I was immersed in Buddhism during the trip to Thailand. I am not a religious person, per se. I believe in a greater power, a light, not sure I go for the guy in a white robe, but to each his own. I can’t explain it, so I’m certainly not going to try to dispute it. I didn’t go in with much knowledge on Buddhism and I’ve only gained a tiny bit more in my travels. One of the things that perplexed me was that Buddhists pray. It was my belief that the enlightened path is a journey one must take on one’s own. So, what’s the point in praying to Buddha? Technically, he can’t help you. I would like to think that a Buddhist prayer is more substantial than ‘I want to win the lottery’. But, then, I would also like to think that of Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc… Frequently not the case, however.
As I visited different wats, I was surprised at how many different ways there are to pray to Buddha. So much ritual, tradition. I was a little nervous at the first wat I entered. I certainly didn’t want to do anything ‘wrong’, offend anyone. I knew to take off my shoes and never point my feet toward an image of the Buddha. The basics, maybe, but important stuff. The next wat threw me, though. Wat Phan Tao, a small teak building was next on my self guided walking tour of the Old City, Chiang Mai. Immediately upon entering, a smiling, jolly man quickly approached me and handed me a bowl of coins. “for wishes.” He said, “you make wishes.” So confused. What do I do with the coins? Am I supposed to give him money for the coins? He just handed them to me, smiling and bounced away. Now what? I noticed the bowls all lined up and I got a flash of one of ‘The Amazing Race’ episodes. (!) A coin in each bowl…aaah, I get it! I did what was expected of me, but as I started dropping coins methodically into each bowl I couldn’t come up with something to wish for. It seemed so contradictory to what Buddhism was about to me. With each ‘plink, plink, plink’ of the coins in the bowls I was drawn deeper into the task… ‘plink, plink’, deeper into the moment, ‘plink’, into the present. There it is! So much of Buddhist prayer is meditation. It all made sense. Wishes, prayers, affirmations, intentions, chants, whatever you want to call them, they are manifestations of present energy. What a wonderful lesson! It should be said, however, meditating over your scratch ticket does not guarantee a winner.