I had met Nok (not her real name) at a party hosted by a Thai friend. I don’t remember how we came to chatting but it turned out that she was a graphic artist and somehow the conversation took off from there.
Over the next week or so we tried to arrange a time we could meet up and hang out but our schedules just didn’t seem to cooperate. Finally, a day or two before I departed we met at the sky train station near Paragon.
It was early evening and so we went and got a coffee at Starbucks and continued the getting to know you process we had begun at the party. She was a very intelligent girl but she suffered from the disease called low self-esteem. She was new to Bangkok, had very few friends here, and was from Isaan (gasp).
I could tell she didn’t feel comfortable hanging out in this shrine to the hi-so lifestyle so we finished our coffees and began meandering around Bangkok. We passed the outdoor temple near Central World and she asked if I would mind if she went inside.
We entered and I gave her some money to buy two packages of incense. She showed me how to pray/meditate at each station and then to place three incense sticks beneath the Buddha statue.
As we were leaving me she took notice of the crucifix on my necklace and asked if I was Christian. I told her that I was and she stopped, looked up at me like a small child, and asked “But I had Christian friends at university and they said that they could never pray in a Buddhist temple because they would go to hell.”
I laughed, which I know didn’t help the situation any as she would likely feel I was laughing at her but I had no other way to respond. I told her that Christ would have respected Buddha. I explained that they both taught many of the same things.
I then tried to articulate the difference between showing respect to Buddha and worshiping him. I can pay homage to Buddha without worshiping because I’m confident enough in my own spirituality that I don’t have to constantly threaten myself with going to hell to know that I’m basically a good person.
I think she understood. At least she told me she did.
When I returned home we chatted a few times on IM but things more or less fizzled out and we haven’t kept in contact much. I wonder how she’s doing.