Our journeys this weekend and the workshop to come led me to an inquiry meditation today. On Sunday, Toni and I had a wonderful day being shown around southern Thailand with one of the workshop participants from last week. Her nickname is “Lee”, and she brought along her brother-in-law, “Huong”, to drive. They picked us up at our hotel at 9 in the morning on Sunday. We drove an hour north to the Ayutthaya province. Ayutthaya used to be the center of trade for Siam. It is a port city, even though it is a bit far inland – the Chao Phrya is a large river that connects it to the sea.
There are many temple ruins throughout the city – in it’s heyday, there were 300 temples in the city. The temples have the same look and are from the same era as Angor Wat in Cambodia. They are beautiful. They are available to the public, and aren’t protected by fences or guardrails, so you can freely touch them, and wander wherever you want throughout the ruins. Some have active Buddhists temples as part of their complex and are cared for by monks.
We then had another amazing lunch at a street-side stand, this one had covered seating. I had to insert myself to be able to pay for the meal, as our gracious hosts wanted to treat us to everything. Two course lunch for four, including iced coffee, was $7.50 (that includes the tip).
Next, we stopped at some street vendors and bought some nice ceramic hand-painted goods to give as gifts. Then, we went to the “Japanese Village”, a small plot of land with a museum honoring the Thai/Japanese relationship. The museum really had a great overview of the history of Siam, what the Thailand region was called in the early trading days. It explained the diversity of Asian cultures that peacefully exist in Thailand.
I have been reflecting on the peaceful diversity as we sit in the airport to fly to Hat Yai today. Tomorrow begins a three-day workshop in that southern province, which has a large Muslim population. Thailand is 95% Buddhists, and here in the south there is a much more even distribution of Muslims.
There are many Muslims coming to the workshop that have had relatives killed in the Muslim/Buddhist religious clashes in the south. I don’t know the full history yet, but there are many “Malay Muslims” – Muslims who would rather be a part of Malaysia, Thailand’s southern neighbor, which is a primarily Muslim country. And particularly in the past 8-10 years, the violence has been bad. In that time, the death toll is in the thousands.
So, why is there such acceptance of different cultures, and then this violence in the south? Is it due to religion? Is it because the Muslim culture is so much more different that the other cultures here? Is it because of the demographics? I’m sure it’s a combination of many factors, and an explanation cannot be boiled down to one “root cause”.
There will be about 50 people in attendance. Virginia Satir used to say that you change one person, and you change a system. Hopefully we can have some impact on what is happening overall, while improving individual and village lives.