What seemed to be a heavenly day for me, after I’d randomly donated my Thai bahts, turned out quite the opposite as I caught myself frowning at my “well-made decision”, and was near to regret the “merit” I made.
A saint walked up to me in the middle of my lunch today.
He looked ragged and sad--and real. A little hunched and tired, he looked around this local, small restaurant. As he was showing a paper with words on it saying someone dear to him (must be his little daughter, but who cares) was sick, our eyes met. In my head a voice said, Give no money.
I took my time, sipping some water from my glass (ice cubes so cold), and decided.
The decision cost twenty bahts.
I can say that I felt twenty “did not matter” as I handed out my banknote and looked right into that pitiful, deer-like pair of eyes--why would I regret it now?
You should feel good when your money is going to be useful--in someone else’s hand. And even when you are in Thailand (disregard who you are), some of you might hesitate before dropping a coin or two---or you might be skeptical…
Is this beggar person really in need?
There you go asking yourself--and the next second you have no chance to “make merit”, no matter how slow you walk past him/her. It’s your mind that discreetly tells you to do it or not to.
For me, I can be super reluctant to give what might be wasted. I hesitate to trust the hands reaching for help (or sometimes there is no hand, literally) that might be some a lie. Worse, I doubt myself if I could do it. Well, I’d love to hear the coin make some sweet sounds when it hits the bottom of the bowl…but would I do that?
I doubt it.
Most Thai Buddhists, I believe, are aware of “doing it right” when making merits—that one should be truly optimistic. Be completely positive giving away your money. Skepticism should be eliminated or the deed would be null. Skepticism could cause one a fruitless karma.
Even when it is dubious.
That is what frustrates me. You have to believe in it--in order to do it right. The person looks sincere, the situation seems so real that if you, too, are being true to yourself, you’d promptly grant his/her wish with shiny coins or a clean banknote. Because you believe it’s true.
It is a challenge of one’s sense of charity. A test of personal generosity.
Theoretically, I believe that what I did would be helpful (a to-be pay-it-forward?), and whether the man used it for his child’s better medical treatment or not, I have nothing to do with that. He had his money, and I had a glimpse of heaven.
Minutes later, I dropped by some other shops on that crowded soi, and was finally walking back in the same direction I was before when I saw that, the Saint had just turned a corner and was coming my way. Still wearing the ragged look, but not the sadness, he was walking so head up, so proud. No sign of despair--but so determined and ready to move on to another side of the street. I could have taken him for an ordinary, healthy, aged man hadn’t I seen him before.
But I did not know.
My head began to protest, and deny—denying like one did when one saw his/her ex walking with a new squeeze—grudgingly like Cher Lloyd when she sang it. Except that I did give a sh!, and I wanted ma money back!
In truth, it’s not about losing money. It’s about being fooled.
In this crazy pond full of fish, what this “fisherman” did was using a “merit rod” and spinning it into the reel of good karma--and there Boom! I swallowed the hook. Had he kept walking like a penniless ’til he reached the end of the street, it would not be this hurtful. His secret would be a secret forever. But since what you know hurts you, my faith was therefore shaken.
A boon? A blessing? I’m not sure now.
I guess I don’t want it anymore.
Making merit with money has become calculating, and I calculate the means and the meaning of doing it. I’m afraid I’m investing in an estate in a heavenly place somewhere inside of me. Then suddenly, the place is turned into something else worthless of the investment when I let my doubts ruin it.
Anyway, the man is rich now and I am the one who is penniless. The difference? I am a little wiser?
I doubt it.
*Originally September 2013