Chapter 06: Blessing of Life and the process of Birth and Death
Salutations made in the merit making ceremony, commemorating the 90th birthday of Mrs Phan Sae-tang.
May the blessing be with everyone. Today is a blessed day for children and grandchildren of Mrs. Phan Sae-tang who have come to gather in this place, in order to make merit offering to the birthday deity.
Today everyone comes to join in merit making and alms offering, not just enjoying oneself alone. Today is a blessed occasion. I would like to induce you to think of life in the past, of how difficult your parents have had it and of how they have endured all the hardships. They have gathered their will power to establish knowledge, wisdom and happiness for their children until you are what you are today. That parent is Mrs. Phan Sae-tang.
How difficult your lives in the past were. You have realized that very well. Grandmother Phan Sae-tang is the only parent remaining. Grandfather Man has passed away. Both of them are very important to the children. But the children may not understand, even more so among the grand- and great grandchildren. May be the parents have not told the younger generation how difficult it has been to make their fortune. The grandchildren have not experienced hardship. Their parents have had money since they are born.
I would like to remind you not to be negligent. This is a good occasion for you to come to join in making merit. So, be aware of the merit you have received from your grandparents. They have made the wealth. But grandchildren like to spend it lavishly. There is no saving like in the old days, when parents had to consume sparingly and save food for their children.
The Buddha taught that it is a ring – a neck-binding ring, a hand-binding or a leg-binding ring. A leg-binding ring means wealth. An arm-binding ring means spouse. A neck-binding ring refers to children who cause constriction of the neck. This means that parents always give food to their hungry children first, no matter how hungry they themselves are. Otherwise the food will get stuck to their neck as if they have a neck-binding ring. All of you have to have your own child to realize this. The new generation doesn’t think of the good pattern set forth by their parents and grandparents with all their effort and endurance.
Ancient people had good ethical lessons. Wherever you go you have to be able to 1) be still 2) endure 3) wait 4) be slow 5) be good. People these days are unable to be still. They have a big mouth. They are unable to endure. They fidget. They are unable to wait and cannot be slow. That is why they cannot be really good. In the present time, the aforementioned are very important. But no one realizes it. Do not forget that Mr. Man Sae-tang fought with life with all his effort when he lived in Sukhothai or Pitsanulok province. He had done many kinds of business.
How poor they have been. The younger generation should know this. But nowadays grandchildren and great grandchildren have never known this. They only know how to ride in a Mercedez-Benz and stroll in department stores. Grandparents had to walk barefooted, picking vegetables to sell, eating rice with salt. They could endure all those things. But the grandchildren now have to eat good things and ride in a Benz in order to live. Having thought how their grandparents faced troubles, the younger generation should take these old stories as edifying examples.
I would like to leave this thought with you, not to be careless or negligent, not to be dandified or pleasure-loving only. Have patience. Old people like Mr. Man and Mrs. Phan taught, “While grandparents are teaching, keep still.” You have to think of keeping still and being patience with your eyes seeing, your ears listening and your mouth shut. But your feet have to run hurriedly and your hands perform only good deeds so as to gain wisdom for yourselves. Children nowadays do not like this very much. They become angry when they are criticized. Old people taught that you have to be still when your parents admonish you. You have to be still and listen and admit according to the logic inside you. Old people established merit and righteousness for children and grandchildren, thus. They invested in establishing merit by enduring all kinds of hardship. On the other hand, people nowadays establish evil in their minds by eating and sleeping so comfortably, like the saying, “Waking up late, being lazy to work, undermining trivial amounts and waiting for luck.” This is not like old people who run out to look for their own luck. That means working with two hands, two feet and one brain as their support. They were able to eat soft-boiled rice with pickled turnip, one fish and an egg. People today cannot eat those. Old people who established merit can survive any kind of hardship. Take Mrs. Phan Sae-tang as an example. She endured a lot for the sake of her children. She did the right thing for the sake of her grandchildren. That was why her children and grandchildren have remained wealthy to today.
Why do I know the history of this family? Because I have never forgotten their benevolence, that my life was saved by Mr. Man when I was living in the orchard called Klong Suan Oy. For two years when I was a teenager, I have been living in Klong Bang-waek, from Klong Chuak-nang down to Wat Bang-waek and Wat Ta-node. At that time I was living with Uncle Sorn Silpabanleng. This is the law of karma in the past revolving, making us meet again. A witness is also sitting here. She is Jay Yai, Mr. Man’s daughter. At that time he had 3 good looking daughters. Jay Yai was the one who cooked rice for us. I will never forget this. They were well dispositioned and kind-heart in that house. Even if it was only a small shanty, it was neat. In the kitchen pot lids were arranged in a row. There were discipline, truth, sincerity and kindness in the house. There was a large pot of rice welcoming all guests. I will tell you the story as an edifying example of the past karma of those who still have to go through the process of birth and death. If we help each other today, we will be relatives in the future. If we had assisted each other in the past, we have become relatives today. I would like to leave you thus.
When I was a teenager, I went to stay at the residence of Luang Dhara called “Stair House” or “Three Large Houses”. His wife was called Huang. This Luang Dhara used to play first ranaad for His Majesty King Rama VI to perform a mask dance. I went there to learn how to play various Thai musical instruments – string, wind and percussion. I also learned songs by heart for two years. At that time Luang Dhara was pretty old, about 80 years of age. I gave him 80 baht a month. I can remember my grandma’s teaching, “Staying in his house, do not be indifferent. Moulding cows or buffaloes for his children to play with.” So, I helped them with gardening, watering orange, durian, betel nut and coconut trees. Having done this for a while, I did not have to cook my own food. Khun Luang allowed me to eat at his place. Besides, he did not take the 80 baht a month I gave him. That was the fruit of assistance, which was relationship in the minds of people in the old days. Later, I joined in the Thai orchestra playing background music for a drama – “Khun Chang, Khun Phaen,” at Wat Ta-node. There were two old monks at Wat Ta-node, who liked to smoke opium and chew marijuana. I was a bad-mouthed teenager then. So, I told them, “You smoke opium and chew marijuana in private. I have no respect for this kind of monk.” The old monk was indignant and probably vowed vengence on me, thinking, “All right! I will remember this. See you next time!”
Later, one day I went to perform at Wat Ta-node again. Khun Luang Dhara told us to go from there to perform at Klong Chuak-nang. I’ve forgotten the name of the temple. There was a funeral ceremony of the local wealthy man for 7 days and nights. Other musicians in the orchestra had gone earlier. I had overslept and was left behind. The old monk came to see me and tried to take revenge on me by urging 7 – 8 teenagers to join forces to attack me. I ran to the raft pier. There was a row then with the monk egging on the others to go for my death. I was alone and could not fight with them, being the underdog then.
Just then Mr. Man came along paddling his boat, passing by and saw it. He shouted, “Eh! Why does the monk urge the kids to fight? Hey! All of you stop! Why do you gang up on one person like that? Stop now!” Mr. Man got out of his boat to help protect me from the gang and took my hand to go down to the boat, taking me to his home. He let me take a bath to clean up from the fight and said, “Young man, come to have a meal first.” I paid respect and bid farewell to everybody upon my departure, I still remember this benevolence extended to me. I remembered that Jay Yai was the one who cooked rice for me to eat. This family had three daughters. Although it was a mere shanty, the house was clean and tidy. I left Klong Suan-oy, always keeping a grateful feeling in my heart.
When Luang Dhara and Mrs. Huang passed away, I went to stay with Uncle Sorn Silpabanleng – later appointed as Luang Praditpairoh, at the back of Wat Srakase, known as Baan Batr, for more than a year. I made friends with Dr. Utis Naksawat there. A long time has passed. I have never been back to the orchard at Klong Bang-waek. I ordained as a Buddhist monk and have remained in the monkhood to old age. It is time the wheel of karma has turned. Mrs Sunee Pantasuporn had come to invite me to be present at the merit making ceremony on her mother’s birthday in either 1986 or 1987. I accepted the invitation because upon seeing Mrs Sunee’s face I thought she must have been my previous relative. Several monks attended the ceremony that day. I saw Luang Poh Wichai and Luang Poo Budda. I went to sit in Mrs. Sunee’s chapel and saw the photograph of Mr. Man. At first, I couldn’t quite recall where had I seen him. Then I remembered. So, I asked Mrs. Sunee whose photograph it was. Mrs. Sunee said it was that of her own father. I checked the name and found out that he was the same person.
This is being human, passing through the process of birth and death. If we are not parted through death, we are bound to meet again to repay the gratitude. I have never forgotten the benevolence at all. Had it not been because of this Mr. Man, I would have been dead a long time ago, because the monk at Wat Ta-node urged his group of teenagers to stab me with their knives and shove me in the water. Mr. Man saved my life. I would like to praise Mr. Man’s virtue here.
Mr. Man was kind and generous. People in the area from Klong Bangwaek, Klong Chuek-nang, Klong Wat Ta-node to Klong Nok knew him well. He could foretell a person’s fortune by the look of that person. He could also treat sickness with herbal medicine. He always helped those who came to see him – rich or poor. His grandchildren should always remember this and be just as kind, so that you will live happily ever after.
The teachings of the Buddha say that birth and death come in a cycle. Once there is birth there is death. After death, birth comes again. Having been born, we are bound to meet each other again. Anyone who has been previously related in terms of having lived together, offered alms together or made merit together as relatives are bound to meet each other again. Maybe it is because of this reason I have to repay my debt that I have had a meal at their house thrice. I also remember Jay Yai very well.
All you listeners, in the past, if we had worked together, we were bound to meet each other or to have good relationship with each other. If we think alike, it is likely that we used to be relatives. If we think differently or have a separate opinion, it is likely that we had been rivals, not relatives. This is according to Buddhist belief.
Among my acquaintances in those days, only Mrs. Phan still exists. So, I would like to tell all of you that a leading character in a play is always assisted during hard times. Like me, I didn’t die when I had been condemned to. This is why I have been in good relations with this family. I relate the story in the past to the younger generation so as to remind them that they have been blessed with such a kind and hard-working grandfather like Mr. Man who endured a lot to set up a prosperous base for his grandchildren.
All you listeners, a father is like a fence protecting his children from being harmed. A mother is like a firm building in the mind like Mrs. Phan. Every child is like furniture adorning the house. Everyone is rich like Mr. Man, the ‘Mankarnchoke’ family. Here ‘karn’ means business. So, may all the business be firm, good and lucky. Today we congregate in order to cheer Mrs. Phan up. I would like to praise the thoughtfulness of all family members when Mrs. Phan was in the hospital. Everyone came to see her often. She must have been very glad. Each of you took turns in having a meal with her every day. The happiness that occurred to her mind could extend her life to a hundred years. That was the merit you have made. Parents whose children often visit are happy indeed. The younger generation should remember this. When you set up your own family, do not forget to visit your parents on holidays. When it’s your child’s birthday, do not forget to offer food to your parents. Do not go drinking on a birthday. Go to see your parents first. Although you do not bring them any gift at all, they are just as pleased to see your face.
I would like to felicitate the united relationship of Mrs. Phan’s children and grandchildren. There is no quarrel among brothers and sisters. There is only consultation and unity. When the elders teach, the youngsters listen. For example Mrs. Somjit is well regarded by her brothers and sisters. I take this occasion to extend my good wishes to Mrs. Phan for a long life.
The ceremony today is a blessing of life for those who pay gratitude to their father and mother. All their wishes will come true. The Sangha and I would like to confer the blessing of the Triple Gem and the merit you’ve recently and previously made upon Mrs. Phan today. Let everyone who participates here make an offering to the birthday deity, deities, grandparents and parents so as to wish her a long life. And that wish will come to you all in turn. May all participants in this ceremony be blessed with the fourfold blessing, that is, long life, fair complexion, happiness and good health. May you be rid of illness should you have any. May all your wishes come true. Sadhu. May these blessing be with you.
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