Buddhism beliefs

Beliefs are not an excuse to harm our health

Everyone has a set of personal beliefs that determine their actions. Although we are supposed to respect each other’s beliefs, it is difficult to accept the unpleasant impact caused by certain beliefs.

One such belief of people that has worried me for a long time is the burning of incense sticks and the lighting of candles in the worship of sacred statues in temples and shrines.

It is well known that this practice poses a danger to our health because the smoke from combustion contains toxins which, like traffic fumes and cigarette smoke, can cause cancer. Plus, it affects the already poor air quality that has impacted our lives over the years.

That’s why I was happy to hear from the media two weeks ago that the Phanthai Norasing Shrine in Samut Sakhon has ended this practice on its premises.

The shrine is one of the most famous among the faithful. It houses the statue of Phanthai Norasing, a royal helmsman who lived during the Ayutthaya period around 300 years ago. He was renowned for his selfless act of honesty and integrity and became a historical figure widely revered by a later generation.

Now his devotees are only allowed to lay gold leaf on his statue while the incense sticks and candles they used to burn as offerings will be placed on trays. The reason behind the new rule is that the sanctuary wants to be a safe and pollution-free area.

According to the director of the Phanthai Norasing Foundation, worship is a matter of the heart and showing respect and gratitude with our heart is a good deed and enough to satisfy the spirit of Phanthai Norasing.

This new approach helps ensure that worship is no longer a life-threatening activity and I hope other temples and shrines will be inspired to follow this example.

At the same time, this story reminded me of a new measure initiated by Wat Chedi, aka Wat Ai Kai, in Nakhon Si Thammarat, to deal with air and noise pollution caused by the excessive triggering of firecrackers occurring there. every day for several years.

According to a report at the end of last month, the temple has just completed construction equipped with a furnace and a pollutant removal system.

It is said to be able to handle up to 5 million firecrackers every day and remove around 97% of combustion fumes. But that doesn’t help much with the loud noise. All these things, however, cost the temple a total of 7 million baht and the chamber will be ready for operation next month.

We cannot deny that the faith people have in Ai Khai, or the spirit of a boy supposed to be at the temple who helps devotees with the things they pray for, is very strong. His wooden statue still attracts a large number of fortune-seekers today.

This is likely the result of word-of-mouth successes from some devotees, coupled with regular media reports of his devotees earning fortunes.

It’s hard to say if their successful cult has anything to do with Ai Khai and no one can prove he likes firecrackers.

Yet, on average, 1 million firecrackers are burned to him daily as an offering to the temple, which poses an unnecessary risk to everyone’s health and harms the environment.

For many, having a special burning chamber is a perfect solution but I can’t help but wonder about other temples that also have their own version of the Ai Khai statues and allow worshipers to set off firecrackers. Also would they have to pay a lot of money to get a similar room?

I think if Wat Chedi really cares about pollution, he should have found a more constructive way that solves the problem at the root and, at the same time, benefits everyone.

He is expected to draw inspiration from the case of Ekkapun Banluerit, an actor-turned-rescue volunteer who two months ago sought the power of Thao Wessuwan, or King of Ghosts, to help find the body of the actress Tangmo Pattarathida after her fall. a fast boat.

He promised to pay for his successful worship by riding around the equestrian statue of King Rama V a hundred times. He later changed his mind and chose to donate coffins to charity instead. He felt that the latter choice was much more beneficial to society and he thought Thao Wessuwan would be happy with it.

It will be so much better if Wat Chedi tells Ai Khai devotees to stop burning firecrackers and do something else. There are many choices: donate money to hospitals, volunteer at shelters, help those in need, or even join a the dhamma retreat.

These are meritorious deeds which I believe will please the spirits of all sacred statues perfectly.