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Shining a spotlight on local Thai culture

Shining+a+spotlight+on+local+Thai+culture
Tai Nghiem

The annual Sart Thai festival builds community among a common culture by praying to ancestors and for well-wishes in the future. By bringing food and sharing money and spirit together, the ghost festival establishes a sense of respect and togetherness. The occasion was a ‘spirit-honoring’ celebration held at Willowbrook’s Wat Buddha Dhamma.

 

“We’re here to simply show respect to our ancestors, pr

The monks receive and eat the food first

ay, and uphold the five pillars of Buddhism through community,” monk Thammawat Sirisaengsawang said.

The festival was held on Sept. 24 and was attended by around 100 people. It consisted of many traditional Thai rituals. Thai proceedings are communal gatherings, and the community brings in food to share, helps with the cleanup process and participates in prayer.

“We chant in Bali and Sanskrit, holy [languages],” Sirisaengsawang said. “We chant for our ancestors, for people who [have] passed, and for merit on all souls.”

While prayer is an integral part of the ceremony, helping each other and establishing a sense of unity within the Thai community are highly valued.

Rose Chinda, a community member who participated in the festival, donates and supports the temple while also doing her part of a bigger whole, bringing food for the group. 

“I believe in offering money and helping wherever I can,” Chinda said. 

These donations and offerings are another big part of the festival, and what helps keep the temple running. Some of the offerings included fruit, money and water to a cart that would later be used to benefit the temple. 

Another kind of offering given are robes to the monks. The temple and the monks rely on the robes and offerings that are donated. As the monks themselves lack an income, the temple relies on those who come to support for resources and sponsors so the monks can do their duties.

Helping out around the temple is commonplace. Jazz Keeley, a regular participant at the temple, comes at least twice a week, and three or more when special events are going on. She helps out regularly by washing the dishes, bringing food, donations, and more.

It’s more than just an honoring of ancestors, it can connect members of the community with their faith.

“The five pillars of Buddhism are upheld while we pray- taking life, alcohol, language, stealing, and misconduct,” Sirisaengsawang said. “Though we pray to our ancestors, we [also] pray to each other, help each other and be kind to one another. The festival is [about] making merit, but we ourselves need to establish [togetherness] too, and the temple’s festival is a joint effort- you see we have people who donate robes, people who take the pictures, people who bring food and donate money. It’s a [true] celebration of Thai culture and of paying respects to those around you.”

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