Buddhist Ritual: Tsunami victims receive prayers

By Jenny Burns, The Sun News, Jan 1, 2004

Myrtle Beach, SC (USA) -- The local Thai community gathered on the last day of the year as Buddhist monks blessed the earth and all people, especially those in their homeland devastated by the deadly tsunami.

The group took up a disaster-relief offering for Thailand victims. Many said they felt comfort from the blessings after spending night after night hooked to CNN, worried about those in their home country.

"I never thought something like that could happen to Thailand," said Kanjanee Eubanks, who is from Ubol, Thailand. "But it can happen anywhere."

The group also mourned the loss of the Thailand king's grandson, who was killed in the disaster.

"We are sad for everybody," said Yenlavong Phongprija, who opened his Horry County home for the blessing. "I'm sad for the poor people and the rich people. I see the kids crying on TV and think, 'How are they going to live?'"

Seven monks chanted blessings in Pali, the ancient language of Buddha, as incense filled the room and the group kneeled in prayer.

Thai food prepared by Buddhist laypeople was offered to the monks, who eat one meal a day. The monks returned blessings by sprinkling holy water with reeds on those gathered.

Phra Natthapon Sirindharo, a traveling monk living at the temple in Sumter, asked listeners to let their misfortune from the year pass and urged them to meditate to clear their minds.

"No one can hear you if you don't hear yourself," he said.

Most of the group was from northern Thailand or Laos, which was not directly affected by the disaster, but they worry Mother Earth could strike again.

"Back in our country, my mom and grandparents would say that in 2005, all kinds of things will happen - the earth would shake. It could happen here. It could happen there," said Chanthanom Phongprija, who is from Laos and lives in Florence.

Wat Carolina Buddhajakra Vanaram, the Buddhist monastery in Bolivia, N.C., will hold a ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Sunday to honor tsunami victims. A collection will be taken to assist them.

"I feel sadness," said Phrakru Buddhamonpricha, the abbot of the temple. "We want to bless all."

Chanthanom Phongprija said she hopes people will be generous in their giving.

"It doesn't have to be a million dollars as long as it is from your heart," she said.