's seat. I had seen this done before but the Monks had used a chalk paste. I surmise that Magic Marker is a concession to modern times and an effort at greater permanence. The Monk hung the two flower garlands that Duang had purchased from the Kumphawapi Market from the truck's rear view mirror. Having completed with the vehicle's interior, the Monk exited the truck and had Duang, Duang's mother, and me kneel on the ground in front of the truck. He grabbed a fairly large bucket of water along with a coarse reed brush. He circumambulated the truck three times sprinkling the truck as well as us with the water from the bucket using the coarse brush.

The ritual was now completed and the truck had been properly prepared for our use.

Back at Duang's mother's home, Duang glued the statue, amulet, and Buddhist ornament to the dashboard to ensure that the protection continues.

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