The Image at the Small Vihara
Not long after the fair, there were many people come to the temple. They said they wanted to worship the image in the vihara. The vihara was usually closed except as a special case such as the temple fair, significance days of the Buddhist religion and cleaning days.
Normally, people had never been interested to worship the image. But now, many people wanted to do that without warnings. They gathered in front of the assembly hall after knowing the vihara was closed and no one had the key to the door except the abbot. The abbot came to see them soon.
“What’s happened? Why do a lot of you come here?” the abbot stood asking. The people, some were standing, some were sitting on the ground, pressed their hands together in respect promptly.
“We would like to ask permission to worship the image in the vihara, sir,” said a man.
“Well, what’s going on? Why do you happen to have faith in the Luang Phor in the vihara? There are other images. The principle Buddha image is also in the ubosot.”
Luang Ta Chaeng came on and stood near the abbot. There was also a nosy dog – me - followed him secretly.
“This should be definitely connected with lotto, right?” said Luang Ta Chaeng forthrightly, smilingly.
“It’s a stretch, sir. Er - to be honest, some people said Luang Phor in the vihara gave number so precisely. The man won the lotto at the last drawing of the lottery, then he has got rich, sir.”
The abbot confused, then he asked for sure.
“The Luang Phor in the vaihara, are you sure? How could the image give the number? Do you remember the incorrect temple’s name? Misunderstood?”
“No, we didn’t, sir. The lucky man lives in this neighborhood, how did he tell the wrong name? Luang Phor, please open the vihara’s door and let us worship the image. So we may be in luck and have some money, sir,” said the man.
The abbot’s face grew solemn. Then he asked all those people to have a talk in the hall for a while. “Don’t be in a big hurry,” said he. All people followed him into the hall and sat down near the abbot. I had hid in a discreet corner where I could see Nera Khai’s round face and Nera Pad’s face appeared and disappeared at the back of the hall.
“I’m still doubtful about the image’s number. The Luang Phor stays in the vihara for a hundred years and I’d never heard the image gave anyone number. I really guess who start this rumor.”
I truly wanted to answer the abbot that: ‘Ta Ruay, sir. Ta Ruay rubbed the image for the number.’ But I couldn’t speak. Pity, it’s so oppressive!
“They also said the image was so holy. He could speak, sir,” said a man. The abbot so surprised that he cried out loud.
“Hey! That’s too far!”
Something made me looked at Luang Ta Chaeng; he still smiled as usual.
“Honestly, I’m not feel good that people said like that,” said the abbot.
“Why, sir? I think it don’t harm anything,” a man said and then a woman added.
“That should be better, sir. The temple has the famous image, so there will be more merit makers and the temple will draw more money,” many people nodded in agreement, but the abbot shook his head and spoke slowly.
“I can’t think so. I’m a monk who can’t look forward to a stroke of fortune. If there’s too much talk about this, people who don’t like monks or don’t like to visit temple would accuse this temple of making up a story. That’s what people call hoodwinking - making people believe in something blindly in order to make temple’s gain. I don’t want to take criticism like this, since not only I but the temple also will be harmed. I’m the abbot and I must maintain the temple’s reputation, and my too. People, I impose you to turn back. Please don’t make me be in a difficult position.”
All men and women were quiet and looked sideway at each other. Finally, there was a man spoke out respectfully.
“Luang Phor, sir, we understand all you said but we would like to impose you respectfully too. We’ve made the effort to get here anyway, so please don’t let our faith be in vain. Please open the vihara and allow us in the vihara and worship the image just once. Some of us have come from distance places. They hope to rely on the Luang Phor’s greatness. Please be kind to us just once, sir,”
There were many people supported the man’s words. The abbot turned to Luang Ta Chaeng for idea. Luang Ta said nothing but just smiled. Then the abbot turned to those people who were waiting for his answer. He kept quiet for a while and said to them.
“Now then, I’ll let you in as your had asked,” a cheer went up from the people. The abbot waved his hand to stop the cheer and went on.
“This is the only permission. I won’t let anyone in the vihara any more, either you or others. Even whatever you heard from whomever, please don’t spread the rumor. I don’t look forward to a stroke of luck, don’t support all vice, especially gambles.
“The moral saying of people of old is ‘to be robbed for ten times isn’t as bad as just one fire is. Fire broke out for ten times isn’t as damaging as indulging oneself in gambling.’ That means your house would still settle there if you were robbed for ten times, because robbers couldn’t take it along. Anyway, your house wouldn’t be left if it is on fire for once, but you would still have the land. By the way, there would be nothing left, either house or land – but catastrophe, if you would indulge yourself in gambling. This is the people of old’s teaching. Let think over it carefully.
“By the way, please don’t disturb the Luang Phor in the small vihara any more, whether you’ll be in luck or not. I hope you should understand all what I said. I hope you all enjoy the blessing of well-being,” then he stood up, handed the key to Luang Ta Chaeng, and went out the hall to turn back to his dwelling.
Luang Ta Chaeng said nothing, leading those people to the small vihara next to the ubosot. They followed Luang Ta silently; no one dared talk to him. After unlocking the door, Luang Ta moved away. Those people had tripped into the vihara as if each wanted to be the first to arrive the image. Luang Ta glanced at them with an amused look and went away, but I was still there. I wanted to see if they would do what Ta Ruay did.
Firstly, they all did the same thing, lighted candles and incenses then worshiped the image. Some people who had brought garlands along offered the garlands to the image by placing their garlands on the image’s lap or hands. Then they sat on the floor and moved their lips silently. Now, the restricted vihara was preserved with a smell and smoke of incenses. Those who were unable to stand the smell went to open windows. Some people circled the image and asked each other softly.
“How can we get the number? There’s no fortune sticks anywhere,” a woman asked her friend. The friend hardly said a word when a man replied.
“Rub! But we have to ask Luang Phor for permission firstly, then we can rub the image. Do you bring some white clay body-powder, oil, scented water and gold leaves along?” said an expert.
“There’re just face powder and perfume. Are they okay?” said the woman. The man – an expert – shook his head.
“Take this,” he offered those things to the middle age woman generously.
“Thank you,” the woman took the things, and then turned to asked her friend.
“Now, what should we do?” her friend signaled with the lips toward the generous man.
“Let’s follow him,” the women tried to observe the man and imitated him. By the way, some women and men were not interested in getting numbers; they just walked watching what numbers others got. Those who had tried to get numbers dripped their fingers in small bottles of oil, and then applied the oil on the image’s base, legs or knees – as they liked. There was a man warned others of their actions.
“Don’t disturb the image’s body, just rub at the base,”
“Dammit, there’s no number appeared at the base. Luang Phor, let me disturb your leg, sir,” said someone.
I looked at the image’s face abruptly to see if the image said anything. No word at all. I thought if the Luang Phor would say, he should say that he was so annoyed with these people. There were so many people and smoke of incenses. What a chaos!
After applying oil on the image’s base, they picked gold leaves and pressed their hands together in respect. Then they applied the gold leaves on the oiled base and sprinkled Thai fragrant scented water on the gold leaves. Next, they strewed powder over the gold leaves and moved backwards, stood closing their eyes and worshiped the image for a while. Then they rubbed the areas where they applied gold leaves on. Now, each looked intently if there was number appeared, and what the number was - if it appeared.
Suddenly, Ta Ruay came in the vihara in great haste while I was watching those people enjoyably. He looked at those people with angry-looking and snapped at them.
“What in blazes do you think you are doing?”
“So clearly, why ask!” said a man, who did not do anything, just stood folding his arms over his chest and looked at that and this.
“How can you do like this? It disturbs the Luang Phor,” Ta Ruay said to unspecified person. The same man answered again.
“You could do that, too. The Luang Phor shouldn’t reproach you.”
“Improperly, improperly! You can’t go in a crowd into this vihara. Hey! Don’t rub the body! The base is enough,” Ta Ruay said loudly, angrily.
A woman who was stooping down and lifting her head up to see number turned toward the noise. Then she greeted Ta Ruay.
“Oh, Ta Ruay! Just arrive, don’t you? I stopped by this morning but you weren’t at home.”
Ta Ruay rounded on the woman.
“It’s you, Waen! You took these people to this place, right?”
“Uh-huh. So what? We want to get rich like you, just so,” Wane said taking no interest in Ta Ruay’s look. That made Ta Ruay got more irritated.
“Jeez you! I told you that don’t you talk too much, don’t tell anyone!”
“She told and so what?” another man asked starting at Ta Ruay and went on.
“You want to be rich alone and didn’t be generous to others, do you?” others turned toward Ta Ruay. A middle age woman moved in and said to all.
“Don’t be so busy wrangling with each other, that waste time. Hurry to get number so we can go. It’s stifling in here. Ta Ruay, you’ve already got rich so you should leave if you don’t want to get more number.”
“Who says I don’t want?” Ta Ruay said under his breath. He looked cooled down and moved from that group. A man walked to him and asked him.
“Uncle, I heard that you’ve got much money form the last drawing of the lotto, right?”
“Just a little,” Ta Ruay said putting on airs.
“It’s said that this Luang Phor can say, is that so?”
Ta Ruay was quiet and cast a sideway look at the image’s face. Then he said.
The woman called Waen walked to Ta Ruay just at that time and talked to Ta Ruay.
“Ta Ruay, as you told that the Luang Phor can say, what did you do to make him say?” the man who talked to Ta Ruay a moment ago turned to Ta Rauy at once.
“Eh, why did you say you dunno?”
“What the blazes did you ask for?” Ta Ruay was moody.
“Well, we just want to know whether what you said is true - the image can say,” the man stared at Ta Ruay seriously. Ta Ruay did not look him in the eye when he nodded.
“It’s … true.”
“Oh, what did he say to you?” asked the man. Now, those who overheard the conversation turned to pay attention to Ta Ruay’s group. Ta Ruay was tongue-tied; he did not want to answer, but had to do because of those people’s constraining eyes.
“He didn’t say anything but ‘Mmm’. That’s all” Ta Ruay told unwillingly. There was a strange expression on those people. By the way, there was another question.
“What did you ask him so he answered ‘Mmm’?”
“Well, I’ve got the number from rubbing, I, therefore, asked him if it was the number, for sure. The Luang Phor said only ‘Mmm’,” then Ta Ruay walked from those people. So the people turned to talk with each other.
“Only ‘Mmm’ is fairly important. It could confirm us in the belief that we would win the lotto, so we should fully pay the lotto.”
“That’s right,” there were many supporters.
“Um, will the Luang Phor also answer us if we ask him?” someone was uncertain. Ta Ruay heard the words, so that he mentioned casually.
“Now, he wouldn’t say when you went in a crowd. It’s more possible that he would be annoyed.”
“The bad-mouthed shouldn’t definitely win the lotto,” said a man.
Ta Ruay walked to the man, getting angry, and asked him.
“What do you mean?”
“You heard it,” said the man provokingly. Another person came to keep the two men from quarreling immediately.
“Well, enough! Don’t quarrel with each other,” then he said to others. “Are you done, so we can go? We’ve disturb the Luang Phor a long time. There would be more trouble if we‘re in this vihara any longer.”
Most of them agreed to the idea. They raised their hands pressed together as a sign of respect to take leave the Luang Phor. Then they left the vihara a few at a time until there was only Ta Ruay. He stood looking at the Luang Phor’s face and then knelt down before the image. He bowed down as a sign of respect for three times.
“Luang Phor, I must apologize you, sir. You’ve been very kind to me but I‘m bigmouthed. I made a mistake of talking too much. I didn’t think that it would make you be annoyed; the Luang Phor should get hurt. I apologize highly. Don’t be angry with me, please. I wouldn’t ask you for more number today, but I would like to ask for your kindness – please forgive me, sir,” with those words, Ta Ruay bowed down again, and then he had to raise his head with a jerk when he heard a voice.
Ta Ruay sat stiffly looking at the image for a while and then said.
“Luang Phor, thank you, sir.”
He bowed down for more three times, stood up and then left the vihara. Somehow, he turned to the Luang Phor again before passing the door. Now, I left the nook I hid. There was no one, so what did I be there for? Then I left the vihara too. I turned to see the small vihara after walking a few steps and then saw Luang Ta Chaeng stood locking the vihara’s door. Eh, when did Luang Ta came? Why did not I be aware of him?