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Thailand saved by guardian angel


His Majesty the King's book on Buddha's life, 'Mahajanaka' teaches Thailand that there is a guardian angel which has come to its rescue in these perilous times. Thanong Khanthong writes.

FOR some Thais, only mythology can explain how Thailand survived the precarious, if not near death, situation of the past year. Simply put, Thailand, unlike less fortunate Indonesia, has a guardian angel.

Coincidentally, His Majesty the King's book, ''Mahajanaka'', completed in 1996 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of his enthronement, foreshadowed the troubled period that the nation endured before being saved by the guardian angel.

Drawn from Phra Trai Pitaka or Three Buddhist Canons, ''Mahajanaka's'' theme dwells on the virtue of perseverance. The book, for all of its moral content, was His Majesty's proud gift to the nation. No individual task, great or small, could be accomplished without perseverance. For only through perseverance would critical help be forthcoming.

In the story, the young prince, Mahajanaka, who was one of the 10 reincarnations of the Lord Buddha before his last birth as Prince Siddhartha, was determined to contest for his throne in Mithila. He set sail for Suwanaphum to trade and raise money for his war campaign. Unfortunately, the ship was wrecked and all the crew members, except the prince, perished in the perilous sea.

The prince swam in stormy waters for seven days and nights until a goddess named Mani Mekhala appeared before him. After they discussed the virtue of perseverance, Mani Mekhala helped the prince reach Mithila, where he eventually became king.

''For all that Thailand has gone through, it is a miracle we are still here today. I believe that Thailand is saved by the guardian angel similar to the way Mahajanaka was saved by Mani Mekhala,'' Banthoon Lamsam, the president of Thai Farmers Bank, said recently.

''Before one is saved, one has to help oneself,'' he added.

From perseverance, His Majesty the King moved on last year, when Thailand was muddling through the worst economic crisis in modern history, to advocate self-sufficiency in managing the economy. He said it would be good enough if Thailand could be 25 per cent self-sufficient in its economy. In the old days, Thailand was 100 per cent self-sufficient.

To set an example, the King made a recent journey to Prachin Buri to harvest rice in his research field, alongside 1,000 farmers. By doing so, he restored dignity to farmers, considered the ''backbone of the nation''.

On that occasion, the King said ''I eat kao som mua or kao klong, hand-milled rice, every day because it is healthy. All the good properties have been removed from white rice. kao klong is good. Some say it is the poor man's rice. I am also a poor man.''

However, the King's concept of self-sufficiency has been interpreted variably, leading him to clarify it yesterday, in a subtle speech given to the nation on the eve of his birthday. By self-sufficiency, he means a state of having enough to eat, and to live without extravagance. The King said self-sufficiency in economics has a broader meaning, that it is the ability to produce for one's own consumption.

''It means that we can produce everything for our own consumption without having to borrow from others. We can be self-sufficient. In the foreign language, it means to be able to stand on one's feet.''

The King elaborated further that self-sufficiency also carries subtle meaning, which implies that if we are satisfied with what we have, we will have less greed. ''When we have less greed, we will take less advantage over others. If a country has a concept -- not in economic terms -- of self-sufficiency, it means that we do things appropriately, not too much, not too greedily. Then we all live in happiness,'' he said.



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