Day #158: Merit-making

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September 8th 2013
Published: September 16th 2013
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One of the most obvious manifestations of Buddhism in Thailand is merit-making, a way of creating positive karma for oneself by doing a good deed. The idea of karma is very influential in Thai society - the flip side it can lead to the belief that people in difficult times (including the ill) are paying for past misdeeds (which makes me think of Glenn Hoddle).

Traditional ways of merit-making include making offerings to Buddhist monks (who are dependent on such offerings) when they visit each morning - it is socially unacceptable to refuse - and releasing fish and other water-dwelling creatures from captivity into the rivers or ponds around temples. In Chiang Mai this led to the odd scenario whereby people come to the temple, purchase buckets of fish, frogs, eels or other animals from a stall, and go and tip them into the river. This is meant to do the animals a favour, but most creatures are eaten by the (massive) fish that already live in the river, and the frogs just die as the habitat does not support them. In fact, at temples all around Thailand it is possible to see huge fish who have become overgrown due to the merit-making at the temples.

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