In Nakon Nayok a Buddhist temple offers, for a small fee, an opportunity to be laid to rest, cleansed and reborn to start a new life. And the nine pink coffins dominating the grand hall of Wat Prommanee, help cleanse hundred of people everyday.
Once inside the coffin the lid is shut, the Monks chant death rites (as though the participants are already dead), followed by the chant of new life, and after a minute-and-a-half, the coffin lid is lifted and the participants rise into a cleansed new life.
Referred to in Thailand as “non loeng sadorcro”, which literally means “lie in a coffin, get rid of bad luck”, this controversial ritual has been around for decades but with the release of ‘The Coffin’, a Thai horror movie based around the haunting ritual has brought the ceremony into the mainstream.
This recent trend has even attracted the attention of movie directors.
Although most of the commentary is in Thai, you can notice the directors insight on the tradition and how he has taken this rural ritual into the mainstream.
The acting out of the ritual even made the actors and actresses feel uncomfortable, but appreciate the meaning behind it.
With the recent economic crisis, more and more people are flocking to what has become an assembly line of resurrection.
“When the economy is down, we latch our hopes onto some supernatural power,” said Ekachai Uekrongtham, the writer-director of The Coffin, staring Ananda Everingham and Florence Faivre.
Nual Chaichamni, 52, a masseuse who has been ‘reborn’ over six times said:
Buddhism and traditional customs in Thailand can take strange forms, from mutilating the body, to embracing animist superstition and magical practices.
These funerals for the living are just another one of the countries takes on practices of Buddhism.
Over the last decade, the growing interest in such rituals has drawn increasing numbers to Thailand’s temples, many of which are now set up for tourists, selling good-luck amulets, holding boisterous fairs and telling fortunes.
Wat Prommanee has offered its resurrection service daily for over three years, during which time, the number of clients keep growing. On weekends as many as 700 people a day pay 180 baht each, a little more than $5, for the ceremony and much more for amulets that are auctioned off by temple acolytes.
For this reason many of the Thais feel that the true spirit of Buddhism is being forgotten.
The rebirth ceremony is unusual, but not surprising, said Suwannan Sathta-Anand, an associate professor of philosophy at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
“These days, a lot of people in Thai society are creating new kinds of rituals and practices to suit whatever purposes they have,” she said.
With the hierarchy of organized Buddhism slow to adapt to changing times, she said, “people are looking for their own expression of Buddhism that could be relevant to their lives.”
The Thais believe that Fifty percent of a person’s destiny is determined by his name and the other 50% by their date of birth.
Some Thais may be given a new name in hope of becoming more prosperous or to help fight illness. In the same way the new title may chance the course of ones life, the Coffin ritual offers a chance to be born again.