Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Honor & Respect

Hey there! Ronette Hoard here, hailing from Columbus, Ohio. I received my Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Fisk University in Nashville, TN  in 2012.  I just finished my first year as a graduate music therapy student. With great interest and a strong passion for broadening my cultural and diversity awareness, I am thrilled to be studying abroad in Thailand.

We arrived in Thailand on May 23, and from the moment I touched Thai soil, I observed the magnitude of honor and respect that the country has for their religion. Nearly
95% of Thai people are practitioners of Theravada Buddhism, meaning that they follow the teaching of Buddha. Thai people honor Buddha by purchasing and gifting offerings at a spirit house or an alter. These places are dedicated for prayers, meditation, and reverence to the spirits of people who have passed away. These spirit houses and alters can be found on almost every city block; crowded tourists and natives partaking in the ritual worship (to learn more about Buddhism in Thai visit


I would like to share my observations of our group experience making an offering at the Mahidol College of Music Spirit House on our first day here. I ask that you take into consideration that I am only sharing what I observed given my limited understanding and reporting from my perspective. Offerings that were purchased and placed by other at the Spirit House consisted of flowers, fruit baskets, animal figures, and baht (Thai currency). The participant(s) would burn incense and bow on their knees with their feet turned away from the alter, and mediate and/or pray. Once the participants were finished they would bow three times, while on their knees, as a sign of respect and gratitude to Buddha and their ancestors for hearing their prayers. This routine  reminded me of the description of worshiping other Gods as depicted in the old testament biblical scriptures. 

I share this experience with you because I found it quite intriguing how Thai people honor their God. As a Christian watching this kind of worship, I often wondered what it would be like in the US if people were able to display their religious beliefs publicly and collectively. I contemplated participating as a cultural experience, but felt uncomfortable due to my own beliefs. I know I made the right decision because I did not want to disrespect the God that I serve and love; or the Buddist faith. In addition, I found it odd to participate in something that I was not practicing. I did not want to disrespect the Thai cultural practices or their religion. Therefore, I observed at a distance and would mediate in my own way.   

As I observed this ritual, I started to question my own practices; why I don’t celebrate and honor my God in the same fashion. The Thai people do not wait to worship on a specific day as we do in America, they are always practicing their religious faith. On any day and at anytime, once they notice an alter or spirit house they acknowledge their God by stopping to honor him. I noticed that I found a respect for the people’s dedication in their beliefs and faith. It was not only children participating in the worship but elders in their seventies and older. For them to get on their knees for long periods of time was delightful to see, because it revealed to me how honor is implemented at an age and continued throughout their lives. As a result of these practices, I was motivated to restructure my worship routine. I plan to implement the dedication and practices displayed here into my worship as a Christian. 

I am elated to take cultural practices and transfer them into my world. As a devoted Christian, I was glad I was open minded in acknowledging the sanctity of their culture and  am able to use it to benefit my spirituality. Even if I never participate in the physical worship at the altars prepared for Buddha, I embrace the dedication and reverence of the people. 

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