Category: Blog

A Verse in Praise of the King

The PARAMINDA MAHABHUMIBALA ATULAYATEJA MAHARAJASSA PATIDANA GATHA is a verse composed in the Pali language by H.E. Somdet Phra Vanarat, abbot of Wat Bowonniwet Viahra. I have transliterated the verse into Romanized Pali, so that English readers may recite it. Unfortunately, the diacriticals are not available to aid readers in the proper pronunciation. The transliteration of the Thai verse is located below, simply click on ‘Praise’.

 

Praise

Funeral Procession Rehersal #3

The third rehearsal for the Royal Procession and subsequent Cremation slated for October 26, 2017, took place on October 21, 2017. This was the third of three rehearsals. Even though the report in this video is in Thai, non-Thai speaking viewers can get an idea of  what to expect during the actual event, which will take place on the 26 October.

 

 

No Tee shirts, Please.

The latest inappropriate behavior to be announced by the Royal Thai Police Office is apparel with silkscreened images of His Late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and/or the crematorium.

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According to an announcement from that office, issued on October 19, 2560 (2017), the Royal Thai Police warn against using the royal crematorium as a design on clothing, stating that it is inappropriate, and in bad taste, and they ask for venders to comply with this order.

(photos from http://www.nation.tv)

Any Port in the Storm

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As far as cremations go I can safely say that the upcoming cremation for our late monarch, King Bhumibol Aduladej, slated for October 26, 2017, will be the biggest event the country has seen since King Vajiravudh’s cremation, nearly 100 years ago. Why is that? King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) was the last anointed king to have had cremation rites performed at the Phra Mane ground. His successor and younger brother, King Prachadhipok (Rama VII), abdicated and was cremated in England. King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII), ascended the throne at nine years of age, had a regent for most of his reign, and passed away before he had his coronation. King Bhumibol Aduladej (Rama IX) reigned for 70 years, all the while reinventing the meaning of kingship with his many good works, elevating his people’s quality of life. Therefore, this will be the first cremation of an anointed Thai king since 1925.

Bangkok Governor, Asawin Kwanmuang, is in the final preparatory states before Thursday’s event, such as resurfacing roads and sidewalks, and making sure the crematory replicas and sandalwood flower receiving stations are in order.  A flood of citizenry is expected on the Ratanakosin Island, anticipating mourners in hundreds of thousands. A number of schools and monasteries, as well as youth centers, will open their gates to give shelter to the mourners. 117 schools, 56 monasteries and three centers will are available for rest areas, as follows:

Phra Nakorn District: 1) Wat Ratburana School, 2) Ratbopit School, 3) Wat Indra School, 4) Wat Mahanopparam School, 5) Wat Mai Amatarot School, 6) Wat Makutkasatriyaram School, 7) Wat Tri Tosathep School, 8) Wat Rajanadda School, 9) Wat Sutat School, 10) Wat Mahathat School, 11) Wat Phra Chetupon [Wat Pho] School, 12) Wat Chana Songkram School, 13) Suan Kularb Vidyalay, 14) Bencamarajalay, 15) Wat Bowonniwet School, 16) Satrividya, 17) Wat Ratbopit School, 18) Wat Sangwet School, 19) Wat Makutkastriya High School, 20) Rajini School, 21) Bharata Vidya School, 22) Piman Vidhya, 23) Wat Chana Songkram, 24) Wat Rajaburana, 25) Wat Sutatthepwararam, 26) Wat Theptidaram, 27) Wat Phra Chetuponwimolmangalaram [Wat Pho], 28) Wat Bowonniwet Vihara, 29) Wat Rajbopit, 30) Wat Sangwet wisayaram, 31) Wat Indra Vihara, 32) Wat Mahannopparam, 33) Wat Mai Amatarot, 34) Wat Makutkasatriyaram, 35) Wat Tritosathep, 36) Wat Mahathat.

Pomprab Satru Pai District: 1) Wat Sidaram School, 2) Wat Khanikapol School, 3) Wat Disanukaram School, 4) Wat Phra Piraendra School, 5) Wat Thepsirindrawas, 6) Wat Saket, 7) Wat Sundra Dhammadanada, 8) Wat Somanas.

The schools and monasteries in the two districts just mentioned are for resting and toilet use, not over night stay.

mourning bunting at Wat Bowonniwet gate and wall

Children’s Acts of Gratefulness

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Throughout the past year, since the news of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulayadej’s passing, and even more so as we near the actual cremation date (Oct. 26, 2017), Thais from all walks of life have come forward for volunteer jobs. The jobs are undertaken with an attitude of gratefulness towards His Late Majesty for what he has done for the country and its residents.

The  committee overseeing the organization of volunteer activities has done an incredible job setting up the structure and getting the right things done. According to the information at the Kingrama9 web site (http://kingrama9.net/NewsHighlights/File/10) volunteers have been arranged into the following eight groups: 1) Sandal wood flower production, 2) Information, 3) Public Works, 4)  Transportation, 5) Services, 6) First Aid, 7) Security, 8) Traffic. Each of the eight groups has a sub-structure, but too detailed to be mentioned here.

The Sandal wood flower used in Thai cremations is made from wood shavings and tied together to resemble a flower. This is placed on the pyre by mourners to aid in the cremation of the deceased. For this cremation, the Thai government has arranged for the burning of sandal wood flowers offered by the general public,  in replica crematoria, located in various provinces throughout the country; and to be burned simultaneously with the actual cremation.

The replica crematory are located at the following sites: the Dusit Plaza (Rama V Equestrian statue); four replicas outside of sanam luang: 1) the Rama 1 Park, 2) the area between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the giant swing, 3) Nagharabhirom Park, 4) the old government lottery office (north of sanam luang, on Ratchadamnoen Ave.). Replicas at the four corners of the city: 1) Tupatemi Stadium, Pathum Thani, 2) King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology, Ladkrabang, 3) Bai Tec, Bangna, 4) Buddha Monthon, Nakorn Pathom. There are 76 replica crematory located in the provinces.

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There are 104 designated sites throughout Bangkok (see photo above) where sandal wood flowers may be placed for collection, 878 in the provinces, and 94 collection sites in various cities around the world.

Not all volunteers are associated with the above mentioned group. There are other independent groups volunteering their time making the sandal wood flowers as well, such as this group from Soon NamJai Maitree, Ministry of Culture. A selection of their flowers appear in the photos below.

 

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The same is true in regards to transportation. I know of some cases where private citizens, taxi drivers by profession, have been ferrying people back and forth between their origin point and the Grand Palace, free of charge. It is absolutely incredible to see this outpouring of love and gratefulness from the people regardless of occupation or status. His Majesty was born on Dec. 5th and because of that that date is Father’s Day in Thailand. And as their father’s children, people are offering every imaginable act of assistance as a way to show their gratefulness to their late father in the final days leading up to the cremation.

Again, many young people have come forward, volunteering for the public works (no. 3 above), doing trash detail, collecting used water bottles and discarded plastic wrappers, etc., keeping the place nice and tidy for mourners. These jobs are not reserved for the young, people in their 70s and 80s are volunteering, too.

This morning as I was leaving the monastery for my morning alms walk and couldn’t help but notice a large number of white-robed laymen preparing for ordination. I later learned that they were part of a group of 90 men from TOT (Telephone Organization of Thailand and TOT Corporation Public Company Limited) who were ordaining to make merit for His Late Majesty King Bhumibol Adulayadej. After ordaining they will go to a meditation monastery in Korat to practice meditation, dedicating the merit to the late king. This is in addition to the 89 police officers from throughout the nation who ordained in a program named “Ruam Jai Pakdi”, as well as the students from Assumption and Nawamin Rajutis schools.

I’m sure similar activities will intensify in the days leading up to the cremation.

 

 

 

 

 

Royal Robe Offering (Kathina) 2017

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The word ‘kathina’ literally means ‘frame’, a type which was originally used for sewing  robes in a straight and orderly fashion. Today, this word refers to the special robe offering ceremony, arranged by the laity and offered to a group of four or more monks who have completed the three-month rains retreat (vasso). The offering must be completed within one month after the exit of the rains retreat, otherwise it is forfeit. Also, the robe material must be offered, cut, sewed, washed and dyed all in one night.

As Wat Bowonniwet is a royal monastery, the donor will always be the king. On this occasion, a beautiful golden frames the main Buddha image, the coat of arms at the upper, middle indicates that this curtain was given by King Chulalongkorn (r. 1868-1910) over one hundred years ago. This being an unusual year due to the upcoming cremation of the late king, the ceremony was held on Tuesday October 17, 2017, instead of the Observance Day directly following the end of the rains. His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn arrived at the main chapel at approximately 4:00 p.m., offered the white cloth to the Order, before proceeding to Wat Arun to make a similar offering.

After the king departed, the white cloth was sent to be cut into portions, sewn, washed, dyed and dried. Some very talented women from the palace administration were present to help sew, as they do every year.

The new robe was finished and fully dried at about 1 a.m. All the monks who had spent the rains retreat gathered in the main hall and consented (anumodana) to the allocation of the new robe.

After all duties were complete, the monks chanted Pali passages, dedicating merits to the king.