Overcoming temple dread

Daily Xpress/Asia News Network, May 06, 2009

Bangkok, Thailand -- Alarmed that more and more teenagers are sidelining Buddhism in favour of bad habits, celebrities and ordinary Thais are urging parents to encourage their kids into the temple on Visakha Bucha Day.

On his merit-making visits to temples in several provinces, likay singer Suthirat "Kung" Wongtewan says he's noticed teenagers are a rare sight.

"Youngsters tend to ignore temples during important Buddhist holidays and grab the opportunity for a good time instead," says Kung.

"It's up to parents and grandparents - I'm accustomed to making merit because my |parents have let me go to temples with them since I was a child."

Kung is among several celebrities appointed as Visakha Bucha Day envoys. This year he's hoping to mark the day at his local temple but is happy to make merit anywhere his likay performances take him.

A family trip

Like Kung, 41-year-old company employee Kanyaka Kovitvanij thinks kids gain much from visits to temples and she also suggests parents or grandparents have a role to play.

"The media and other agencies are trying to promote important Buddhist festivals in a bid to attract more people to temples, but parents have the most influence. My nephew will be coming to the wat to make merit with me on Friday."

Kanyaka says she always observes the wian tian religious ceremony on Makha Bucha Day, Visakha Bucha Day and Asarnha Bucha Day - the year's major Buddhist holidays.

Twenty-one-year-old university student Phaithoon Thuraphan says that after families, schoolteachers are the individuals who could do most to encourage children to mark Buddhist occasions.

"I've often invited along teenagers to make merit and do wian tian at a temple in our village," says Phaithoon. "It helps you to discover mindfulness and to think carefully before acting."

"Visakha Bucha is an important day in my life - I've been visiting temples on this day each year since I was a child. Youngsters pay a lot of attention to celebrating Valentine's Day with their sweethearts, but a year later your heart might be broken, and the day means nothing at all. In contrast, we can make merit on Visakha Bucha Day every year."