|Posted by David Pugh on March 28, 2012 at 10:50 PM|
There is definitely a collective mentality in most Far Eastern races. They have a cherry picking attitude to Buddhism, taking what they want and blotting out the bits that don’t suit their lifestyles. Even the five precepts of Buddhism are mostly ignored; the people here in Cambodia along with the Tibetans are all meat eaters. The Tibetans say that meat eating is part of their nomadic culture, true of course and the ones I know in India don’t own any land to cultivate. The South Eas tAsians all drink, gamble and have as many extra marital relationships as they can afford. I’m not knocking anybody for this, we do what we need to get us through the night. We became very good friends with Joy One, our night manager in Pattaya, Thailand. She describes herself as a semi-retired prostitute (well Bar Girl, they don’t like the P word). Nonetheless, a fine human being, as she doesn’t have one hypocritical bone in her body, she is who she is and is happy to be where she is at the age of thirty-seven. Most short time hotels have a shrine outside, usually to Ganesh and I’ve watched the girls bow and say a prayer before going in with a customer. One thing has changed dramatically since I was last in Sin City, 27 years ago. Then it was just a town and most of the clients were businessmen and sailors. Now there has been a phenomenal industry development, the so-called sex tourist growth and we’re talking about many British men, above and below my own age group, who have become Pattaya addicts. I know one man in Aberdare, around seventy who spends several months there, every year and why not, it makes him feel thirty years younger. The girls even think they are doing the Buddha’s work, in helping their fellow beings have a happier life. They also earn ten times more than they would on the farm and can retire into an ordinary marriage, when they’ve made enough money. Their boyfriends are fully supportive of them and pick them up when their shift ends, with not theslightest touch of jealousy, very Buddhist. There are thousands of motorcycle taxi drivers who are totally dependent on ferrying the girls and clients from the beach and the bars to the hotels; three on a bike allowed here. It’s refreshing to know that no prejudice seems to exist in Pattaya at all, the town exists for one purpose, I really like the honesty of this attitude and I didn’t expect I should approve so much. The city is nothing like Hamburg or Amsterdam, the girls choose who they go with, most are freelance and those who are paid by the bars are well looked after, there is no pimping involved, these women are empowered and you can only put it down to their personal interpretation of Buddhism.
Enlightenment doesn’t seem to be an issue here in S.E. Asia and being reincarnated doesn’t seem to worry them, they just want the most out of life that they can get now. The Tibetans are very different, they live for the next life, much like fundamentalist Christians. The Tibetan people go out of their way to collect karma points and it does make them a lovely, if naive people, whom I have a lot of respect for. I recently met a young Chinese woman, who had no time for religion or spirituality and only lived for the moment. She freely admitted that she would stab anyone in the back if it meant it improved her personal situation, her government must be proud of her and wish they had more citizens like that. You can see why so many Chinese want to escape their country, along with their Tibetan cousins. Money making has always been important to the Chinese and now it has become the approved replacement for Buddhism and the spiritual life.
I’ve inevitably felt a bit of a voyeur,here in Cambodia, no one who lived through the seventies could have been unaware of the Polpot horrors. I visited the Killing Caves in Battambang and was glad that the shrine of skulls was there, as a reminder of the horrors. Now the place where thousands died is providing jobs for thousands of others, Khmer Rouge tourism is helping this country rebuild itself. Buddhism seems far less important here, the horror probably enforced the idea of living for the now, as tomorrow may never come and who would want to be reborn into a world of horror.
It’s worth pondering on the fact that the hedonistic Thais are happy living with Buddhism and very much want it as part of their lives. I think the Cambodians believe that religion let them down and there are still many here who believethat Polpot was a good man, corrupted by power. How many times have I heard that sentiment in Africa. I’ll be visiting Laos in a few weeks and it will be very interesting to see what is going on there, I know nothing about the country.