If someone asked me what my religion is, I would be very proud to say “I am a Buddhist”. I say this even though I rarely wake up early in the morning to give food to the monks or go to the temple to listen to sermons. I have been told so many times by my old relations that I am not a very good or strict Buddhist. I don’t deny that, as I am sure I don’t really behave as good as their generation did. But, I am still a Buddhist.
For me, I feel Buddhism is part of my blood. When I was a kid, I used to stay at my grandmother’s house, which is next to a temple. I spent most of my childhood there around monks. I remember that I always went to play in the temple with the “temple boys” or dek wat as we say in Thai.
Every morning, after the monks came back from their alms round, I ran to the temple to get some food. The monks always gave some food to the poor children in the area as they had too much for themselves. Even though I wasn’t a poor kid, I still went for the food as there would be some sweets and desserts in there as well.
The other day, someone asked a question on our ThaiBuddhist.com web site about Thai youth. It was quite an interesting question that made me start to think. I want to share it with you:
"When I was in Thailand last year I went to many many temples but most of the people there were old. The kids that I did see there were temple boys. Is going to the temple not done by teenagers? I am Thai but I live in Australia. I go to the temple to meet other Thai kids. I am so proud of being Thai and being a Buddhist, but someone said to me that if this trend of abandoning faith for a more material lifestyle continues, it could mean that a lot of the rituals and traditions could be lost. I mean I saw more young people in a shopping mall than I did at the grounds of a sacred temple. Is it just me, or a sign of the times?"
When I first read this, I was surprised to learn that there were Thai temples in other countries! Apparently there are lots of temples in Europe and America and some of them are very big! It was nice to read that Thai teenagers in other countries like going to temples. Since I first read that letter, I saw a newspaper article that said a group of Thai children in America had been ordained as novice monks for a week. That is really amazing.
Now back to the question she asked. In the past, the temple used to be the center of the community. Teenagers always went there to meet up, especially couples. But now they never ever think about meeting up at the temple. It is not cool! For us, temples are for “old people”. I think most of my friends would only go if they went with their families. They would prefer to go to the shopping malls or hang out with their friends. So, if their parents are strict Buddhists then they are more likely to go to the temple as adults. But, if their parents are lazy to go then I am sure they will not pass the tradition on to the next generation.
Honestly, even though I don’t often go to the temple, I am still a Buddhist in my heart. I will try and live a good life like the Buddha teaches us. Of course, I now have to pay more attention to this as I have the responsibility to make sure my baby daughter becomes a good Buddhist in the future. I will try and make it my family tradition that we go to the temple on every important Buddhist holiday.