Coming to Laos – the land of Champa flowers, one can see the clear imprints of Buddhist culture on the life of the people of Laotian. Not only in the characteristics of ancient pagoda pagodas, not only in the golden rope of monks on the path of practice, but present in every breath of everyday life.
Buddhism becomes a part inevitable in the spiritual life of the people of Laos. From architecture, art to painting, sculpture, from language, writing to literature, poetry, costumes, food to beliefs, festivals are imprinted with Buddhism.
Just like the Hinayana sect in Cambodia, for Buddhism in Laos, the pagoda has a very important meaning, becoming a cultural center of the village, where entertainment and festivals are held.
The pagoda is also a place to teach catechism, to teach literacy to the people, where Lao youths enter the monastery to cultivate virtues, to become helpful people for society. Historically, the pagoda is not only a place to teach common knowledge but has become a place to train the country’s talents and the nation. For Laotian, the pagoda is not mysterious, supernatural, the people who come to the pagoda do not feel shy, feared by religion and life takes place right in the pagoda.
This intimate relationship has made every living life become more joyful, healthy and molded for everyone to be spiritually, peaceful, a life of peace. The monk in Laos is a special class, they are respected and highly positioned in society. Each people take care of their material life, on the contrary, the monk is the one who cares about the spiritual life for each citizen.
Therefore, the role of monks in the cultural life of Laotian people is extremely deep, sticking as an organic part of life.
From young age
As soon as the mother became pregnant, the family members invite the monks to the house to chant and worship Buddha to bring good luck. During that time, the mother also frequently went to the pagoda to chant and wish to abstain from lying, stealing, …
After the baby was born, they were sent to the pagoda to worship Buddha, prayed and be named. For better-off families, people often invite the monks for a ceremony which is often very meticulous, formal and expensive. As for the unfortunate, orphanage child or their parents are incapable of raising, people also bring them to the pagoda to be raised and taught. During the ceremony, the monks often made a ceremony to tie the wrists to the children with the desire to bring peace, luck, health and all good health. The child only removed the wrist when he was really healthy, mature.
When a child reaches school age, his parents send him to the pagoda be taught about morality as a person, how to speak, walk … Monks are close and guide him in every learning activity. Later when the child is mature, he will come back home. The monk is still the teacher, the friend and the wise if the child meets difficulties in life.
During the child’s time in pagoda, parents must regularly offer offerings to the monks to show their responsibility and respect.
In the Laotian opinion, young men and women of adulthood, who have passed the time at the pagoda, are considered to be mature people. If ones haven’t stayed at the pagoda, however old they are, they are still considered immature.
In the life of Laotian, if the parents are sick or lose, or when the family faces unfortunate things, people often ask to go to the monastery for a while in hope of bringing happiness and fortunate to their relatives and family.
Laotian also believes that during the time a young man spending in the pagoda but feels that the spiritual path is a high ideal. It is possible to join the monastery, and this is also an honor for himself and his family. However, to become a monk who has lifelong attachment to Buddhism, the selection must go through a lot of careful steps in accordance with the Buddhist tradition.
As Laotian getting married
When a young Laotian reaches the age of marriage, people will come to the pagoda again to ask for blessings. The Laotians often abstain from celebrating marriage in the months which are detention by the monks, such as full moon, or the Buddha worshiping day because it is believed that people who married in those day will not be happy.
In many localities, during the wedding, people invite monks to chant and pray to good luck. After wedding, it is necessary to come to the pagoda the next day to offer goods as respecting gift and inform the ancestors of their new life.
When its time to leave this world
When Laotian people have sickness and illness, they often go to the pagoda to pray for peace and ask for medical help, many pagodas are also places to give medicine to people. Especially when the Laotian people died, everyone expected their bones to be sent to the pagoda.
Laotian people believe that there is “good” and “evil” death. “Good” deaths are those who die due to aging, illness; and evil death are those who die due to catastrophe, sudden death, and only those who deceased are cremated and send their bones to the pagoda.
If the deceased are their grandparents or parents, sons and grandsons from aged seven and older will cut their hair for may be a month, a week, even just a few hours until the cremation is completed. For Laotian, going to the monastery is the best way to express gratitude to parents, and it is also the most popular way for men to pay respect to the deceased.
Laotians also believe that when people die, they belong to the pagoda, and therefore do not set up an altar at home, when they need to pray for the dead, they will bring offerings to the pagoda and ask for a ceremony for their deceased relatives.
In the process of development, Buddhism has left many imprints in the cultural life of Laotian. Buddhism has come into existence as an internal part and created special traditions that unique to Laos. That is also the reason for Buddhism to be present, exist and develop sustainably over thousands of years in the country of Laos.