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Boonkumkhaoyai: An exemplary model of Buddhist Economy Merit-making by offering the giant paddy heap Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dipti Mahanta.

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Presentation on theme: "Boonkumkhaoyai: An exemplary model of Buddhist Economy Merit-making by offering the giant paddy heap Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dipti Mahanta."— Presentation transcript:

1 Boonkumkhaoyai: An exemplary model of Buddhist Economy Merit-making by offering the giant paddy heap Assoc. Prof. Dr. Dipti Mahanta

2 Boonkumkhaoyai is an Isaan word having four syllables Boon means merit Kum means gather or heap Khao means rice Yai means big or giant MERIT-MAKING BY OFFERING THE GIANT PADDY HEAP

3 In Northeast Thailand, or Isaan, there are twelve distinct ceremonies known as Prapheni Heet Sibsong that mark the entire lunar calendar. Each of these ceremonies is an occasion for merit-making, observance of the precepts, and cultivation of morality (sīla), meditation (samādhi) and wisdom (pańńā). Based strictly on Buddhist principles, each ceremony in the entire corpus of Prapheni Heet Sibsong points towards a gradual progress along spiritual path, and has since time immemorial formed the warp and woof of the traditional Isaan way of life.

4 Boonkumkhaoyai (previously known as “Boonkhunlarn”) is a ceremony that marks the second lunar month and falls approximately in the month of January. It is an ancient traditional ceremony that is held at the end of the harvest season in order to create harmony and mutual co-existence among all people in the village. The historical origin of the ceremony can be traced back to the inspiration drawn by Isaan people from the story of the previous lives of both Kondanna, the first disciple of the Buddha to attain arahatship and Subhadda Paribbachaka, a lay devotee who was the last person to be enlightened just before the passing away of the Buddha.

5 A reflection on the underlying ethical principles of Boonkumkhaoyai will help us understand the original Buddhist way of life, which when viewed from the economic perspective is one of moderation, contentment, generosity and right livelihood. Boonkumkhaoyai is a typical example of how agro- based rural Isaan community practices the Buddhist way of life is a genuine way and an analysis of it will show us the Buddhist approach to a balanced living, the supporting principles of which will pave the way for solving any economic crisis no matter where, when and how it originates.

6 The underlying supporting principles of Boonkumkhaoyai are – Right Livelihood Generosity Moderation Contentment Control of greed Loving-kindness Merit-making Egalitarianism Belief in Kamma

7 A view of the giant paddy heap at night

8 Another view at night

9 Plain rice in sacks and the heap of unhusked sticky rice at the centre

10 Celebration of Boonkumkhaoyai on the premises of the Buddhist University, Khonkaen Campus

11 Devotees clad in white observe the precepts and listen to dhamma talks on the occasion

12 Lay devotees practice standing meditation at night

13 Preparing for walking meditation

14 Another view

15 Observance of the precepts and walking meditation on the first night

16 Monks leading the lay devotees in walking meditation on the first night

17 Right Livelihood as endorsed in the concept of Boonkumkhaoyai Right Livelihood (samma ājīva) is an essential component of the Ethical Conduct that forms the foundational base of the Noble Eightfold Path. Since Boonkumkhaoyai originated in rural Isaan where majority of the population engages in farming as the chief means of livelihood, it can be assumed that Right Livelihood is endorsed in the very concept of Boonkumkhaoyai.

18 Generosity and the practice of Dana Closely related to Right Livelihood is the Isaan farmers’ inherent zeal to practice generosity at a communal level for the welfare of the entire community and society at large. At the end of the harvest season a section of the grain is donated for welfare of the entire village community as an acknowledgement of the fact of mutual co-existence and interdependence.

19 Moderation In rural Isaan society, generosity and moderation work in tandem, otherwise Boonkumkhaoyai would have been a defunct tradition by now. Today’s consumerist culture is characterized by the trend of material indulgence more than moderation and so genuine acts of charity and generosity are hard to find. Having limited needs and being moderate in spending, a typical Isaan peasant couple has not yet become a slave of the consumerist culture.

20 Contentment Moderation cannot be practiced if there is no contentment. Isaan peasantry still has a good foundation: most people are content, not prone to extravagance, are relatively less obsessed with consumption, and know the means to sufficiency economy. Boonkumkhaoyai is a glorious example of how the spirit of contentment can guide collective action leading to both individual and social prosperity.

21 Control of greed The binding effect of generosity, moderation and contentment leads to the control of greed. In order to help flourish a healthy society free of crime and corruption it is necessary to control greed through the threefold practice of generosity, moderation and contentment. Today’s consumerist culture tends to capitalize on greed.

22 Loving-kindness The participants in Boonkumkhaoyai have loving-kindness deeply rooted in their hearts; otherwise, they would have been niggardly and reluctant to share the fruits of toil and labor. The desire to share implies sacrifice, which in turn originates from an innate feeling of loving-kindness and compassion.

23 Merit-making Merit-making is part and parcel of Thai Buddhists in general and traditional Isaan lifestyle epitomizes it fully. Isaan people have successfully preserved the culture of merit-making by still adhering to its pristine values and practicing it within the folds of twelve-months’ tradition.

24 Egalitarian participation Like most Isaan ceremonies, Boonkumkhaoyai is a gender neutral ceremony in which men and women take part equally. The hosts of the ceremony, who donate sacks of unhusked paddy to form the giant paddy heap, are humble village folks. Each village community has its colourful parade with men beating traditional drums and cymbals and women folks dancing to the rhythm holding lotuses, yellow robes, pillows, money-tree in their hands.

25 Belief in Kamma Isaan people, like all Buddhists throughout the world, have strong faith in the Law of Kamma. The words of the Buddha “…people sow their seeds determine their fruits: those who do good, receive good; those who do evil receive evil” are deeply implanted in the hearts of rural Isaan people who try to accumulate merit for spiritual progress and a good birth in the next life. The accruement of good deeds will not only bring good fortunes, happiness and assure a good birth in next life, but will also lead to higher spiritual attainments.

26 Moral benefits the participants in Boonkumkhaoyai reap Mental well-being Observance of the precepts Getting rid of defilements Acquiring wisdom Endurance Forbearance Sincerity Social bonding Sympathetic joy Accumulation of merit

27 A reflection on Boonkumkhaoyai will enable us to understand the Buddhist way of life vis-à-vis a consumerist way of living and behaving. The paradox of the present world situation is that the values we have enumerated in our discussion, as reflected in Boonkumkhaoyai are deficiently lacking in society at large and particularly among affluent power holders and policy makers. In today’s highly consumerist culture people tend to pay lip-service to moral and ethical values.

28 Consequently, generosity gave way to ostentation, moderation to hoarding, contentment to insatiability, control of greed to indulgence, loving-kindness to self- centeredness, compassion to indifference, merit-making to accumulation of wealth, and belief in one’s own kamma to masquerading. When all this negative developments gather momentum, regional or world-wide economic meltdown becomes inevitable.

29 The Asian Crisis of 1997 originated under tremendous pressure that built up due to steady escalation of various negative forces such as: overconsumption, crony capitalism, debt, default, excessive real estate speculation, all of which point at the deterioration of moral and ethical standard. WILL NOT SUCH ECONOMIC CRISIS OCCUR AGAIN?

30 Economic crisis will repeat itself and with even more devastating force if ethical problem are not taken into consideration and moral standards both at the national and international level are not maintained. The Buddhist perspective on any economic crisis will focus on the Right Way of Practice that incorporates right livelihood, practice of generosity, moderation, contentment, control of greed, loving-kindness and compassion, merit- making, egalitarianism and belief in the Law of Kamma or volitional actions.

31 The Buddhist approach to economy is a Middle Way approach that denies two extremes – living in abject poverty and indulgence in wealth and materialism. The dominant mainstream lifestyle and way of thinking overrides this Middle Way approach. Exemplary model such as Boonkumkhaoyai that exists on the periphery ought to be highlighted in order to counteract and minimize superficial and vacuous elements in today’s consumerist culture which is based on extremes such as overconsumption, indulgence, unfair competition and hoarding of wealth.

32 It can be concluded that Boonkumkhaoyai is a Buddhist paradigm of balanced living based on holistic principles through which the great ideal of the Buddha’s teachings – ‘for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the many’ (bahujanahitāya bahujanasukhāya lokānukampāya) is manifested in its microcosm.

33 Circumambulating the giant paddy heap three times in festive mood and holding money trees

34 Egalitarian participation of lay devotees

35 Listening to rhythmic sung-sermon (Thet Laeh Mahachat)

36 Mass standing meditation at night

37 Mass walking meditation at night


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