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.