Source: International Herald Tribune
Wire Service: AP
It is the ultimate in second chances: A Buddhist temple here offers, for a small fee, an opportunity to die, rise up again newborn and make a fresh start in life.
Nine big, pink coffins dominate the grand hall of the temple, and every day hundreds of people take their turns climbing in for a few moments as monks chant a dirge. Then, at a command, the visitors clamber out again cleansed - they believe - of the past.
It is a renewal for our times, as recent economic hardship brings uncertainty and people try seeking a bailout on life. In growing numbers, they come here from around Thailand to join what has become an assembly line of resurrection.
"When the economy is down, we latch our hopes onto some supernatural power," said Ekachai Uekrongtham, the writer-director whose movie "The Coffin" is in Thai cinemas with a plot that revolves around such funerals for the living.
"As I lay there and listened to the chanting of the monks, I felt relaxed," she said. "When I got up, I was thinking of good things, thinking of the Buddha image in the hall. I felt good."
Buddhism in Thailand can take strange forms, embracing animist superstition, magical practices - and the entrepreneurial spirit of many senior monks. Many Thais say that the true spirit of Buddhism is being lost.
Many temples have become centers of enterprise that parallel Thailand's economic growth over the past few decades, selling good-luck amulets, holding boisterous fairs and telling fortunes.
This temple, Wat Prommanee, 106 kilometers, or 66 miles, northeast of Bangkok, has offered its unusual daily resurrection service for more than three years, and its clientele keeps growing, said an attendant, Pradap Butcharerm, 69.