2019 had been a major year in my life. A year where I have endured many great sufferings, but have turned my life around completely. I am now free to do what I want and achieve what I want to achieve. I can say it had been an absolutely eventful, fantastic and the most memorable year I have ever had in my life! However my mother went through a very difficult period. 2019 was her unlucky year, according to the Chinese horoscope prediction. Her illness continued to worsen, up to the point where she was only 34 kg and barely surviving. We were all very distressed about this. She could not eat or digest properly. It was a mysterious case for the doctors, however she had the help she needed in the end, and gradually got better. Just before her birthday in January, she expressed her relief that her unlucky year (Pee chong) was nearly over (its over after your birthday). Reflecting upon her year, it was the hardest year of her life, but one good thing it did to all of us was, it stimulated our awareness of practicing Buddhism. Right after I broke up with my boyfriend I began chanting and changing my life. But just as I sat down getting myself comfortable and picturing my dream house, as I am moving to at Santorini this year, my mum said to me.
‘You know what, now it’s your Toh year.’
I was thinking “what”? I had already gone through hell last year! I thought that was mine too, last year! It was not easy! Now it’s only just begun for me? Then she said,
‘You have to change your sheets (buy new ones) and buy new underwear like I did last year.’
In Buddhist culture, when we encounter obstacles like this in our life, we are always prepared. Even with the Buddhism practice of the jit, of the mind, heart and soul, we are aware of the potential obstructions we may face or we have to face, and prepare ourselves so that we are not affected. In the same way as building a bridge across the river to cross it. Obstructions come from inside and outside our body. In Thailand we have what we call ‘kred,’. They are the techniques, the ways, normally as religious ceremonies or practices to remove obstructions.
The country of Thailand is also predicted to have a Toh year. I heard the prime minister speak on the news; ‘Although this year is a Toh year, let all of our hearts and minds stay above it and be positive.’
My mum had more plans for me. A week later I was driven by my chauffeur to the Chinese temple to ‘undo’ my unlucky year. We drove about an hour and a half away from the centre of Bangkok to this stunning Chinese temple. As soon as I saw the roof, I thought I was in China.
My chauffeur, who had the experience of doing this, guided me to a room full of small red Chinese lanterns beaming from the ceiling.
There were also the Buddha and the Chinese Gods around the room.
I would stay for the morning, it was quite busy there already. Although my driver said that by arriving early, before 9 am, so that I would get there before the Chinese people come, there was already a long queue of Chinese people and barely any space for the Thai’s. We went to the counter, where the officer give us a red leaflet and money envelope. I paid 100 baht for them. I sat on one of the long rows of benches and tables, and started filling the form with my birth year, date of birth, and the time of my birth.
Then we went up the beautiful staircase, where I now have to stand and pray in front of the Chinese Gods, for my obstructions to be lifted. In that room there is a TV displaying in several languages, explaining how to do the process. I have to stand there and read out the prayer from the red sheet I was given. Once finished, I have to wave the paper in front of my head 12 times.
Then finished! After that, I give the papers back to the caretaker.
However, my chauffeur suggested that I should light candles for the Gods at the other side of the building, to strengthen my baramee this year. Once we got there, we dropped about 100 baht into the box and took a round tray of two red candles and a bag of small, round Chinese coins.
We stood and made a prayer to the Gods. Then we headed to the small charity boxes with small statues of Gods standing above them.
I normally see this kind of arrangement in Thai temples with the Buddha shown in many positions. However, they have put the Gods here. We dropped a coin in each box. We were told to take home.
As the last task, she also invited me to strike a beautiful bell. The merit of doing this is for the brightness of our happiness and spirit. We have to write our name on a red cloth, staple it, and hit the bell three times with the wooden striker.
That was the end of my trip there. Just as I exited, there was an influx of Chinese people. More were expected throughout the day, arriving with the organized tours. It was a long journey back home. As soon as I saw my bed, I took a nap. Did I think it worked? Well, to be honest, I was slightly worried, it was something that was important to me but was outside my control. When I woke up, I felt much lighter spirited about it, as if the Gods had indeed listened to me and blew away whatever black cloud was around me.
So do I believe in this ‘Toh’ year? I think I am going to say this. If you don’t believe in it, don’t look down at it. My mum’s illness was unintentional. It had hit a very critical stage last year. However, the good that came out of it was that she retired, we have all let go of our properties and evaluated much more about what life was really about. Most of all, it made all of us change and we practised Buddhism much more strongly. The most important thing is what you do and how you are going to use your wisdom in the situation. If you are going to do these things from the outside, do it. On the other hand, you need to keep positive in the mindset of not believing in it too, which is what I am going to explain in ‘Believe, but not believe in bad luck.’ lifestyle article.