June 22, 2015
‘Money Trees’ can be found in all manner of places through-out the Kingdom from shops, markets, offices, restaurants and hotels. They are used as a type of “donation box”, usually to raise money for the restoration or repair of a particular temple and is part of Buddhist belief in ‘Make Merit’.
The Thai Buddhist mind set is different to the western ideals of charity, here one has to be seen giving money or alms and the person who is responsible for the money tree wants to display the donations so as both they and the giver receive good Karma
To make merit, (Buddhism) plays such a large part in Thai Buddhist culture and Donating to a money tree is one way to do so. Most Thais have a general belief that what you do in this life will affect you equally in the same manner in the next life e.g. ‘good brings good’ & ‘bad brings bad’. There are 10 ways of ‘Making Merit’ all of which help to demonstrate a good path in one’s current life and will be repaid to the giver, in future reincarnations.
‘Merit’ is not charity as perceived by western people, here it is way of connecting the giver to the monk or nun and to show humbleness and respect to what they represent.
The Money Tree is normally formed from split bamboo which is tied together at the base with cloth, money is placed through the split bamboo, to add further dazzle, coloured ribbon, paper or fabric flowers and gaily coloured tinsel may also be added to the tree.
The coloured cloth on a money tree is thought to be a reminder to the Thai people of former times, the common theory is that in the distance past Buddhist monks in Thailand used discarded pieces of cloth to make their robes, as monks were previously not allowed to receive robes directly from lay people, they are still to this day not permitted to receive goods directly from lay females. To over-come this restriction the Thai people would deliberately leave cloth close to where the Monks would find them, this ‘indirectly’ given cloth would be recycled by the monks to provide them with their much needed robes. (This restriction is no longer enforced in modern-day Thailand, it is common for robes to be given to the monks at funerals, weddings and the blessing of a new home or commercial building).
Once the tree is full both lay people dressed in their best clothes and the monks dressed in their saffron robes, form a procession and carry the tree to the temple, they are accompanied by musicians and the scene is one of a mini festival. The money tree is then donated along with other individual contributions and goods, these can include such things as washing powder, cloth, food, shaving goods etc. in essence anything that the monks may require to sustain themselves and their temple. Money trees are also used extensively during the Krathin Ritual and the festival such as Chula Kathin in Isaan.
While the ‘Money Tree’ is fairly new concept here in Thailand it does bring the distant past into the modern world, allowing the Thai people to demonstrate and share their faith with others and to directly benefit the Monks and their temples, all without losing sight of their heritage.
Money does grow on Trees in Thailand
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