The Boxing Day Tsunami catastrophe has been the worst natural disaster in the last century. It has left a death toll of almost 300,000. Thailand is one of the countries to have suffered serious damage at its hands. Those losing their lives and suffering damage as a result of this tidal wave, in Thailand alone, total tens of thousands – one of the worst natural calamities since the beginning of our countryûs history.
However, amidst this trauma, Thailand has stood out in the world community, through the compassion of its people. A tide of generosity has swelled from throughout Thailand to give continual help to the victims of the disaster. Even those narrowly avoiding death have been rendering assistance to those less lucky than themselves – putting aside their own personal comfort to help their fellow man, without consideration of race, nationality, religion or creed. The tens of thousands of overseas tourists caught in the disaster were amazed at the selfless generosity they received at the hands of their Thai hosts as witnessed in the press coverage given to the recovery work, bringing tears to the eyes of viewers all around the world.
After tackling the short-term problems left in the wake of the tsunami, the Thai people, together with organizations in the public and private sectors, got together on 5 January 2005 to organize a memorial ceremony in Phuket and for a second time on 19 January at Takuapa in Phang nga. These ceremonies were dedicated to the memories of those losing their lives in the disaster, while at the same time reviving the morale of the survivors and restoring the Thai national image.
The memorial ceremonies were an uplifting and sacred spectacle for the tens of thousands of Thai and overseas participants. Diplomatic envoys attended from sixteen countries and pressmen from thirty news agencies broadcast the event far and wide.
This book records for posterity the images and background of these two memorial events – together with the media coverage of the event put out around the world. The book comes complete with coverage of the presentation of honorary plaques and certificates by the organizing committee, in recognition of Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Luang Phaw Dhammajayo), the president of the Dhammakaya Foundation, who inspired both events – seeing them through to success.
The tragic events in the wake of the tsunami only go to show that ùnothing is greater than sharing with oneûs fellow manû. Indeed, the will to share by benefactors in Thailand and throughout the world have created a tide of change that has restored morale to the victims, who are back on their feet again, in spite of devastation unprecedented in living memory.
May the great power of sharing recorded in these pages bring comfort and happiness to all who have the chance to read them, that compassion continue to abide in our hearts for as long as there are still humans left to live.
The Organizing Committee
It was 7.58 a.m. on Sunday, 26 December 2004 when an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale occurred near the northwest coast of Sumatra, its epicentre ten kilometres beneath the surface of the ocean, 250 kilometres from Banda Aceh city and 1,260 kilometres from Bangkok. This tragedy was the fifth biggest earthquake in the world since 1900 – the biggest having happened in Alaska in 1964. The resulting devastation was widespread throughout Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand causing a huge death toll and innumerable injuries amongst the people of people in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand. The tidal wave which broke over the southern tourist havens of Thailand in Phuket, Phang nga, Krabi, Ranong, Satun and Trang was six metres high.
What is a Tsunami? And How could it happen?
’Tsunami’ is a term in Japanese meaning harbour (’tsu’) and wave (’nami’). Tsunami are caused by severe ’up-down’ water turbulence in the depths of the ocean. Such turbulence can be caused by earthquakes, explosives, underwater landslides or the impact of a meteor — in general the cause of Tsunami is earthquakes. Our planet doesnût have a solid crust but is made up of various tectonic plates – each one 70-250 kilometres thick. The cause of much seismic activity is the energy released when one tectonic plate moves past another. If the weak point of the tectonic plate during a movement is beneath the ocean, it will cause sudden Tsunami.
The Tsunami can be very destructive especially when it breaks along the coast. When it reaches the coast, the momentum of the Tsunami may cause it to be 10 to 30 metres higher than regular waves – as high as an eight-storey building – with more than 100 kilometres wave length (while regular waves are only 100 to 150 metres long). In historical records tsunami have been described in Hawaii, which were 350 metres in height and moved at a speed of 400 kilometres per hour, breaking along 10 miles of coast. Usually, the speed of the Tsunami is proportional to the depth of the ocean. The highest speed can reach 700 to 1,000 kilometres per hour.
The aftermath of the Tsunami Tidal Wave Disaster in Thailand
Tsunami spreading from the epicentre in Sumatra broke along the western coast of Thailand, affecting the six southern provinces of Phuket, Phang nga, Krabi, Ranong, Satun and Trang along the Andaman coast causing extreme destruction. The worst damage to life and property was in Phang nga with Phuket coming a close second. Particularly serious was the damage done in Baan Khao Luk, Takuapa district, Phang nga province where many overseas tourists and Thai people lost their lives.
The death toll in Thailand was 3,807, with 4,210 injured. The official death toll as of 1 April 2005 was more than 4,224. Phuket province suffered particularly at its tourist resorts such as the beaches of Patong, Kata, Karon and Ravai with damage to countless hotels and resorts. The damage wrought is estimated at 1,800 million Thai Baht (not including the damage to other famous sightseeing provinces such as the Phi-Phi Islands, Lanta Island, the Similan and Surin Islands, which all sustained grave damage.
Spirit of grassroots support from the Kalyanamitra movement
News of the Tsunami disaster shocked the world. Urgent assistance came from various international agencies as well as overwhelming encouragement and support from people all over Thailand.
In this regard, the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Luang Por Dhammajayo), the President of the Dhammakaya Foundation, took a major role in inviting supporters of the Dhammakaya Foundation, both in Thailand and overseas, to give swift help and support to the Tsunami victims.
Supporters from the Phuket Kalyanamitra Centre donated equipment, food and drinking water to the Phuket Municipal Headquarters the very next day after the disaster. Dhammakaya Foundation distributed more than 20,000 sets of clothes, which monks and novices worked all day and all night to package and despatch to the victims.
The President of the Dhammakaya Foundation: the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Luang Por Dhammajayo), assigned sixty monks and a hundred staff members to join senators in going to damaged areas so as to give support and encouragement to all the victims including the Buddhist temples in the disaster zone.
The main problems to be solved
The first finding of the monks and staff posted to the damaged areas was that no matter what economic damage had been sustained by the region, it could not be compared to the psychological scars and trauma left behind in the survivorsû minds. Many of the survivors suddenly found themselves in a living nightmare. The passing of time could not remove the traumatic memories from their minds. In the midst of their suffering, although they had received lots of material help, these things remained meaningless to them for as long as they were in trauma.
Some cried until they could hardly close their sore eyes to sleep. They cried until there were no tears left to cry. They had no remaining appetite for life. All the survivors cared about were the dead bodies of loved ones who they could do nothing more to help or who had to wait as the process of identifying the departed went on.
From the experiences of helping out the victims in the damaged area, the supporters realized that the most urgent problem to be solved was to renew the spirits and boost the morale of the survivors so that they could continue to overcome the hardship in their lives. In the meanwhile the rescue teams endeavoured to give the people all the material support they needed.
Bringing hearts back together
Just to know the problems was not enough. Rescue staff had to try to give support to alleviate the survivors suffering. So extreme were the damage to houses and the lamentation of the survivors in many places, that it was hard for the rescue teams not to feel the sorrow, for the people they were trying to help too. The scale of the devastation and the despair of the people was so great that rescue team soon realized that their small effort was not going to be enough to return hope to people’s life. They considered the best way to restore hope would be to hold an event together.
A short time later, with the coordination of Ms. Ladawan Wongsriwong (the former Minister of labour and social welfare), Mr. Viset Choophibarn, the President of the Phuket Association, delivered a message dated 2 January 2005 to the President of the Dhammakaya Foundation asking the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh for assistance in performing a memorial service in memory of victims who lost their lives in the ”Tsunami Tidal Wave Disaster”. It was a plan to assemble as many people as possible from all the affected communities to perform a memorial service to dedicate merit to the deceased and to rebuild morale of the families of the victims with the Senate and many organizations from the private sector who helped to make the ceremony a success.
Preparation for the ceremony
The President of the Dhammakaya Foundation, the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh, assigned more than four-hundred staff, with all the equipment needed to be used in the ceremony and for site preparation, to co-ordinate quickly with the public and private sectors in Phuket to perform a ’Memorial Service’ on Wednesday 5 January 2005 at Saphanhin Sport Stadium, Phuket Province. On occasion of this memorial service, more than 1,500 Buddhist monks from fourteen southern provinces in Thailand were invited to join in combined Buddhist, Islamic and Christian Memorial Services, to illuminate more than 10,000 candle lanterns and launch the flying lanterns in memory of the deceased.
As only three days were left for preparation, planning meetings had to be conducted with efficiency. Preparation of the sports stadium was done through the devotion of Maj. Lt. Klanarong Paireepairittidej who posted thirty-five soldiers to lay out the candle lanterns and prepare the location for the ceremony.
Moreover, there were a hundred junior monks and over three hundred staff from Wat Phra Dhammakaya who helped to prepare the grounds and a grandstand reserved for more than 1,500 monks. It was a strange sight for local people, passers-by and joggers at the Saphanhin sport stadium to see a large numbers of monks working urgently, carrying sacks and chairs and using rope to mark out the candle lantern positions under the shadeless heat of the midday sun. Some were so inspired by the sight that they couldn’t resist offering the monks refreshments.
For publicizing the event, special thanks are owed to Ms. Ladawan Wongsriwong who worked hard to invite the attendance of government dignitaries and did the publicity that allowed the work to go smoothly. Thanks are also extended to leaders of all inter-religious communities, the public and private sectors of Phuket Municipality in particular for the provision of public announcements by publicity vehicles and radio announcements throughout Phuket province every day on the run-up to the event. Also important was the help of the Kalyanamitra Centres who distributed brochures and posters to all companies and stores.
Incredibly the preparations were completed on time and the Vice-President of the Dhammakaya Foundation, the Most Ven. Phrabhavanaviriyakhun (Luang Por Dattajeevo), went himself to inspect the preparations prior to the event.
The awaited day . . .
Wednesday, 5 January 2005 was the day which had been set for the memorial ceremony. Volunteers woke early in the morning to complete the preparations. Many of them couldnût sleep that night out of concern about unfinished jobs. In the morning the detail of preparation of the grounds had to be finished. P.A. vehicles plied the streets of Phuket to promote the event until the last moment. In readiness for a large attendance, the sport stadium’s car parking, traffic routing, toilets and seating needed to be prepared well in advance.
By the evening, the volunteers had exchanged their overalls for neat white suits suitable for a memorial ceremony. Bus cavalcades of more than one thousand five-hundred monks arrived at the ceremony area. Monks had volunteered to come not only from the fourteen provinces of the south of Thailand but from regions throughout Thailand – even without an official invitation. They had come merely with the compassionate intention to restore hope to the families of the victims – something which brought delight to the eyes of all the southerners beholding them.
The Most Venerable Phra Dhammakittivong, a scholar of the Royal Academy and the Abbot of Wat Raja-Orasaram, Bangkok, agreed to lead the Buddhist monastic community for the memorial service. The president of the lay congregation was H.E. Suchon Chaleekreua: Chairman of the Thai Senate. President of the memorial ceremony itself was H.E. Phokin Polkul, the Minister of the Interior as well as all distinguished guests such as the senators and members of parliament, the Ministry of the Interior, Assistant Major General of the Thai Army, the provincial governor of Phuket, senior members of the civil service and leaders of many private organizations. All these are groups of Thai people who share concern for the families of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
Overview of the Major Events
At about 5.00 p.m., large numbers of people from Phuket dressed in white assembled within the sportsground. The number of people was so great that some had to sit outside the stadium. All the lawns around the stadium were also filled with people indicating how important it was for all of them.
Opening Report by the Deputy Governor of Phuket District, Mr. Vinai Buapradit with the lighting of candles and incense in homage to the Triple Gem
Opening Speech by H.E. Suchon Chaleekreua (Chairman of the Thai Senate) president of the opening ceremony
Islamic Memorial Service
Christian Memorial Service
Buddhist Memorial Service
– Request for the Five Precepts
– Buddhist Chanting by 1,500 monks in memory of the deceased
– Robe offering to monks led by H.E. Suchon Chaleekreua
– Sermon and spreading of loving kindness by the Most Venerable Phra Dhammakittivong
– Blessing given by 1,500 monks and the pouring of water to dedicate merit to the deceased
Remembrance and Candle-lantern Illumination Ceremony
– Mr. Viset Choophibarn, the President of the Phuket Association, presents report
– Remembrance and lighting of main beacon by H.E. Phokin Polkul (the representative of the Prime Minister), the Minister of the Interior
– Diplomats, dignitaries and other participants illuminate more than 10,000 Lanterns
– The launch of flying lanterns
End of eveningûs ceremony
An Impressive Spectacle
The soft and tender melody and strong vocals of the song çNo Use Cryingé resounded over the sports stadium in Phuket as a ùtear-jerkerû for the sorrow pent up in the hearts of those who had lost loved ones. All eyes were fixed upon the golden radiance of over 10,000 illuminating lanterns simultaneously floating up into the sky and across the ceremony grounds. The beautiful illumination seemed to bring new brightness to the lives of the survivors formerly left with only a glimmer of hope.
The message of the song above indicates the truth of life and world, which encourages us to reflect and prepare ourselves for the uncertainty which might come to us at any moment — warning us not to be reckless in our lives – instead, accruing only good deeds. As the brightness of the lantern-light gradually ascended into the sky it looked more like a constellation of tiny stars flying towards heaven – similar to the spirits of deceased victims making their way surely towards a better life.
The lyrics of the song “Sharing is Great”, impressed the international audience assembled there, and helped to drive home to them, the importance of sharing what we have with our fellow citizens of the world.
Illumination of flying lanterns in homage to the Lord Buddha
The tender golden light of flying lanterns in the sky above the sport stadium that night outshone the stars in the sky. Meanwhile across the sportsground, 10,000 candle-lanterns were to be seen, each in the shape of a Royal Lotus representing the wisdom of enlightenment of the Lord Buddha.
This was a historical spectacle for this land of the “Andaman Pearl”.
Spectators were completely absorbed by the holy atmosphere of the ceremony. Some compared the sight to the serenity of the “Light of Peace” which unites all human beings irrespective of race, language, religion or creed.
The Lord Buddha discovered the truth that death is not the end of the story. An afterlife is to be expected. The afterlife destination depends on the merits one has accumulated for oneself during one’s human existence. Merit is a sort of pure energy which arises and can be stored up in the mind. Merit can be dedicated to the departed just as water can flow from the mountains to the sea. Those still alive who make merit are able to dedicate that merit to benefit those who were killed in the tragedy, even though they may be in a different realm of existence.
This tragedy has caused many people to pause and think about life. Many of the overseas visitors enquired about the Buddhist view of death and the afterlife – about what is meant by merit and demerit. The answers they received sparked off a profound interest in Buddhist study, especially in meditation and the dedication of merit. It is a positive sign that all mankind is turning to show an interest in the truths of life. The evening’s spectacle gave them the confidence that the light of candles dedicated to the sacred things of each religion could in some way help lead the spirits of the departed towards heaven.
After working groups of Dhammakaya Foundation monks and staff led by the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh together with the Phuket Association, the Thai Senate and many organizations in the public and private sectors had performed the memorial service in memory of the victims in Tsunami Tragedy at Phuket Sports Stadium, creating a positive impression for all who witnessed it, the Mayor of Takuapa District, Mr. Visuth Navalong delivered a letter to the President of the Dhammakaya Foundation, the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh to request that a similar memorial service should be organized in Takuapa District in Phang nga Province – which was one of the areas most seriously afflicted by the Tsunami Tragedy.
In the tragedy more than 6,000 of those who lost their lives had been from overseas and families of the missing and the victims were still undergoing severe trauma in the aftermath of the catastrophe.
The Most Ven. Phrarajbhavanavisudh therefore assigned four-hundred staff from all of his departments to the damaged area in order to co-ordinate with the private and public sectors involved to perform a second memorial service in Phang nga to inspire morale to Thai people and the foreigners as soon as possible. As the majority of the damage occurred in this province, the death toll for foreign tourists was also the highest. The aim of the second memorial service was to dedicate as much merit as possible to all the departed
The Most Ven. Phrarajbhavanavisudh furthermore suggested organizing the ceremony to the highest standard by inviting 2,000 monks from all over Thailand to join the ceremony, increasing the number of candle lanterns to 20,000 and multiplying the number of flying lanterns to ten times that of the previous event. He guided the composition of the song named “I will be a light shining for you” both in Thai and English. And he emphasized smoothing out all the jagged edges of the ceremony’s preparation to the full.
The ceremony was organized on 19 January 2005 from 5.00 – 7.00 p.m. and included :
– Buddhist Chanting in memory of the deceased by 2,000 monks from all over Thailand
– Robe offering to the monks
– Alms offering to the monks
– Illumination of candle lanterns and the launching of 20,000 flying lanterns
This ceremony was to be organized at the Takuapa sport stadium in Phang nga province with the involvement of Christian, Moslem, Sikh and Jewish groups.
The Preparation for the Ceremony
Two weeks before scheduled day, the organizing team from the Dhammakaya Foundation started work on the ceremonyûs venue with the enthusiastic help of the Takuapa Municipal Council, working quickly and efficiently under the supervision of the mayor, Mr. Visuth Navalong and all his deputies. Seeing the capability of the Takuapa team, it was no surprise that the rebuilding work after the catastrophe in the province had gone so smoothly – to the degree that they had received the praise of international organizations. Furthermore, the team worked hard to create publicity concerning this project initiated for the benefit of all the local people in Takuapa District. These initial visits made the organizers realize the problems and losses the local people were dealing with. It could be said that there was hardly a single household who had not lost someone. Many of their relatives had been lost without trace. The most impressive thing was that no matter how sad they were, they always had a warm welcome for visitors. The local people’s fighting spirit was as admirable as the natural surroundings of their province.
The damaged houses and surroundings so obvious to passers-by were another story. Many could hardly believe their eyes as to the severity of the situation. Local people seemed entranced by a deep feeling of depression and were still grief-stricken.
All that could be seen along the coast were damaged houses. Even the strongest concrete buildings had been no match for the horrendous power of the Tsunami breaking along the length of the coast. Huge walls had been bulldozed by the wave while metal doors had been bent double as if punched by a giant. Even a battleship had been thrown up on the shore – what chance would there have been for unprotected bodies in the face of such a tidal wave?
Images of the Past
The former tourist paradise was only an image of the past. Two or three years ago the Khao Luk area in Phang nga province was one of the most famous attractions for tourists because of its fresh air, nature and serenity – like a sanctuary far away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, attracting the tourists away from the ‘maddening crowd’ of Phuket and Krabi Islands.
Tourists here had been on the increase – accounting for the large toll of casualties in the Tsunami disaster. Because of great numbers of international tourists here when the tidal wave broke, local people here were particularly devastated both emotionally and economically by the tragedy.
This second memorial service sought to unite all local Thai and international visitors to express their mourning and to truly inspire morale to all the victims of the tragedy.
The Psychological Impact
The response to publicity in the area was good. The plan for the memorial ceremony was welcomed by the local people. The 10,000-strong community of Bangnaisee sub-district all pledged to attend the ceremony as soon as they received the news. Unbelievably, fervour for attending the memorial service caused white clothing to be sold out temporarily from the local markets. Many locals couldnût find white clothing to wear – having to rely on donated white clothes to wear for the ceremony, which expressed their sincere respect to the departed. It was pertinent to notice that although many donations of material aid had been received by these people – it could only serve to relieve their physical suffering but could do little to remedy the turmoil in their minds. The people looked to this memorial service to bring the solace they needed for their minds and soothe the memories of the families they had lost.
Atmosphere leading up to the event
The ceremony was scheduled for 19 January 2005 at Takuapa Municipality. The sports ground was filled by a total of 10,000 transparent lotus-shaped candle lanterns that were arranged neatly to fill the area. At the front of the ceremony ground, a cenotaph was built displaying the pictures and names of the departed. In front of the central cenotaph a portrait of Khun Poom Jensen was displayed, the son of the H.R.H. Princess Ubol Rattana Rajakanya, who also perished in the catastrophe. The left- and right-hand cenotaphs were covered with the pictures and names of those of various nationalities who lost their lives. These were surrounded by lanterns laid-out in a heart-shape and beautified with various flowers.
The epitaph at the front of the cenotaph was printed the wording ‘For You.. Beloved Ones. May you be happier in the next world.’
Below was a golden gilded bowl where slips of paper where additional names could be put. Some families brought treasured pictures of departed relatives to add to the pictures around the cenotaph. Others put pictures of lost sons or daughters on the seats beside them.
The stadium’s grandstand was adapted as seating for 2,000 monks. A portrait of H.M. the King of Thailand at the time of his ordination was mounted at the centre of the grandstand. The portrait of His Majesty the King would serve as a symbol of unity for all the members of the Thai community attending.
The Main Ceremony
On the afternoon of the day scheduled for the ceremony a 2,000-strong congregation of monks from all regions in Thailand, unanimously participated in the ceremony, taking their places on the grandstand and preparing themselves for the main ceremony in serenity – in keeping with the proverb “The sons of the Lord Buddha must be one, just as there is only one sun in the sky.” In the meantime, the congregation arrived in the ceremony area from 03.00 – 05.00 p.m.. With the large size of the crowd the great sport stadium appeared small. Some had to sit on the lawns outside the stadium. Some of the people sat in the road or on the hillside. There were over 20,000 participants and press coverage was given by news agencies present via radio, television and the printed press. Because of the unexpectedly large turnout, handouts printed for the ceremony were insufficient.
Before the ceremony, Ms. Ladawan Wongsriwong (the former Minister of labour and social welfare), the committee chairman, gave a press conference concerning the memorial service and this was translated into English and Chinese. At the appointed time, the ceremonial President, H.E. Somsak Thepsuthin the Deputy Prime Minister, representing the Prime Minister, lit candles and incense in homage to the Triple Gem and requested the Five Precepts which were duly given by the Most Ven. Phra Dhammakittivong, the Abbot of Wat Raja- Orasaram who was the president of the monastic community. This was followed by an opening report by the Mayor of Takuapa Municipality, Mr. Visuth Navalong. An opening speech was then given by the ceremonial president.
At 05.30 p.m. the inter-religious memorial services began with 2,000 monks leading Buddhist Chanting in memory of the deceased. Robe and alms offering to monks were then led by the Deputy Chairman of the Thai Senate, H.E. Niphon Wisityuttasatr who then dedicated merit to the deceased and a blessing was given by the monastic community. Learning news of the memorial service, many people purposely brought robes from their homes to participate in the ceremony at this time.
It was a touching scene to see the families of the victims making a wish with the robes above their heads, dedicating merit to their loved ones, a glimmer of hope showing on their faces and in their eyes — expressing their strong faith in the Triple Gem as their Refuge and while making a wish that the merit reach their loved ones in their afterlife.
In this memorial service, there were representatives from many different religions who participated in the memorial service according to their own belief including Catholic and Protestant Christian groups, Sikhism represented by G. Singh Sethi, the President of Siri Guru Singh Sabha Phuket Association, Islam represented by Mohammad Adam, director of the Islam Development School and Judaism – demonstrating the principle of “Seeking similarities and healing differences.”
At the end of the ceremony, there was a repetition of the verses of resolution and candle lanterns were illuminated to dedicate merit for the deceased in a ceremony led by, H.E. Somsak Thepsuthin, the Deputy Prime Minister. After the verses of resolution, he lit the main beacon and all the people in the area followed his example to illuminate candle lanterns throughout the stadium and launch 20,000 flying lanterns brightening the darkness in the sky. It was a ceremonial highlight on a scale that many had never witnessed before.
The Illumination of Life
The scene of illuminated flying lanterns looking like light which gradually ascended into the sky to the sound of the moving song “I will be a light shining for you” brought tears of joy to the eyes of many who attended, transforming the mourning for their loved ones into merit.
Thousands of eyes gazed up at the golden light of flying lanterns floating up into the sky as if the ocean of lanterns illuminating the sky were the brightness of faith in the Triple Gem dedicating merit to all the spirits of the lives that had been lost. The songûs smooth and gentle melody created the subtle feeling of warmth and confidence together with the message of the song that “I will be with you forever.”
There were a great number of international guests joining in this memorial service, including groups of officers from the rescue teams, families of the departed as well as diplomats from sixteen countries. One of them expressed his feeling of thanks, expressing his gratitude for the kind hospitality Thailand had given to all the overseas guests attending. This memorial service expressed the best of Thailand that is the great spirit of sharing which might be hard to find in another country.
Many of the pressmen could not keep to themselves the question of who was behind the organization of such a touching ceremony. Learning that its inspiration came from the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh, the president of the Dhammakaya Foundation, they exclaimed, “We never thought that a Thai monk would be capable of such an brilliant creative idea as this.”
An atmosphere of friendship
Once the ceremony was over, the reception committee lined up to rejoice in the merit of the participants on either side of the sports-ground exits. Many of the participants came to shake the hands of the organizers with tears in their eyes – thanking them for having organized the ceremony. Seeing the tears of gratitude in the eyes of the participants all the fatigue from organizing the ceremony seemed to disappear temporarily. Suddenly all the devotion of all the organizers in doing this great meritorious deed for the benefit of the victims and the survivors seemed worthwhile.
Even though many difficulties had to be overcome in organizing the ceremony, the accommodation had been far from convenient (most volunteers camped out in schools, temples and the sports-ground itself, sleeping and eating in the open) however those devoted to the pursuit of perfection were not perturbed by the obstacles. Everyone did the work delegated to them to the utmost of their ability, whether it be coordination, preparation of the grounds or spreading the word about the event to communities far and wide. Even though some of the communities to be reached were in remote areas, every step taken to bring news to those people was as if treading on lotus petals! With a smiling face and a pure heart under the searing sun of the midday or fearless in the darkness of the night volunteers had to travel to many unfamiliar places to fulfil their duties. The challenge was something which united the volunteers like-minded in their selflessness, adding another page to their proud personal histories.
Truly international concern
Both of the Tsunami memorial ceremonies organized had a high profile in the eyes of the international press. More than thirty international press-agencies representing newspapers, radio, TV and websites gave full coverage to the lighting of candle lanterns at both events with AP, Reuters, the BBC, Asahi Shimbun, NHK, Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), APTV (Italy), TUNZ (New Zealand), NSQ (Netherlands), ARD and N24 (Germany), Fairfax (Australia), Radia (USSR) and more.
It was as if this ceremony had been awaited by the press of the world. From the coverage they gave the event, there was unanimously a good impression of the compassion of the Thai people towards the international community, transforming the fear and despair of the overseas victims into hope. Although experiencing the tragedy at first hand in Thailand this time, because of their positive impression many overseas visitors still expressed the wish to visit Thailand again in the future.
Family united by meritorious concern
On this occasion we rejoice in the merit of all who had a hand in helping with the organization of these memorial ceremonies.
We emphasize particularly on the compassion of the Most Ven. Phrarajbhavanavisudh whose determination has helped to rebuild hope for the southerners of Thailand and indirectly, the dignity of Thais throughout the country – to encourage them to start life afresh in the cultivation of good deeds.
All of this goes to show that the might of the Tsunami breaking against the coast of Thailand still cannot exceed the strength of the compassion of the Thai people in rebuilding life after this disaster, sending out waves of love and unity which are steadfast and will never fade away until all the sorrow can be erased from human memory leaving only joy and unity in its place, like a sky that clears after the storm has passed.
Although times may change, however the Buddhist truth of impermanence is never superseded.
Thus, wherever we may be born, the coming together of hearts on this occasion, should help us all to reflect on the perils of continued rebirth in the cycle of existence, to lead our lives without recklessness, because our time as a human being is the greatest opportunity to do good deeds rather than succumbing to the influence of the defilements – and helping us to recognize that death is indeed a part of life – and that we need to learn about the nature of life and death and ask ourselves whether if today were the last day of our lives, whether the goodness we have accumulated for ourselves is enough yet to let us face death with confidence of a good afterlife destination.
If we realize for ourselves that our goodness is not yet sufficient, then from this day on we should hasten to be generous, keep the Precepts and practise meditation to prove for ourselves that the peace we are looking for is right here within us – and that we can find it by stilling our minds at the centre of our own body – and with such a peaceful mind we will touch on the direct experience of merit and the perfections that are for the universal good of all.
Representatives of Sangha Community’s impressions of the ceremony
The Most Ven. Phra Dhammakittivong, the abbot of Wat Raja-Orasaram
“Everyone here is able to sense atmosphere here of bliss and happiness. I believe that the departed relatives, attending the ceremony, will be impressed, heartened and much more happy, because Thais have come together to organize this great religious ceremony jointly for the departed.”
The Most Ven. Phrarajkittisophon, Marble Temple, Bangkok, Deputy Monastic Governor of Region 16
“This has been a very important ceremony. I feel very impressed that the organizers can take the principal of religion, especially Buddhism and other faiths, to motivate people to be considerate towards all mankind. I feel great impressed by this type of ceremony.”
The Most Ven. Phrarajpanyasuthee, Monastic Governor of Phang nga Province
“This ceremony has enabled us to bring people together irrespective of race or religion. All people here are kind-hearted. They have the same purpose which is to dedicate merit for the departed to be happy at their afterlife. This is the dearest wish of us all.”
The Most Ven. Phrasirikanaporn, Deputy Monastic Governor of Nakornsrithammarat Province
“With the spiritual energy of everyone here who has come to do meritorious deeds and to light candles and release flying lanterns, it is a spectacular sight as if each soul is floating up to heaven. I would like to rejoice in merits of everyone who has been a part of organizing this ceremony.”
Dignitaries’ impressions of the ceremony
H.E. Somsak Thepsuthin, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the ceremony
“Tonight’s event will be in our memory and make us to realize that even though there has been a severe disaster in Thailand, Thais and overseas visitors have joined together here out of compassion. It is a rare sight but it has become a reality here tonight. It brings us to love and peace for our nation and our kingdom.”
Ms. Ladawan Wongsriwong, Former Minister of labour and social welfare
“In this ceremony, we have been inspired with energy, happiness and blessings as will Tsunami victims from around the world. I would like to thank the President of the Dhammakaya Foundation, of Thailand, and Ruamjai Thai Tangchart Fellowship, together with the Phang nga people for organizing this beautiful, great and sacred ceremony.”
Mr. Anuwat Metheewiboonwuth, Phang nga Provincial Governor
“On behalf of the Phang nga people, I think that all of us miss the departed people so we have come together here to dedicate merits accrued today so that all souls may go to a good and fortunate afterlife destinations.”
Mr. Visuth Navalong, Mayor of Takuapa District
“On behalf of all Thais, we think that the ceremony is very well organized and feel so touched that every organization has worked hand in hand to organize this memorial service.”
Foreigners’ impressions of the ceremony
Mr. Eivind Homme, Norwegian Acting Consul General in Phuket Province
Tonight’s ceremony really touched our heart. It was a fantastic and beautiful ceremony. I would like to thank organizers that worked very hard to invite relatives of the departed to attend the memorial service. The religious rites mean a lot to the departed relatives as well as the other people attending tonight’s ceremony. On behalf of the departed victims, I would like to thank the organizers.”
Mr. Jose Luis del Barco, Chancellor to the Spanish Embassy
“I come here to partake in the memorial service held in Thailand for those who lost their lives. Many victims were Spanish. The memorial service was very well organized though the time to prepare the ceremony was very limited. The outcome of the ceremony was well accepted and achieved success. It is unbelievable that I would see such amazing and beautiful memorial service. People with different faiths from around the world were able to share their feelings together in the ceremony.”
Mr. Mike Jacobsen, Acting Chief of the U.S. Embassy Visa Unit
“I feel very impressed and touched by the ceremony. It was a very beautiful ceremony. We would like to thank the organizing committee and Thais for organizing the ceremony to remember the departed people. I feel confident that the energy from all of us tonight will certainly support the departed to be peace and happy in their afterlife.”
Mr. S. Ten Bosch, Attache of the Royal Netherlands Embassy
“I’m deeply impressed and would like to say that it was a great memorial service. There are over ten thousand people attending the ceremony. The procedures of the religious rites were carried on smoothly as well as the arrangements. Particularly lighting the candles and releasing flying lanterns were a very beautiful spectacle. I have never experienced this type of ceremony before. It just can’t keep back my tears. It is such an impressive time.”
Those behind the success
The success of both the memorial ceremonies has resulted from the cooperation of Thai people from all walks of life under the leadership of Mr. Viset Choophibarn (for the ceremony at the Saphanhin Sports Stadium of Phuket) and Mr. Visuth Navalong, the Mayor of Takuapa District (for the ceremony at Takuapa Sports Stadium in Phang nga).
After both ceremonies had been brought to their successful completion, as a token of gratitude from the people of the south of Thailand, the overseas victims and their families, the Phuket Association and the Takuapa District presented an honorific plaque and certificate to Phrarajbhavanavisudh, President of the Dhammakaya Foundation, who was the guiding force behind the organization of the two ceremonies. On Sunday 13 February 2005 at Sapha Dhammakaya Assembly Hall, Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Pathumthani Province, Ms. Ladawan Wongsriwong, the committee chairman of both ceremonies, gave a speech of gratitude before several tens-of-thousands of laymen and laywomen.
Message of Appreciation to the Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh By Khun Ladawan Wongsriwong
On 26 December 2004, Thailand faced the most severe natural disaster in her history being hit by a tsunami tidal wave along the coasts of Andaman Sea where six southern provinces are located. People were not warned in advance of the possibility of the tidal wave meaning over 5,000 Thai and international tourists lost their lives in the natural disaster. Survivors remain confused by their sudden loss and did not know how to carry on with their lives.
Amidst darkness there is always a path of light. The overwhelming response of benefactors from our own country and abroad brought support and comfort to the victims. As the first stage of the problems had been gradually resolved, the follow up required restoration of morale to the survivors.
Having seen the aforementioned need, nonprofit organizations, state enterprises and the private sectors jointly organized two memorial services for the victims of the Tsunami Tidal Wave – in Phuket Province on 5 January 2005 and at Takuapa District, Phang nga Province on Wednesday 19 January 2005. On this occasion, religious rites were held jointly by Buddhists, Christians, Moslems, Sikhs and Jews.
Both memorial services were well organized and extremely successful. Several ten of thousands of Thais and Westerners, sixteen countries’ diplomats, and many hundreds of international volunteers congregated for the ceremony. Furthermore, 2,000 Buddhist monks led the Buddhist Memorial Service by chanting and illuminating over ten thousand lanterns in each event. The ceremonies were sacred, beautiful and orderly and not only released people’s sorrow but brought their minds back to refuge in the Triple Gem. The Thai Press and over thirty overseas press agencies broadcast the news throughout the world. The atmosphere of the Takuapa event made it to many newspaper front pages which was said to be the most attractive news picture in the world over the past twentyfour hours. It more than restored Thailand’s image and re-iterated to the world the compassionate heart of all Thais. In the meantime, it also informed the people in the world that Thailand had brought the situation under control and had returned to business as usual, ensuring tourists were not afraid to re-visit Thailand and that the economic situation in the disaster area could be revived. Thailand has benefited greatly from both memorial events.
Great success was derived from the cooperation of many non-profit organizations, the private and public sectors, media and the Thai grassroots with an outstanding contribution by the
Most Ven. Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Luang Por Dhammajayo), the President of Dhammakaya Foundation, who strongly supported both ceremonies and invited monks to partake in the ceremonies, giving publicity, preparing the ceremony location, organizing the ceremonies, supporting ceremony expenses, and providing four-hundred experienced professional staff to organize the religious rites.
On behalf of both ceremony committees and relatives of disaster victims, I would like to convey our sincere and highest gratitude to the Most Ven. Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Luang Por Dhammajayo), the President of Dhammakaya Foundation for extending outstanding support for the organization of the ceremonies.
On this occasion, the Ceremonial Committees would like to offer an honorific plaque to Phrarajbhavanavisudh in gratitude and reciprocation of his support.
President of the Coordination Committees
Speech of Gratitude to the President of Dhammakaya Foundation, Phrarajbhavanavisudh on 23 February 2005
Most Venerable Phrarajbhavanavisudh, Venerable Sirs, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour for me to be a part of this sacred ceremony organized at the Maha Dhammakaya Cetiya in the midst of more than 100,000 monks and laypeople.
On Sunday 26 December 2004, Thailand was assailed by the biggest natural disaster in the nation’s history, namely the Tsunami Tidal Wave which broke along the Andaman coast causing a catastrophic loss of life and property.
News coverage inspired many Thai people to show their sympathy by giving monetary donations and assistance to the victims, in witness of the Thai spirit of sharing and showing that Thai people never abandon one another in times of trouble.
On the part of the Thai Senate, task forces were immediately set up to help assist those missing in this disaster. As Chairman of the Senate, I myself worked in cooperation with the Dhammakaya Foundation in bringing supplies and medication to victims in the affected areas. After the shortterm problems had been addressed, rebuilding was the next important step to help relieve people’s trauma – and this included giving them encouragement to carry on their lives in happiness.
To restore morale to the survivors, the Senate, the Dhammakaya Foundation and many organizations in the public and private sectors helped organize two memorial services in honour of those who lost their lives — one in Phuket province on 5 January 2005 and a second in Phang nga province at Takuapa district on 19 January 2005. The latter ceremony was organized to dedicate merit to the departed and involved more than 10,000 people, 2,000 monks and diplomats from sixteen countries. The atmosphere of the ceremony reflected the unity between Thais and overseas participants irrespective of race, religion, creed or nationality. All were touched by the ceremony and praised how well the ceremony had been organized, how dedication of merit for the dead had been encouraged, together with the compassion and love expressed through sharing. These ceremonies were a major force in restoring the morale of the survivors. The Press and over thirty news agencies broadcast the spectacle to the world helping to restore world confidence in the Thai nation.
The success of this ceremony came about through the close cooperation of many organizations in the Thai public and private sectors.
Much of the credit for these ceremonies must go to Phrarajbhavanavisudh, who dispatched many hundreds of his specialists and staff to organize the ceremony – whether it be organizing the venue, preparation, promotion and invitation of monks and congregation. The Most Venerable also shouldered all expenses incurred including coordination with local Kalyanamitra Centres and local people to bring the ceremony to completion.
On this auspicious occasion, as the Chairman of the Thai Senate, I would like to take this opportunity to express untold gratitude to Phrarajbhavanavisudh, the President of Dhammakaya Foundation and those involved in organizing these memorial services.
It is my hope that we will continue to work together in the future for the prosperity of our country.
H.E Suchon Chaleekreua,
Chairman of the Thai Senate
Response to the Senate by the Most Ven. Phrarajbhavanavisudh
Your Excellency Suchon Chaleekreua, the Chairman of the Thai Senate, honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen
I am touched by your gesture on this occasion and would like to rejoice deeply in all the merits of the Senate, including the public and the private sectors, for your success in relieving the suffering of those lost in the Tsunami Tidal Wave Disaster.
The Tsunami Tidal Wave Disaster caused great losses to life and property — but looked at in another way, has helped us all more clearly to appreciate the nature of the world where separation is inevitable. There is nothing permanent about our human lives. Catastrophe can strike at any time. No matter how long or short life is, we all have to die eventually. Therefore, it is best for us to spend our lives in the most valuable way, by doing all good deeds to the full — through generosity, keeping the precepts and practising meditation. The merit thus accrued will be our refuge for our journey ahead in the cycle of existence. Once we understand the nature of life, we should not waste our time grieving in the face of suffering — otherwise we use up our time with things which bring no benefit to ourselves or our fellow human beings. The memorial services we organized together were to dedicate merit to the departed who we hope will find the best possible afterlife destination in spite of the tragedy.
On this occasion, I would like to rejoice in the merits of the Chairman of the Thai Senate, all organizations both in the public and the private sectors as well as all who were a part of this great success.
We, at the Dhammakaya Foundation and in the Kalyanamitra movement both in Thailand and overseas were honoured to serve together with the Senate, and take this opportunity to wish that all the organizations involved continue to work to bring World Peace to all human beings — especially by attaining the true peace of the Triple Gem inside as a true refuge to us all.
Last but not least, may the Grace of the Dhammakayas of all the Buddhas maintain the Chairman of the Thai Senate and all honorable guests in happiness and prosperity for evermore
President: Dhammakaya Foundation
Speech of Solidarity and Verses of Resolution By H.E. the Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsuthin, representing the Prime Minister
Venerable Sirs, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen attending here tonight from Thailand and from overseas.
The Lord Buddha himself taught that the Cycle of Rebirth is indeed so long that it is hard to find a beginning, a middle or an end to it. He also taught that in the course of many lifetimes, there are none of us who have never been family to one another. It is thus the case that every human being on this planet is like the member of one global family. However, what we must not forget is that sooner or later, no matter how much we may love one another, we must experience parting. I am sure there is no-one here who has never experienced the sorrow of being parted from a loved one. Taking the long-term perspective, it is not once, but countless times, over the course of countless lifetimes that we have experienced the sorrow of parting in this way – however, we are unable to recall all those previous sorrows down to the present day.
This Tsunami Disaster has in some way passed on a warning to we who have lived through it – that some catastrophes simply cannot be predicted – that sometimes the only certain thing is uncertainty itself – and that the only reasonable way to prepare ourselves for uncertainty is to accumulate the maximum of good deeds for ourselves and extend the maximum of compassion towards our fellow man in the short lives available to us.
At the time when the devastation of the Boxing Day tidal wave struck, we in Thailand have borne witness to the overwhelming response of benefactors from our own country and abroad – driving it home that when in times of trouble, we have not been abandoned by our fellow man. On the contrary, we have worked side by side and hand in hand to overcome the hardships this tragedy has brought – struggling for a better future for the survivors and striving for a better destiny for those who didn’t make it through.
Today, even though many of us may still harbour sorrow for loved ones we have lost – Iûd like to encourage you to mourn for these victims in the most constructive way possible, by dedicating the merit of your good deeds for the benefit of those Thais and overseas tourists who have passed on.
We now come to the important moment where we resolve that the meritorious deeds of today’s ceremony be transferred to the departed. May all of you close your eyes, keep calm for one minute and be united in heart and mind before repeating together the following verses of resolution while dedicating merit at this time.
Verses of Resolution
May all of us here / call upon the merit of the ceremony today/ be it generosity/ keeping the Precepts/or meditation practice/ that all of us have accrued today/ in the past/ and that we intend to practice further in times to come/ together with the merit/ of dedicating body and mind/ to disaster relief/ in spite of all toil / unconditional in our aid/ with pure intent in bodily act/ speech/ and thought.
May all of this merit/ come together at the centre of our mind/ forming great compassion inside/ of illimitable grace
We now dedicate this merit/ from the centre of our minds/ to reach the spirits of the departed/ the people of Thailand/ and those from overseas/ those who are here/ and those already departed for other realms
May the grace of this merit/ facilitate the way/ of all who lost their lives/ to reach the fortunate realms/ in happiness and peace
May all be free of suffering/ may all be free of sorrow/ may all be free of sickness/ may all be free of risk/ may all find protection/ from every form of danger
May they be of Right View/ be endowed with blessings, thirty-eight/ from not associating with fools forth/
All of us here today/ have the strong intent to accrue merit/ through generosity/ keeping the Precepts/ and meditation practice/ more and more with every day/ may the fruits of these merits/ help to bring peace and safety/ to the whole of our world
May all of us here today/ experience happiness and prosperity in life/ both in worldly and spiritual ways
For as long as we take rebirth/ in the cycle of existence/ may we be blessed with beauty/ wealth/ quality/ fame, fortune and happiness/ attaining the path and fruit of Nirvana/ now and for evermore
Nibbana paccayo hotu.
No Use Crying
Lyrics by Thanas Suwannabuppha
Music by Thanas Suwannabuppha
Sung by Thanas Suwannabuppha
Every minute there is the unknown,
Every day there is uncertain,
Being ready (prepared) at all times,
Tomorrow we may never know.
For today you are in tears of grief,
And pain looking for comforting,
Everything was lost our will was broken,
It’s okay, I will wipe away your tears.
Uh um… please donût cry, uh um…please don’t cry
It’s The truth of life, what is here, will be gone,
Happiness and suffering all be known,
Today I understand of your disaster,
That is, you have to overcome.
Uh um…please donût cry…uh um…please don’t cry.
Just like the sun, some day it shines,
Some days it is dark, covered by clouds,
As life is the sun, there is darkness before the dawn,
Tomorrow the golden light will shine again.
It’s the Truth of life, we all will face it,
And you do not know what is before you,
Let us all live in goodness and virtue,
No matter the obstacles, weûll never be destroyed.
Let us all live in goodness and virtue,
No matter the obstacles, weûll never be destroyed.
No matter the obstacles, weûll never be destroyed.
Uh um…please donût cry…uh um…please don’t cry.
I will be a light shining for you
Lyrics by Tawandhamma
Music by Winet Wattanaphong
Sung by Pancasikkha Chorus
I will follow you,
as the moon follows the night,
Being the light to you,
for a better life.
As the sun,
shining light at dawn.
* I will be the shining light to you,
always and forever,
Brightening up even your darkest day,
turn it to a bright new day.
I will follow you,
To be the guiding light for you,
Leading to greater life,
always and forever. (Repeat*)
The uncertain knowledge,
lifted all out from your mind.
I will be the shining light to you.
I will be the shining light to you.
I will be the shining light to you.
Sharing is Great
Lyrics by Metta Suvachitvong
Music by Tee Chaiteerasuwet
Sung by Monnut Hengpoocharearn, Natcha Jochusri, Piemrak-Piempeeti Hatthakijkosol
Imagine that the sun is shining not only just for me.
But for people of the world.
We are sharing the sun.
The rain is falling from the sky not only just for anybody.
But for people of the world.
We are sharing the rain.
People of the world.
Sharing is Great.
Sharing creates the greatest love of all.
Past of life
Lyrics by Richard Esposito
Music by Thanas Suwannabuppha
Sung by Preutika Jaengratanatrakul
Death is part of life, and so the seasons turn,
Death is part of life, forever this lesson we must learn,
Separation and sadness is for a season,
and the pain will soon be gone,
we can replace the deepest sadness
with a new hope, to carry on !
*We can rise above our grief, by quietly reaching within,
and find a Centered peace and a new life will begin !
Death is part of life and so the seasons turn,
how much more suffering must we know,
before we can act on what we learn.
Death is part of life (Repeat *)
As one family with one heart and mind,
whose goal is simple and true,
let us ease all pain, and create happiness,
and an inner peace that is true. that is true.
Death is part of life
Death is part of life, and so the seasons turn,
the deepest peace, unity and love
from disasters, we can learn. Death is part of life,
On the wings of the morning
there comes a new day, a chance to begin and start a new way.
Death is part of life