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DeDanan

Spirits, Good And Bad

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Hi All,

Spirits good and bad have a big significance in Thailand, is this part of Theravada Buddhist belief?

Have a Happy...

DeDanan

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Spirits good and bad have a big significance in Thailand, is this part of Theravada  Buddhist belief?

Gd'day DeDanan

My wife assures me that the belief in spirits (other than Mekong) predates Buddhism in Thailand. Spirit houses abound - to keep the phii happy. Phii-paa live in the forest, to (hopefully) protect the trees from foreign timber interests. There are also spirits to protect the waterways. The belief in spirits goes back to pre-Buddhist animism and served a useful purpose. Chinese ancestor-worship sits side-by-side with Buddhism.

My (Chinese) Thai brother-in-law had a hair -raising habit of always taking both hands off the wheel to offer a wai when driving past a shrine of any sort in Bangkok. It didn't matter if it was Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Christian or Innuit - he saluted them all. I asked him about this - if he was a Buddhist, why wai the others? He replied: "Insurance!"

Seems fair enough - Why take chances?

LoongJohn

.._

:o

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Spirits good and bad have a big significance in Thailand, is this part of Theravada  Buddhist belief?

Gd'day DeDanan

My wife assures me that the belief in spirits (other than Mekong) predates Buddhism in Thailand. Spirit houses abound - to keep the phii happy. Phii-paa live in the forest, to (hopefully) protect the trees from foreign timber interests. There are also spirits to protect the waterways. The belief in spirits goes back to pre-Buddhist animism and served a useful purpose. Chinese ancestor-worship sits side-by-side with Buddhism.

My (Chinese) Thai brother-in-law had a hair -raising habit of always taking both hands off the wheel to offer a wai when driving past a shrine of any sort in Bangkok. It didn't matter if it was Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, Christian or Innuit - he saluted them all. I asked him about this - if he was a Buddhist, why wai the others? He replied: "Insurance!"

Seems fair enough - Why take chances?

LoongJohn

.._

:o

He'll be right. He has all the bases covered :D Kinda multiple each way bets.

Belief in animism is common, but it is not part of the teaching in Buddhism.

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In Coufucian says respect all beings but stay away from them, He means all creatures are created but God,so we must respect them as well . But we don't ask help from them . Some people ask lottery numbers from Phi(ghost) in return they must pay certain condition back to them. They is no free lunch in this world.

In one story Buddha and His disciples walk and Buddha saw a dead body only bones left and Buddha bow down and pray to the bones,with all the sudden one of his disciple ask Buddha why Your holiness bow to the bones? and Buddha answer" We have been reincarnation for so long(many life), this maybe one of my parent in my past life,I saw my my parent body lying on the road side and as a son I should respect to my parent" This story tell us Buddha did't pray to Phi but it's his parent, so it's not weather we are praying any sprits but it's how our intention is?

It's noting wrong to Wai on other religion,once we respect other gods or spirits we will get respect in return.

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Well, as I understand it, spirits, demons and celestial beings are recognised to exist, and some maybe helpful allies, but are ultimately illusory. I cannot imaging Buddha recommending to seek help from spirits to win the lottery or prevent accidents, such practises are actually going against his teachings.

In Theravada the emphasis is on attaining enlightenment by one's own efforts, so it is surprising how dominant the concern with spirits is in Thailand?!

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Gods, demons and all sorts frequently appear in Shakyamuni's teachings but they should be viewed rather as symbolic rather than genuine entities. They were neecessary for Shakyamuni to be able to communicate his ideas to people of that time. Imagine, for instance, trying to explain how a radio works to such a person and you could well end up using such metaphors. I think it's the case in Buddhist though that a ghost or spirit cannot exist as such because material existence requires the 5 components, of which it'd only have 1.

The longer I live in Thailand, the more I come to view it as an animist country, Theravada Buddhism being to most people, it seems, more a formality than a core belief. Talking with a friend the other day about cause and effect, I think she was surprised that I, as a farang (Buddhist), believe in it while I was just as surprised by her statement that 'only old people believe in that'!

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"They were neecessary for Shakyamuni to be able to communicate his ideas to people of that time. Imagine, for instance, trying to explain how a radio works to such a person and you could well end up using such metaphors. I think it's the case in Buddhist though that a ghost or spirit cannot exist as such because material existence requires the 5 components,..."

Well, one has to guess whether he was using metaphors, and we are not talking material existance, I haven't seen a spirit yet, or am I missing the point?

I fully agree with the rest of your post.

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Hello Stroll and everybody, may I participate?

I'd like to suggest, if I may, that the responses to the question in this thread approach Buddhism from a strongly western perspective. If you step out of that mileau there really is no contradiction or strangeness.

Wesern assumptions that cloud an understanding of the Buddhadhamma are many but here I can briefly touch on a couple.

Firstly the monotheistic religions have left a legacy of assuming only one path is 'true' so a 'sharing' of religious paths seems odd, yet it is the norm in the East.

Secondly Buddhism (the very term is a western creation) was first examined in the West by rationalist philosophers who filtered out allegedly 'non-rational' elements. Since then psychology has jumped in. Now the Buddhadhamma quite rightly has a great deal to offer psychology and philosophy but a westerner must br careful not to REDUCE the wealth of the Buddhadharma to the recent western disciplines.

Now to bring this to bear on the issue of spirits, let us first consider what the Buddha taught. The suttas are very rich in contemporary Indian divinities - Indra, Brahma, tree nymphs, earth goddesses etc. Okay you may wish to hold on to the position that the Buddha was skilfully using these devices in a symbolic, metaphorical or mythological sense, but do you think the generations of devotees down the millenia though tin this way? Mind you does it really matter?

For me the interesting point is to contrast the Buddha's approach to that of the monotheistic religions. There is ONE Truth - a jealous god; other religions are erroe, to be smashed. Buddha never asserted that the existence of deities was an error or an illusion. What he did was relativise them.

Let me explain: he taught that rather than being omnipotent or salvific, they exist within samsara. In other words gods and spirits are real but they are not enlightened. They can cause mischief, they can help - but only in samsaric ways; they cannot further ones journey towards enlightenment since they too are ignorant.

Stroll, you said you thought Buddhists were working towards enlightenment. In Theravada Buddhism in particular it is very clear that to stand the smallest miniscule chance of enlightenment in this lifetime you ave to be a fully ordained monk. Women have no chance, neither do male laity. At best you can make enough merit in this life for favourable rebirth, as a male, in an environment where you might become a monk.

Thus for the vast majority enlightenment is a theoretical goal but too far over the horizon to be of practical concern. Thus your concerns are samsaric and it is quite logical to turn to samsaric spirits for help. Buddhadhama isn't going to make your sick buffalo well but a placated spirit might.

Consider, a Christian in deep debt and in trouble with the bailiffs might pray fo rdivine aid - but he might go and see his bank manager as well. He might pray to be protected from tropical diseases, but he'll get the vaccinations too. Same same.

Buddhism is the only major religion that makes no attempt to be comprehensive. There are the famous meatphysical question in the Malunkyaputtasuta where the Buddhas refused to speculate on classic religious questions; there are no prescribed rituals for birth or marriage ceremonies - there are many 'gaps' that are filled by the popular beliefs and practices of indigenous religions. Buddha was very careful to deliberately integrate and respect them so long as it is understood that they do not offer a route to the Ultimate. Such tolerance has historically been a great strength of the buddhadhamma.

Thank you.

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I have nothing to add to the last post except a grateful "thank you andyinkat." That was a wonderful and lucid explanation. Very interesting topic. I have gleaned some of this from my Thai wife and Thai friends, but it has never been stated so succinctly and clearly before.

Greg

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Stroll, you said you thought Buddhists were working towards enlightenment. In Theravada Buddhism in particular it is very clear that to stand the smallest miniscule chance of enlightenment in this lifetime you ave to be a fully ordained monk. Women have no chance, neither do male laity. At best you can make enough merit in this life for favourable rebirth, as a male, in an environment where you might become a monk.

hi andy,

I agree with all the rest that you've written but this is the biggest load of Male chauvinistic , Power hungry, Buddhist crap i've ever heard.

"Women have no chance, neither do male laity"

You only need to be aware, mindfull (not full of mind) centered and able to let go...

There is no requirement on "Being" this or the other. i would say the requirement is "No being".

Maybe you could go ask your Teacher again, Will give him a good laugh :o

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:D I'm [mildly] offended by Darknight's remarks. I was hoping that sort of post (mean-spirited, sophomoric, anti-buddha :o ) would be a rare event in this forum. Why do people become unnecessarily aggressive when communicating with a keyboard?

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Obviously what he quoted is not MY opinion, and in his flaming of me in another thread he hasn't noticed that I'm latterly of the Tibetan tradition for which this view does not apply.

He clearly has no experience of training within a sangha or learning about Theravada. There are a couple of ill-informed, angry egotists following me around this forum - sad but no point rising to it.

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Yes, I must agree that Darknight, although having posted some interesting posts, seems to be being unecessarily aggressive.

I for one hope to learn from people who have had more experience than I.

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naigreg,

truly good explanation and as a woman , darknight, i am aware that most philosophies/religions have a tendency to leave women out of the loop so to speak and am not offended so why are you?

now, i have a question that involves translation of the terms god (God) , gods, fate , etc...

my friend (a thai man from issan )writes to me and i send for translation... he is from issan with sixth grade education so his writing seems to be not very sophisticated:

"I just pray to God, please don’t let it happen that

way, but if it actually happens, I will just have to accept my fate..." "What is meant to happen will happen

and no one can prevent it from happening. We can’t choose how we want things to be, but only a higher power above set things on

destiny’s way before we know it. Our path in life is predestined, with no exceptions for soul mates..."

is this the way most issan thai see life? and when he writes, what thai word or words is/are he using to express the term god? maybe the translators are doing a bit of poetic editing for their western client? and is budhism a 'fatalistic' philosophy as far as predestined paths? I know he is not a christian thai... although after living in israel maybe he picked up some of our crazy jewish ideas :o

just curious and maybe have to ask the linguistic gurus also....

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