CHAO’s FUN FACT of the Week:
Did you know that Thai Buddhists “make merit” in the mornings?
As you may know, the majority of the Thai population, 90% are Buddhist, more specifically, Theravada Buddhists. Theravada Buddhism came from Sri Lanka and was solidified as the main state religion during Sukothai Kingdom (the city state before the establishment of Siam, the former name of Thailand) during the 13th Century.
However, the Thai form of Buddhism is very unique in its own way as the Theravada Buddhism has been mixed with the Thai local practices of Animism (the worshiping of deities (of elements and trees), angels, spirits) as well as the Thai-Chinese religions and Hinduism (due to the influences of the Khmer Empire in the 19th Century).
To get back to the point of “making merits”, we must take a quick peak into two of the most well known Buddhist teachings which is the concept of “Karma” and “Reincarnation”. The Thai version of Buddhism philosophy on “Karma” has ultimately led to birth of the Thai saying (and belief) that: “if you do good, you will receive good, if you do evil you will receive evil”.
So, when this concept of “Karma” is put together with the concept of “Reincarnation”, to a Thai depending on whether they do good merits or bad merits, they believe that their actions in this life will affect them in the after-life.
If you look more closely, you will see how these beliefs impacts the everyday life of a Thai person and the importance stressed on making merits. In the mornings, from as early as 5am to 7am, Thai people will come out to the streets just outside their houses/residences/offices/ local shops/ markets to provide food for the monks.
In English, these practices of offering food to the poor are called “alms”. In Thai we call this, “ใส่บาตร” (In Thai-Karaoke language: Sai-Bahtr) which means to offer food/religious gifts to the monks by placing it in their bowls or simply just handing them the life necessities.
ใส่ – Sai – to put in
บาตร – Bahtr (the “r” is silent) – alms bowl/ monk’s bowl
Offering food/flowers/candles/living necessities and receiving blessings in prayers from the monks is a practice that is common all over Thailand. Thai people do it when they or those they care about have encountered bad things in their lives. When you “Sai-Baht” for someone it could be to transfer your good merits to them for additional good merits or perhaps even to cancel out all the negatives that is happening in their lives. Therefore, for local Thais, special occasions such as Birthdays, Traditional Thai Festivals, Thai New Years and Anniversaries.
If you are visually curious to how it is done, here are some photos of Chao Hostel Team providing offerings to the local Thai monks for the blessings of the beginning of Chao Hostel but more importantly for last week’s horrible bombings of the central of Bangkok. We are making and transferring our merits for those who have lost their lives and our condolences to their families who are mourning for them.
Before we go, another quick Mini-Fact:,
When you are practicing the “Sai-Bahtr”, if you are of the female gender, you are not allowed to touch or engage directly with the monks, so you will have to becareful when you “Sai-Bahtr” the monks will place a yellow cloth for you to place your offerings on.
Whilst those of the male gender can touch the bowls or hand offerings directly to the monks!
Anyways, thanks for reading guys and stay tune for the next edition of Chao’s Blog.
Sawasdee krub and have a good day! ☺
From all of us at Chao Hostel