Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Putting Gold On The Back Of The Buddha"

Along with flowers, incense and candles you'll invariably see gold leaf sold at temples and sacred shrines of all sorts throughout Thailand. Pounded by hand into extremely thin sheets, it's then cut into small squares about 1/2 inch square and placed inside a folded piece of paper - such as the ones below.

Faithful visitors can then make a donation, receive a packet or two and place the piece of leaf onto a sacred image of one type or another as a way of making merit, or making a wish.
That's a gross over-simplification, but it gives you a point of reference for the story behind today's post title.

It's a safe bet you know someone who makes sure everyone around them knows about it whenever they do a good deed, as though publicizing it will gain them further "good karma" points. It's an equally safe bet that you know someone who does their best to avoid the limelight when making a donation, helping someone in need or being of service, too. These are both universal traits, although I personally believe one is more worthy of striving for than the other!

Many phrases and sayings are also universal, regardless of language and culture, such as the one here today: putting gold on the back of the Buddha, which in Thai would be transliterated somewhat like bpit torng lang pra - meaning doing good deeds without seeking attention.

What does all of this have to do with gold leaf? When making merit quite a number of Thai will purposely apply the small gold square on the reverse side of the object. In the case of a larger statue, such as the one at Wat Bangkung (in the top photo ) there are stairs that allow worshipers to not only climb up to the sides of the Buddha image, but there's a narrow aisle that goes behind the statue and back down the other side.

As a testament to the goodness of Thai human nature I witnessed a sizable section on the back that was covered with squares of gold leaf. It made a meaningful experience even more meaningful.

3 comments:

Michael Lomker said...

Fascinating! I adore these kind of posts.

krobbie said...

Again Bao Bao notes things that may escape our attention or the meanings behind (litterally) the deed.

Keep 'em comin".

Cheers

sudasawan van der Veere said...

Thank you. Great post