Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Water Transfer

Transferring Of Merit Ritual In Ban Tahsang

Water is extremely important to the human organism.  People can survive far longer without food or without sufficient amounts of potable water.  The lack of  clean potable water is one of the leading killers of young children.  In addition to carrying organisms that cause diarrhea, water carries vectors for such water borne scourges as botulism, typhoid, Cholera, Legionellosis, and Malaria to name just a few.

Water touches our lives everyday - from the water that we drink, the water that we bathe our bodies with, as well as the water that we use to cook and prepare our food.

We are also dependent upon water for the production of the foods that we consume whether our diet is omnivorous, vegetarian, or even vegan.

There is no escaping our body's need and reliance upon water - clean water.

It should come as no big surprise that water also plays an important role in the major religions of the world.  Just as water is necessary and essential for man's physical survival, water plays a very important role in man's spiritual welfare either its ability to cleanse or purify, its symbolism, or the powers attributed to it.

Here in Isaan at the many rituals that I attend, water is frequently used.  At many rituals a Monk will splash special water, water that has been chanted over and sometimes has had melted wax dropped into it by burning candles during the ritual.  The water is contained in an ornamental bowl in which a bundle of reeds is dipped to toss the water droplets over the laypeople.  For me this is very reminiscent of receiving a certain blessing in the Catholic Church.

Evening Ritual For Duang's Father Prior to Cremation

By far the greatest use of water at Theravada Buddhist rituals here in Isaan is to transfer merit to the departed.

Duang Transferring Merit At Wat Ban Mat

In Buddhism it is believed that good deeds and performing acts of merit will bring happiness in this world and in the spirit world.  The amount of merit that a person has acquired will be a determining factor in the status that they will reincarnated into along the path to enlightenment.

Merit that is acquired here in this life can be transferred to other people - living or dead.  Ordinarily the transfer can be done just by thinking of the person as you earn the merit.

There is a belief that the departed person may have gone to the world of departed spirits.  These spirits are not capable of earning merit on their own - they are stuck with the merit they earned in this world.  If they were a good person they have a good chance of being reborn in a happy circumstance.  However , if they they don't have enough merits they have to wait to get merit from living people to get enough merit to be reborn in a happy circumstance.

All is not lost for people who are reborn in an unhappy situation.  They can be released through the transfer of merits from living people.

Laypeople Transferring Merit

Merit can be transfer in your home environment just by thinking of the recipient as you make merit.

Another transfer mechanism takes place and can only take place in a ritual at a Wat involving the participation of Monks.  As the Monks chant, people silent recite special words, as they pour water from one container to another.  The containers range in sophistication from ornate brass "jots" - small covered chalice type containers with matching receptacle bowl to the more prevalent ordinary plastic water bottle and plastic bowl.

The Monks chant in Pali, the language of the people who brought Buddhism to Thailand, words - the Nidhikanda Sutta in the Khuddakapatha:

As river, when full must flow
and reach and fill the distant main,
So indeed what is given here
will reach and bless the spirits there.

As water poured on a mountain top must
soon descend and fill the plain,
So indeed what is given here will reach
and bless the spirits there

It is one of my favorite rituals.

There Are No Age Restrictions For Participating In Rituals

Peelawat, at age 8 months, Participates In His Own Way
So just as water is essential and serves us in this world and is often used to travel from one place to another in this life, it also aids some of us in our journey beyond this world.

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