money in the wind

Money Spirits

February 18, 2011

A lot of people, particularly Americans and Europeans think of Thailand as a very spiritual country.

And it’s true. Thailand really is. There probably is not a single country in the world where Buddhism is practiced as widely and intensely among the population as in the “Land of Smiles”.

Temples everywhere, and monks wearing orange robes.

Yet, many Westerners are surprised when they see how money is being displayed in the temples.

Money? Spirituality?

That somehow doesn’t go together, right?

Well, let us ask you: why not?

After all, material well-being is a fundamental need of human life.

At our most basic level, to fulfill our most basic human needs we essentially need three things: physical health, good emotional relationships with other people and… money.

And if any of these is missing, we will more or less obsess about it.

A man who is sick will constantly think about health or medicine.

A man who is lonely will constantly think about somebody.

A man who is poor will constantly think about money, so he can buy food or afford a place to stay.

So what’s wrong with money in the temples?

Nothing. Unless it becomes excessive. (For example, there is a monk who drives around in a Rolls Royce in one of the poorest provinces of Thailand – we personally find it hard to combine spiritual practice with such material indulgence).

But you will see this again and again when you go on a Bangkok sightseeing tour. Even more popular than what you see in this picture are money trees, where worshippers attach donations to a tree with bank note leaves. For them it is just another way of making merit and accumulating good luck.

And since in Thailand there is no mandatory religious tax, I think that is a great way to support temples. Cherish and celebrate money, instead of trying to create all sorts of negative things around it. Sometimes I feel that some people take pride in showing how little they care about money – when in the end, they really do care a lot more about it than they would ever admit.

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