Saturday, September 30, 2006

Boon and Baramee

Western non-bhudhists will find it very hard to understand the origin of King Bhumibol's power and influence over the Thai people. Their history of fuedalism and monarchical institutions would make it is very difficult for them to see how the Thai monarchy can be anything more than an institution.

The love and trust given by the Thai people to King Bhumibol is reserved for this King alone, and gained only after the people have had many years to observe his untiring dedication to the people. We are all aware that this King's accession to the throne was not a fait accompli. He earned due respect because of his sincerity towards the people.

Foreigners demean the intelligence of the 60 million Thai people when they think that we worship him just because his official name includes the title "Devaraja". Which other King overlooks his own security and travels miles in insurgency infested remote and marginalized villages to learn about their conditions first hand, who kneels on the dirt countless of times to touch and recieve the caress of the people? I've travelled with my father, a provincial government officer, on many of these occasions and saw with my own eyes, felt with my own feelings his true intentions. I will not allow ungrounded criticism for the sake of criticism to brand my feelings a foolish lie. Which other King personally and individually hands out graduation papers to the countless educated from their universities? As I grew up, seeing his many deeds on tv was a common sight, but there were also several occasions throughout the years where with enough resourcefulness I could have been in his presence. This kind of royalty exists only in fairy tales for the West, but we Thais are fortunate to have lived it for 60 years of our connected lives.

If we look back in Thai history, there are enough historical accounts of unfit Kings who were disposed of for a number of reasons. Doesn't that say that we are not totally uncritical of rulership? The King, as a key symbol for the Thai people, is a process that was created over a very long, long process, (700 years) unbroken by foreign colonization of which the Thai people are very well aware that they share a part it its legitamacy. Circumstance of King Prajadhipok's Succession and King Ananda's succession are good enough examples.

We don't blindly worship the King as if he were some "god", like some King bashers like to say. These people don't understand that as Bhuddists we don't believe in any "God". Yes, we're all atheist. We believe in each individual's personal responsibility for the health and development of his own soul. We believe in karma. We believe in the power that good karma accumulates, we call it "boon" and "baramee", and it is not only reserved for kings.

Every single individual accumulates this according to his/her deeds. Therefore we belief that men with good standing or "baramee" such as the king is proof of their accumulated good karma, or he won't be in that position. That baramee is what we respect. We also believe that those merits that an individual has earned, his/her boon-baramee can be shared with us when we participate in it. Bad karma is paid back on its own mechanism, for that reason we reserve our criticism of wrong doing even as we find the right moment to take action to correct the wrong.

The Thai people do not think that the King can do no wrong. It's that King Bhumibol has never actually done any wrong for us to criticise him. I'm pretty sure that if any Thai ruler committed a legitimate offense against the people, the people will find a way to effectively deal with it the way Taksin has been dealt with, the way we are not blind and are dealing with the coup in our own Thai way. The people, however, aren't perfect, and need their time to build institutions for that outlet. How many hundreds of years did it take the West to put into place their concepts and institutions for democracy? At least 200 years, at most 400 years. Isn't it imperialistic to try to impose on other cultures one's own way of thinking and doing?

We, the Thais are very aware that we are fortunate to have one of the few rare good rulers as our ruler. We are proud of that. What's wrong with loving a just and righteous ruler? Would all these foregin critics be happier if there weren't any such rulers left in the world, because they would just about tear anyone who tries to be perfect so that they can prove that nobody's perfect?

Rao rak Nai Luang. 60 years is a good time for us to declare that, isnt' it?

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