A taste of Thai culture

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Today, my family went to to the Wat Thai of Los Angeles, one of the largest Thai temples in the L.A. area (the other one is in the suburb of the City of Industry). Every weekend, Thai families sell different types of Thai food at a market in the parking lot. But today, I believe there was a festival, where some people circled the main wat, led by two ‘dancers’ and a Brahmin priest holding lotus flowers. I think it has something to do with the Buddhist lent, which in the Burmese calender, starts at the month of Waso and ends at Thadingyut. Since, Waso is between the months of June and July (this year, the full moon of Waso is on July 29, starting the Buddhist lent), I’m assuming that the parade march is associated to the Buddhist lent. My mother guessed it was monk robe (Waso thingan) offerings, but I’m not completely sure.

Pictures of the temple below:

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Are Burmese non-Buddhists superior?

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Left to right: Anglican cathedral in Rangoon, Chinese temple in Kalaw, Shan State, Hindu temple in Rangoon, Mosque in Rangoon, Buddhist temple in Taunggyi. All photos taken by me.

In Burma, approximately 9 in 10 are Buddhist, while the remainder are Muslims, Christians and animists. There are conflicting statistics, though, with some estimates of non-Buddhists as high as 20 to 30 percent. Although Burma has no ‘state religion’ (it was not prescribed in the 1974 socialist constitution but Buddhism was recognized as having special status in the 1948 constitution), the State Peace and Development Council is oriented toward Buddhism and propagates it. Freedom of religion in Burma is nominal; there is rampant discrimination toward non-Buddhists. For example, the Burma 2006 Human Rights Yearbook, released by the Burmese government-in-exile, has an entire chapter devoted to religious discrimination. One passage states:

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The 9th Annual Neibban Zay

Today was the annual Neibban Zay (Nirvana Market) at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, with profits from the different stalls going to the Brahma Vihara Monastery, which has been the source of controversy among Burmese Buddhists in Southern California. My aunt, who had planned to sell hkauk hswe thoke (salad noodles) decide not to, after hearing rumors about the resident monks using money for luxuries like business-class airline tickets and extravagant spending on cars and such.

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Buddha in a bottle

My grandfather’s house has an immense collection of Buddha statues, extending throughout the entire length of the living room. The most interesting Buddha in the three altars is one in a bottle. It is amazing how the artisan managed to put the elaborate altar, details like the disciples and flower vases inside the bottle, but what is even more amazing is its history.

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