Why we need to cover up when visiting temples in Thailand

If we are visiting temples or sacred places in Thailand, we would need to dress respectfully. That means for the ladies, we need to basically cover up our shoulders and legs. No sleeveless and/or low cut tops, see through clothes, shorts or short skirts. I find that not only in Thailand but the same rules apply when visiting holy and sacred places in Asia.

Yes, the weather is very hot in Thailand and it is hard if we are not used to the heat. However, just for the purpose of entering the temple, it would be useful to have the following:

  • a shawl to wrap around the shoulders and a lightweight long pants/skirt to cover the legs. A sarong is also an acceptable alternative.
  • a pair of slippers. Do note that we are required to take off our shoes before entering shrine halls and areas of worship. And shoes theft have been known to happen in places of worship all over the world. Hence, it is advisable to wear a pair of inexpensive slippers. Wear socks if one is not comfortable going around barefoot.

Why do we need to cover up when entering holy places

Please note that such dress code is not there to annoy or inconvenient anyone. The dress etiquette exists for a reason. Actually, it is meant to protect the visitor. Let me explain further…but I wish to add that this is probably not what you have heard before.

This would be applicable not only in temples in Thailand but any holy or sacred places that we intend to visit.

In any holy or sacred places, there are guardian devas, deities and powerful guardian beings. Different faiths would have their own guardian beings. Some of these beings have been there taking care of the place for thousands of years. There is a lot of benefit and blessings that can be received when visiting these places, hence after ‘permission’ is sought to open up the place to enable more people to benefit.

Since we have the opportunity to visit such places, we need to adhere to the practice and rules as we are entering foreign territory. Just like when a visitor comes to our crib or home, we would expect the person to show basic courtesy and respect. We would not want someone condemning, complaining, simply touching things, taking things, spitting or showing any form of disrespect. Each one of us have our own levels of standards and etiquette that may differ based on culture and time. While the visitor may not understand our standards and expectations, we cannot help but to feel offended if the person behaves in a way that make us perceive as disrespectful.  If we expect respect from others, similar we also need to respect practices and beliefs of others.

Also, instinctively we would understand in a place of spiritual cultivation, especially ancient places, one would dress very conservatively out of respect for cultivators and spiritual practitioners there, be it the seen or unseen.

Guardian beings can read our thoughts and intention, see what we are doing

It is also important that when we enter any holy places, we have to REFRAIN from speaking any negative comments or remarks about the place, make jokes or laugh at certain things. Also no spitting, kicking prayer items or dirtying up the place.

Please note that in the spiritual world, they need not know to know the language we are speaking to understand us. The language in the spiritual world is the language of the heart, which does not require any words or translation but is intuitively understood. With language of the heart, there is no misunderstanding or communication error or breakdown.

The language of the heart is same for all beings. The moment our heart give rise to an intention, it actually comes from the heart and does not have any form of language attached to it. It is only when it goes to our brain that words, in the language we are familiar is assigned to these thoughts.

The spirit world, be it devas, deities, guardian beings, ghost and spirits can read the thoughts and intention that arises. Spiritual masters (in human form) who are accomplished in meditation can also read them. That is why it is very important to refrain from making any disrespectful remarks or jokes especially when we are at the place. If unwholesome thoughts arise in our mind, we need to mentally stop it, apologise and seek forgiveness.

There have been many cases of those who have been disrespectful and find themselves in a lot of trouble after they go back. In Asia, we have been warned by our elders and most of us are aware of these etiquette. People can get into accidents (not fatal but just to teach them a lesson), injuries, bout of bad luck and unexplained illness if they offended guardian beings or spirits. Again, I wish to emphasize that this is not specific in Thailand only but it is with any places that may have unseen beings occupying it.

Stories to share

I have visited Thailand and have stayed in temples before. This usually only happens to me, where I would get someone touching my shoulder to call me or felt my leg being pulled when I was lying down to get some rest. When I open my eyes, I could not see anyone. But I have friends who go with me who did not feel anything. A spiritual master told me is because the beings wished to wake me to do meditation and chanting.

But I said, why only me? I never promised or commit to anything. Why this always happen to me and not my other friends?

The answer I was given is because ‘they’ know my other friends did not chant or meditate but they know I do it. Also ‘they’ know that in my heart, I had mentioned I wanted to practice so they are ‘helping me out’. So that is why last time before I moved to Thailand, when I wanted to do spiritual practice I would come to Thailand because I always have these beings to keep me in check. I stopped me from being lazy and dozing off to sleep because ‘something’ would often wake me up. As I only have limited annual leave, I would go to Thailand temples for my spiritual retreats because I have many ‘friends’ to help me out.

On the other hand, I know of those who come and have very bad thoughts when they visit holy places. Even though verbally they do not say much, mentally they are condemning this and that. Usually they also get into trouble like falling down or got felt they are being pressed in their sleep (sleep paralysis). They would then go back and said that so-and-so temple is haunted and have ghosts. These are the same people who like to always place blame on external factors whenever anything unpleasant or unfavourable happens in their life.

Take the opportunity to receive blessings 

You have already made the trip all the way to a holy or sacred place. Why not make the best out of your trip?

I wish to tell you that many holy temples in Thailand are popular and holy for a reason. Why you see so many locals going there to pray to the Buddha and make offerings. If your heart is sincere, respectful and you prayed for blessings and protection, you would receive it.

Before I started to visit my Thailand, life was not going smooth for me. But it was kinda like how my life had always been so I was not aware of anything missing. In my career, I worked very hard but was often given a below average score and little or no increment because I was ‘not visible’. While some who are good at buttering up the bosses would get good increment and bonuses.

I come to Thailand because I was inspired by the Buddhist teachings of the Thai forest tradition. When I visit Thailand, I love to visit the temples to go and pay my respects. The vibe feels good and my heart feel a lot of joy when I pay my respect to the Buddha. Even though it has never been my intention to expect anything out of return, but indeed, my life did change slowly after I got back.

Management changes started happening. I had new bosses who for some reasons saw the hardwork I put in and gave me the recognition and compensation that I deserved.

On and off, there are people who tried to sabotage me.

For example, I remember there was this guy, I used to feel very sorry for him when he first started working because he was bullied. Later through hard work as well he rose up the ranks. But he turned against the hand that helped me and tried to set up some trap to get me into trouble. He created a situation and then later sent email and cc all the big bosses to attempt to report on a ‘mistake’ he thought I had made. But his plans backfired on him and made him look bad, twice. The simile I used is that as if it was like he tried to pour hot oil on me, but instead of getting to me, the oil splashed back on him. After the second time, he never dared to try again. This guy have the knack of betraying his colleagues when he is not happy with them…. and his personal life has not been smooth and he is a very unhappy person.

I did not do any special rituals or wear any ‘powerful’ amulets. I just did my spiritual practice, and spent my annual leave in Thailand visiting there as well as temples and holy places. I also did not become rich or famous because I never asked for those things. But I felt work was smoother, and I get compensation and the recognition that I deserved even though I have changed companies and management teams.

There was also another incident. This happened in the year 2007. I went to a well known temple in Ayuthaya and prayed to the ancient Buddha statue there. I made a little donation at the counter and got a lotus, candles and joss-sticks. Then I made offerings to the Buddha and pray sincerely for blessings and protection.

After I came back from that trip, my mom told me she was diagnosed with glaucoma.

What happened was that there was a free eye checkup at a hospital which her friends found out about. So they enrolled themselves and they decided to register my mom’s name too. On that afternoon, it rained heavily and my mother did not feel like going. But something nudged her to go and she thought to herself, well what did she had to lose. After all, it is free. So she waited for the rain to stop and went for the free checkup.

When the eye specialist checked her, he looked very shocked. He then excused himself and went to get a few senior specialist to come to take a look at my mom. They checked her again and told her that she has glaucoma, and it was a very advanced stage. She could go blind anytime. Even though they were just supposed to provide free checkup  and nothing more, they told her that they have the moral obligation to give her specialised eyedrops for her eye and that she needed to start treatment immediately.

Glaucoma is known as the thief of sight. It has no symptoms and a person would just suddenly go blind one day without any warning. It is a slow progressing condition hence my mom would have had that for years long before that trip to Thailand in 2007.  And it was quite by chance that she went for a free eye checkup because her friends thought of adding in her name to enroll her, and she decided to go that day. Had she not gone for the checkup, she would have been blind in at least one eye.

Today, my mom and I are staying in Thailand. My mom have end stage Alzheimer’s and last year she could no longer swallow. Had she been any other country, she would be referred to hospice. But the specialists here do not believe in ‘starving’ and depriving anyone of food. My mother have been fitted with a nasogastric tube . It saved her life and improved her quality of life. She continues to receive care from the healthcare system. I am grateful for this wonderful country and now, for the Kingdom’s compassionate healthcare system.

 

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