A talisman called mindfulness

A talisman called mindfulness

Besides resolutions to exercise more, smoke less and get better organised, another most discussed New Year topic is about the inauspicious year or what's known amongst Thais as <i>pee chong</i>.

The concept of an ill-omened year is often believed by Thai-Chinese descendants in this country where astrology and superstition is rooted deeply in our culture. Yet, it becomes so widely recognised that it sneaks outside the Thai-Chinese communities.

Based on the Chinese astrology, the term "pee chong" implies an opposition force. Simply put, the concept refers to the arrival of a year whose zodiac or star sign is opposite to the sign of a person's birth.

This, according to Chinese belief, will bring misfortune. Based on the Chinese zodiac, 2016 is the Year of the Monkey and subsequently will be a baneful year for people born in the Year of the Tiger, Snake, Pig and Monkey. People born in these years will encounter different degrees of bad luck, according to belief.

For years we have been told that in order to lessen the degree of catastrophe, unlucky people have to participate in a Chinese ceremony at Chinatown's Wat Mangkon Kamalawat -- more commonly known as Wat Leng Noei Yi -- or other Chinese shrines to ward off their bad luck. This will cost them a few hundred baht. If not, they put themselves at risk of being sick, heartbroken, losing a job, losing money and experiencing everything bad that could possibly happen.

Of course, many people born in the said years do as they are told. Though a lot of them do not even believe in this kind of stuff, they flock to sacred Chinese places and join the ritual just in case.

But for those who are not believers in such notions, they go to the temple, make merit, offer flowers and donations to monks in the hope of driving away hard knocks and disappointments that affected them in the past year and draw more happiness, money, romance and good health for the year to come. But it seems many totally, if not intentionally, forget that one of the best things that can help them keep off hard times in life is for them to lead their lives with care. Last Thursday, HM the King sent his New Year wishes to his people via a television broadcast, calling on them to adopt mindfulness amid the uncertainties of life.

But the tough question here is despite rituals of any kind, amulets, charms, lucky stones or whatever magic pieces that people carry to make themselves free and happy, are they mindful enough with their lives? Are they careful enough with their decisions and behaviour? Are they respectful enough of others?

Less than a week into 2016 and we saw more than 3,000 road accidents, which led to almost 3,200 people being injured with 340 deaths, according to figures from the Road Safety Directing Centre's "Seven Dangerous Days" campaign, under the Ministry of Interior's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. A majority of these cases were found to be associated with drink driving.

We saw more than 3,000 vehicles seized by authorities nationwide because drivers were intoxicated behind the wheel. We saw a bomb attack in Pattani at 2am on the first day of the year, damaging an ATM machine and two cars. On the same day, a 15-year-old was found dead in Hua Hin after falling off a cliff while trying to take a selfie during his New Year holiday.

We also saw seven houses in a community in Bangkok that were destroyed by fire because one of the residents forgot to turn off an electrical appliance, and another antique wooden residence in Nakhon Phanom partly destroyed by fire that was caused by New Year fireworks set off by people in the neighbourhood.

Perhaps it's about time for us Thais to look back and ask ourselves -- wasn't all this because we did not care enough about what's right in front of us and because we did not respect other people enough? The truth is if we continue leading a careless and disrespectful life, this year will make no difference from any other years in our history.

After all, the key to good life does not lie on which of the 12 zodiac signs we were born into or if we already have our bad luck warded off by either a Chinese or a Buddhist priest.

It does not lie on which amulet we have around our necks or how many temples we have been to on our New Year merit-making mission. To have a good life is not as simple as that.

Rather, nothing can be more true and practical than being more prepared and mindful and to always keep in mind that good things in life are impermanent.

And if we can do so, we do not need powerful magic to cast difficulties away because in the end, whatever goes around comes around.

Arusa Pisuthipan is the deputy editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Arusa Pisuthipan

Deputy editor of the Life section

Arusa Pisuthipan is the deputy editor of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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