Invariably, newcomers to Thailand quickly discover Thai Buddhism; but there is a universal problem for tourists in our kingdom: They have to go home and it’s really hard to keep the fledgling Buddha alive in you from a distance.
But, recently, a thought crossed my mind… what if, using only four simple keys, I could give you enough knowledge so that you could keep practicing what you’ve learned until you can come back?
I like to think of it as “Buddhism To Go”.
Actually, you don’t need a Thai temple or fancy worship space to be a Buddhist. If you want to continue to follow the Buddha within you, you must return home with just one really important thing: Mercy.
Buddhism is about having a sense of empathy for all things that live. But, you cannot develop a heightened sense of empathy without mercy. Mercy leads to empathy for all living things and empathy leads to Buddhism. Without a sense of heightened empathy, your life will always be unhappy. As for the rest of Buddhism, it’s all just gravy.
Sure, our temples are spectacular. Yes, our monks are magnanimous. Indeed, our chanting and ceremonies stand out as something truly majestic in today’s sterile digital world.
But, little of that is what makes you a better person. Little of that is what makes your life improve. What makes your life improve is intentionally dedicating every day of your life to constructing an enhanced sense of sympathy for everyone and everything that exists – even the people you dislike.
Mercy is the first key of Thai Buddhism and you need to tuck it away in your heart before you get on that flight back home.
“A man is only as good as his handshake.” If you are a dishonest person, if you cheat others out of what is rightfully due, then your life will still fail to improve. If you make a promise, you need to keep it. If you say something, it needs to be true. This is the second key of Buddhism To Go: Honesty.
Yet, you must be honest not only in what you say, but you must also be honest in how you view yourself. You are a good enough person to be a Thai Buddhist, but not if you’re into blaming other people. Blaming others is not only the mark of a bad person, but it is also the hallmark of a bad Buddhist.
Getting honest with yourself is all about being able to say, “You know what, I am a good person, I am good enough… but I still could improve on how I treat my wife.” Getting honest with yourself is about realising that bad luck only stops when you stop doing bad things.
This is the third key: Wisdom. A wise person knows that there is simply no substitute for wise choices. The teachings of Buddha are really about improving your behaviour. They are not about fortune-telling or hocus-pocus. If we want our lives to improve, then we must improve our behaviour.
Finally, the last key is: Desire. Too often, our wants rule us, rather than us ruling what we want. Remember, the human mind is a lot like a brand-new puppy. Without a leash, it runs wherever it wants.
So, if you just take these four keys home from your holiday: mercy, honesty, wisdom, and controlling desire, then you can be just as much of a Thai Buddhist as most of us here in Thailand.
These are the keys that will unlock the door of your heart. Now, you just need to open it and step out into a beautiful rainbow that’s been waiting just for you… and you might be surprised to find out that this beautiful rainbow was really waiting for you to come home, all along.
All About Buddhism is a monthly column in The Phuket News where I take readers on my exotic journey into Thai Buddhism and debunk a number of myths about Buddhism. If you have any specific queries, or ideas for articles, please let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to accommodate your interests.