Wednesday, January 18, 2012

“Contentious Sign” Photograph

Perhaps it is the language difference but this sign does seem starkly blunt in its message. 

In Buddhist temples in Thailand the most sacred parts are off-limits to women which is what this sign is trying to indicate. Arguably it does help male monks in their aesthetic ways but I am not here to defend the practice and it does cause offense to some visitors who have to swallow such a cultural difference that would be unacceptable in their own land.

It also touches on the controversy in Thailand about only men being allowed to ordain which in turn touches on the wider status of women in the country. The problem is that only female monks can ordain a woman and the line of Thai female monks disappeared many years ago but the exclusively male religious authorities do not recognise woman ordained in another country. The stubbornness with which they hide behind the letter of Thai Buddhism rather than the spirit may well end up damaging both the religion and the country.

When it comes to the upper echelons of Thai Buddhism “Women are not allowed” actually seems quite accurate.

Photograph taken at Wat Gate (temple), Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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