Thai King Bumibol Adulyadej died just before this year’s Ohpensa (aka Wan Ok Phansa), the end of the three month Buddhist Lent (Vassa) which had begun with Khaopensa, back in July.
Ohpensa takes place every October on the day of the full moon. I remember it most for the night ceremony where everyone walks around the temple three times, with lit candles, incense and flowers. As I mentioned last year, I used to attend this observance, but now just limit myself to the morning ceremony. I prefer to be out at Bann Nah that night, to enjoy the full moon and the sky lanterns that are lit throughout the evening and fill the night time sky all around. These symbolize the granting of our wishes going skyward and also symbolize a release of negative karma.
My most memorable Ohpensa had been in 2014. That one came complete with a full lunar eclipse.
This year’s Ohpensa seemed somewhat subdued, possibly due to the King’s passing. Of course, prayers were made for him this day, along with the usual, but I haven’t seen any of the emotional grief and sadness here in the Thai countryside, like could clearly be seen on TV images broadcast from Bangkok.
Then again, I don’t “get out” much. The most interaction I have with people is at the temple, with Thip’s family and people who visit us, which -- right now -- is a fair amount. People want to see the new house. When they get out to our 9 rai rice farm, they also find they really like it out there -- who else has a panoramic view like we have? -- so, they come back.
Kamattan chedi/stuppa being built on land we donated to the temple
Also, I’m more welcoming than I used to be. When I first moved to the Isaan in 2012, I kept our Thai family and potential friends at a distance. I did it knowingly and unknowingly. It is natural for Westerners to be a bit “stand-offish”. Thais are more social and I had to adjust to that -- one of the many things I had to change about myself as I “learned a new way.”
Part of it was practical, though. I had to put the stops on the amount of money we were giving to my wife’s family on a regular basis. As I explained it to her -- in part so that she wouldn’t feel so bad about it -- neither one of us was working at a paying job anymore. Now that we are living here on one fixed retirement income, it was impossible to support them to the degree we once had. Also, they are doing much better financially than they used to; in part due to our help, but probably more so to the improved Thai and Isaan economies.
Well, now I’m friendlier, more out-going, more open to family problems (which always have something to do with money)... and practice my Thai/Lao smile everyday. This contributes to our village and country homes being places of fresh and good karma.