Thara Thai Restaurant in Wauchope has been blessed by Buddhist Monks to celebrate 2 years in business – and to bring ongoing luck and prosperity to all those present. Chrissy Jones had the pleasure of being invited to witness the event and chats with owner, Thara Watson.
Phra Preechayannawithet, Abbot of Wat Dhammatharo Canberra and President of Thai Buddhist Mission in Australia/New Zealand (Dhammayuti Sect) and fellow Buddhist Monks, Phra Sanguan and Phra Sonqkhram Grisanqa, joined around 100 members of the Hastings Community to celebrate the Buddhist New Year and the Blessing of Thara Thai Restaurant in early January.
Tell us Thara, what is today all about? What does it mean to you?
Today is about celebrating Thai New Year, the bringing together of the local Thai Community and friends to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Normally this is held on 1 January, but as I have invited the Monks from Canberra, we are celebrating today, 8 January, so they could be here. The Monks are building a Monastery in Canberra, and I wanted to make an offering from myself, from my heart, to them to help to build a temple in Canberra so people can come from all over Australia and the world to pray.
Members of our Thai community are collecting money whenever they can to help. If anyone would like to help with a donation, I ask you to drop into Thara Thai in Wauchope or the Thai House in Port Macquarie. The Temple in Canberra belongs to everyone in Australia and represents friendship between Australians and Thai for the past 15 years.
We have a money tree inside, where my guests are placing offerings which I will pass on to the Monks at the end of the day. This is an offering to the Monks and my religion, Buddhism; that is why I have asked all my friends and good patrons of the restaurant to come together, donate money, and I will make the offering to the Monks for a blessing of good luck for the future and prosperity of my restaurant and all present.
We celebrate New Year the same as Australians, but we need the Monks to be involved with our celebrations, to bless us. We give food to the Monks as they don’t cook; they have to eat before noon, and they only have one meal per day. They are allowed to drink tea and water but no food – just one meal for the day.
I noticed a lot of people brought food. Why did they do this?
Yes, they bring the food to offer to the Monks; that is the way of giving away in our religion, Buddhism. The first step is to give away and then stick to the five precepts to be a Buddhist layman. The precepts are: no killing, no telling lies, not having sexual misconduct, no stealing and no intoxication. To be a good Buddhist, you have to be strict with these rules. If you can stick to at least 4 precepts, try to do as much as you can, that is good.
Tell us a little about the Thai religion …
About 90% are Buddhist, practising Theravada Buddhism – which is different from Tibetan Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism takes in the regions of Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. You must practice the 5 precepts to be a true Buddhist layman.
Thank you Thara.
Chrissy also spoke to Charlie, who was a Monk for 16 years.
What is your full name Charlie, and why did you stop being a Monk?
My name is Somkiat Termchai, and I was a Theravada (pronounced – more or less – ‘terra-VAH-dah’) Buddhist Monk in Thailand and in Australia for 16 years before I retired. They call me Charlie here. I started as a Monk early, when I was 14 years, as a Novice – a little Monk – in Thailand and became a Monk at 22 years of age, after training many years. You cannot become a Monk until you are at least 20 years of age.
I stopped being a Monk, as my individual view. I prefer not to follow all the rules of the Monk – about 227 rules. I still practice my meditation and religion every day. I like to be more common, like other people; I like to travel, and the Monks have to stay at the Monastery. I wanted to blend in with society more. Because I practised Buddhism for over 30 years, I have travelled the world, over 40 countries, following my teacher and visiting Monasteries.
Tell us about the Monks’ life.
The Monk leads a very simple life. They only have the basics for living. They rely on other people to give them food. They do not cook. The Monk follows a lot of rules. Every 15 days when there is a full moon, they get together in a quiet place and chant, do Pali. Every year they do a retreat, from July to October; in Thailand, we call this the rainy season. For three months the Monks are not allowed to travel anywhere. They have almost 227 rules – lots of little rules. For example, the Monk is not allowed to touch a lady. They have many, many rules. Another one is that they do not eat after midday every day. They have only one meal a day.
The Monk does not have any money – none at all. People in Thailand will hang in the tree any cloth they do not need; if a Monk passes by, he can take that piece of cloth to make his robe. You see, the Monk robe can have many different pieces of cloth they sew together and dye. The robe could be from many pieces of cloth left hanging in trees, given as an offering.
Do you know what the chanting was about that the Monks were doing earlier?
The chanting is in the Pali language. It is a dead language; it is not used anymore. It is an ancient Indian language. The chanting is about the blessing; the Monks chant about obstacles that they have passed through in their lives. The topic today is about love and kindness and good luck for the year.
There are lots of people here; do you know where they came from?
They came from all over: Crescent Head, South West Rocks, Kempsey, Taree, Port Macquarie, Wauchope and Sydney. They have all come to listen to the Monks give the blessing and offer them the food they have cooked. They are all very happy to be here to witness the blessing by the Monks.
Thank you Charlie.