Fundraising Thai style
It was a chilly morning for Thailand as we set off on a short motorbike ride to a local temple, by the time we got to the temple I was feeling quite cold. Friends had invited us to observe this annual event that raises funds for the temple.
At 6 am the temple was bustling with people many having been there since 5 am and some much earlier, a large bonfire was burning, and we walked into what appeared to be a market. As we walked around we were greeted by friends and shown around. As we walked around and chatted to people I asked about payment for the food. I was told that all the food was being donated by the people making it and the people “buying” the food did so by placing a donation in a bowl. Each person who either made the food or gave a donation towards the food was making merit. Many of the cooks had been up since 3am that morning preparing their food with no monetary gain for themselves, just the hope that this would gain them merit.
A Thai book “Accumulating Merit” explains making merit in the following way:
1) The majority of Buddhists who make merit are hoping to gain happiness in the present life. Namely, they want to have happiness and prosperity, good luck, success in their job responsibilities, and people who are faithful to them.
2) Of secondary importance to the first reason is the benefits that merit making brings in creating a higher kind of happiness, a greater inner happiness in your spirit through doing things that are good, being a moral person, helping others. There is also the contented feeling that this merit will have good effects on your next life.
3) The last reason to make merit is to help you see the truth about life, namely life is always changing and never certain, there is birth and death, there is meeting and parting, material objects are impermanent, and to reduce desires and cease attachment to worldly things.
As I pondered the Thai Buddhists approach to raising funds for their temple and the good turnout of both volunteers and attendees I couldn’t help comparing it to the church fundraisers I had been part of previously. Why do we as Christians have so few volunteers but the Thai have so many?
The Thai Buddhist is seeking to make merit for themselves therefore their reasons for involvement have a direct benefit for themselves. Is the reason we as Christians do not get involved because we do not see any direct benefit to us personally? Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matt 20:28). How can we as Christians follow Jesus example better. Could it be by getting more involved in his kingdom work, whether this is serving in our churches weekly, volunteering our time, helping our neighbors? Let us all strive to have the servant heart of Jesus in all we do thus bringing glory to Him.