Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Long Journey







"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" - Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu, the 6th century B.C Chinese philosopher and poet, is correct however in our household and for a journey of over 8,300 miles, the journey actually begins not with one step but with a special ritual.

In 24 hours we will commence our journey to America - a journey that will take 30 hours or more from our doorstep to the doorstep of my parent's home on the East Coast.  In America we will also be visiting Olympic National Park on the West Coast and Glacier National Park in Montana.

I have been very busy lately making all the necessary arrangements.  Thanks to the wonder and power of the Internet, researching and making the arrangements is possible - 8 flight legs, 5 hotel stays, and 3 car rentals.  I will be 65 years soon and I along with all the other baby boomers have witnessed a revolution - an information revolution.

When I was a young man, there was no Internet.  To plan, let alone research such a trip, people had to rely upon travel agents.  Like most of our trips, in doing the research I revise plans and arrangements as I discover more information.  With the Internet I can review photographs of the hotels as well as read reviews from recent customers.  I also can shop for better prices and ... better values. There is no worry about being surprised by "No Vacancy" signs during our travels - a distinct problem in and around national parks in July!

Going on such a grand journey also presents some challenges to my wife, Duang.  Besides traveling half way around the world, this journey is like traveling to the end of the world - her world.  Duang is a very devout Buddhist along with Animism as well as Brahmanism.  In America, she will be far removed from kindred spirits.  Thankfully she is very adaptable and has managed quite well on previous trips.

However, there is nothing wrong with properly preparing for such a journey.  For me the proper preparation is planning and scheduling the entire trip.  For Duang, proper preparation involves spiritual matters - which brings us to today's activity.

This morning we drove out to Ban Mat to visit Luang Por Pohm Likit, the Forest Monk. After the typical merit making of offering food to him, and eating the food that he did not take with the local people, we went to his quarters for a special blessing.

Duang sat on a plastic chair just outside of his quarters, half of which is a shrine.  The half of his quarters is open visiting space and a small enclosed area where he sleeps.

Duang About To Receive Special Blessing

After making some preparations which included some chanting and burning a white candle so that the melted wax dropped into a Monk's bowl filled with water, Luang Por Pohm Likit walked up behind Duang.

As Duang sat in the chair with her hands in the wai position, the Thai gesture of respect, he sprayed water upon her using a rough brush made of very thin strips of bamboo.

Luang Por Pohm Likit Prepares to Bless Duang





As he sprinkled the water on Duang, the Monk was softly chanting in Lao words to the effect of "Good luck to you.  Have a good and safe journey.  Buddha take care of you.  Ghosts and spirits do not go into you.  Don't be afraid.  Good luck for you"  Since Duang and I are inseparable during our travels I am assuming that I am also covered by the blessing.


As the ritual was proceeding, Duang was inwardly focused on thanking Luang Por Pohm Likit as he chanted, thanking Buddha, thinking about good luck for us, and our safe as well as happy return"



The act of sprinkling water on Duang was the transference of merit and blessing from Luang Por Likit to Duang -  a process and belief that I wrote abut in a recent previous blog entry.


Upon completion of this blessing, Duang with wet and wax flaked hair, went to the shrine in the Monk's quarters to perform additional merit making - three different locations at the shrine.  The "three" locations and separate offerings were not by chance.  It is a dominant theme in Buddhism - showing respect and devotion to the three "gems" of Buddhism - Buddha, the Teachings of Buddha, and the Sanga (the Buddhist religious clergy)

Duang Making Offerings At Luang Por Pohm Likit's Shrine

Upon completing her offerings at the shrine, Duang and I bid Luang Por Pohm Likit a traditional farewell and promising to see him upon our return.  On our way to our truck we received the best wishes from the local people for our grand journey.

Earlier in the morning, Luang Por Pohm Likit gave us two special talisman to carry with us on our journey.  The talisman were from India and were anatomically correct images naturally occurring out of tree bark of Buddha as a man and as a woman in his previous lives before attaining enlightenment.  Upon our safe return, and the completion of their task we will return these precious objects to Luang Por Pohm Likit.



We returned home and Duang commenced to pack her suitcase with enthusiasm.  Fortified with special blessing and the talisman, she is prepared to take her journey to the end of her world.

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