Making Good Luck for my Car

These past few months I have had some bad luck with my car. Last month someone backed into the car while I was shopping at Tesco Lotus. Before that, the two back windows kept dropping down. Then I hit the bottom of the car which also did some damage. Then, to cap it all, on the way back from Rayong, a stone hit the windscreen and cracked it. To have so much bad luck in such a short time makes me think that maybe I should pay more attention to the shrine inside the car.

When people buy cars in Thailand, it is almost compulsory to have it blessed by a brahmin priest or a monk. Some people also makes sure that they pick a lucky colour and also consult the stars to find the most auspicious time to bring the car to the house. On the ceiling of my car, just above where the driver sits, a monk has painted a number of dots in a pyramid shape. He also tied colour ribbons around the rearview mirror. For me, I thought that was the end of the story. Enough had been done to bring good luck. However, I should have done more.

If you have been in a taxi in Bangkok, you might have noticed a jasmine garland hanging from the mirror. You can buy these at most intersections for about 20 baht. You are supposed to hang these garlands as an offering to the shrine – for the guardian spirit who looks after your car. Before you hang the garland you should recite a short prayer asking for protection. Many people also wai the shrine in respect every day before they start up the car. They also wai any roadside shrines that they might pass. I remember the first time I saw a taxi driver do this. I was shocked as he was driving so fast and then he took his hands off the wheel to make a wai gesture!

It is hard for me to believe in this kind of thing. Even though I am interested in Buddhism, it should be made clear that this has nothing to do with Buddhism. What I don’t like about it is how much some people believe in the protection of their shrine in the car. Remember how I told you the other week how the taxi driver changed so much once he had bought a jasmine garland. Before he was a careful driver and then after he had made a short prayer he was tailgating everyone and changing lanes often. To me, he was putting too much faith into the power of the shrine.

Having said all of that, I don’t think it would hurt if I paid respect to the shrine once in a while. I suppose it is possible that the monk had invited a spirit to reside inside the car to protect it and its occupants. If the spirit thought that I had been ignoring it, then I suppose it is possible it could have got up to some mischief. So, the next time I stop at an intersection, I will buy a jasmine garland for my car. Though, I will have to think first what I should say in the short prayer.

8 responses to “Making Good Luck for my Car

  1. Hi Richard,

    I read this story with great amusement. It is not only a coincidence that in Malaysia, many Chinese also have a small shrine in the car. I have an image of the Buddha in the car, and since I really love Thai culture, I also have a artificial jasmine garland hanging.

    I always wonder, whether the Buddha, or any image, for that matter is suppose to face the road infront, or the driver?

    My rationale, is that the Buddha is suppose to help the driver to focus on the road, thus, facing the driver. What’s the Thai rationale?

  2. In the cars I have been in, the Buddha image is either lying on the dashboard and so therefore looking up – or standing upright and facing the driver.

  3. Thai passenger aircraft are similarly blessed by monks before first going into service -I have seen the pictures – though I am not sure whether a fresh garland is hung in the cock pit at the start of every national or international flight, but would not be surprised if this is the case.

  4. I don’t think we have those shrine and things in the car to keep focus, but for luck and protection.

    I don’t have a shrine in my car, but a laminated golden charm. My mom said it is for protection. It has lines of what I think is a prayer in Sanskrit and an image of a certain monk who blessed the thing.

    My “Buddha card” is wedge between the windshield and the dashboard on the driver’s side, where you’d find all of those parking permit stickers. Of course, Brandon has one in his car as well as a few of my friends either have bad luck with cars, or just bought a brand new one. Bless her heart, whenever mom heard me either talk about friends in car accidents or getting a new car, she’d send one over in the mail so my friends could all be save.

    So far, I survived a few ngarly crashes with only a bump on my head. (And my Toyota Corolla, Bangkok’s prime choice for taxi cabs, keeps taking the beating with no complaints.)

    And yes, Richard. Since your car is blessed and all, a short prayer when you get in the car is probably a good thing to do. :) My instruction to non-Buddhist friends with the Buddha cards is to take a moment to acknowledge that the car is being protected by higher powers, or asking for protection before embarking on a road trip. And away you go.

  5. In germany also cars, haouses or fottballstadiums will be blessed by a prayer (catholik of course). Whan we look at our own tradition and religion, there are many similar things to asia. Not in this pblic way like in thailand.

  6. In America it is illegal to hang something from the rear view mirror. My brother was warned once by a cop to take down his graduation tassle from his rear view mirrow once, but now i can argue that it’s a religious thing for i have an artifical garland on my rear view mirrow as well.

  7. I asked mij Thai friend and she said that budha allways must look to the driver

  8. Am Thai ….I told you.
    That For Good luck and protection.