Monday, August 21, 2006

The Cross and The Spirit Houses

I saw these spirit houses in a shop for sale. I did not know if the shop owner is a Christian. Perhaps the original owner of the house converted to a shop was Christian because of the cross design on the wall. The picture represents the different religious pattern of the different people groups here in the Greater Mekong Subregion. The first religion is Buddhism which is the dominant religion represented in the design of the spirit house. The spirit house itself represents animism. This is the dominant religion before Buddhism came to Thailand. The first inhabitants of this place are tribal peoples. The cross represents Christianity which is today is the minority religion even smaller compared to Islam.

The spirit houses play a very important role in the worship of the Buddhists. This small highly-decorated structures can be seen in many buildings. No Buddhist house is complete without the spirit house. The spirit house should be kept clean and nice than the main house so that it can attract the spirits. This is the home for guardian spirits for a house, gates, gardens, etc. The family should offer food, flowers, candles and incense. It is necessary to provide a living place for these spirits so that they will live in the main house with the family. This belief is obviously animism that is being integrated with the dominant religion.

However, Buddhist "theologians" teach that these beliefs and practices that are accepted as important part of Buddhism do not fit with the Buddhist principles. Rites and practices like this completely obscure the real Buddhism and its original purpose. They claim that the real Buddhist teaching is about attaining liberation. It is about examining things closely in order to come to know and understand their true nature. Then people have to behave in a way appropriate to that true nature. Buddhism depends on reason and insight not superstitions and magic. It demands that we act with what one's insight reveals. A person should not believe other else's opinioin. He must first listen and examine then verify if it and if it is reasonable he can accept it at least provisionally. When I looked at Buddhism closely it seems to be very philosophical rather than cultic.

The cross of course is the most prominent and the most important symbol of Christianity. If a cross is seen in the building around here, it is assumed that the people who are using are Christians if it is not a church.

It is interesting to study this further. I will devote more time to study its significant from Christian perspective that would be useful for missionary works. This will the subject of my next post.

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