In many villages and small towns in Isaan Thailand Bai Sri Su Kwan is a welcoming ceremony. Some of our Thai hosts participate in Bai Sii when they have someone important, like a volunteer, comes to visit or leave them, when a good friend or relative gets married or becomes a monk and during other important happenings.
Kwun means spirit or soul. Some Thais believe that this Kwun can protect them and their friends and family during their lives no matter where they are in the world. We are told one is only able to feel your own protective spirit or Kwun; not see it or hear it. Your Kwun will bring happiness when it is with you. If the Kwun leaves you there will be problems. One needs to get the Kwun back.
We keep asking how Bai Sri came to be and the answer is usually that it is something village elders have taught and valued. It is a ritual ceremony passed through generations. One Thai believed it may have come from an ancient Indian ceremony. Most do not know or even care.
During this ceremony a Bai Si tree, sometimes made of green banana leaves and flowers is the centre point. It may signify the centre of the universe. White or colored strings adorn this tree and are used to tie around the wrists of the honored guest. Elders and participants may tie the right hand for women and the left hand for men. Others don’t care but while they are tying they ask the Kwun to bring goodness and protection to the person. Many also ask that anything “bad” please go away from their life.
Some of Laekplian Lokgatat and Mundo Exchange’s hosts believe in this ceremony. Others believe that it is just a good way to welcome volunteers and interns who come to help with community directed projects in Thailand. Whatever the case, all of our Thai team knows that village ways and elders that believe in Bai Sri are to be honored and never belittled. This global cultural exchange is respected by all, even by our atheistic volunteers.
When elders of Isaan were asked how they felt about people who question the importance of this ceremony, most simply laughed without malice, shook their heads and said mai pen rai or never mind. Most of these respected elders feel Bai Sii is a good Thai experience for Mundo Exchange and Laekplian Lokgatat volunteers. Most elders believe that the disbelievers may be intolerant and unable to see the goodness of actions and ways of anyone but themselves, which can lead to the feeling that only one nation or one person has the true understanding of what is and what should be. This feeling may lead to war and other bad ways.
Our Thai team believes that cross cultural differences between people on this planet is something to be cherished and respected. Most who are off the beaten track during their gap year, retirement years or volunteering projects and come upon this ritual while traveling through Thailand and Asia will find it special and perhaps humbling.
Giving good luck and safety to another for their life is something we all should all think about doing for those we stumble upon in this world. Our Thai friends strongly believe that our volunteers are to be thought of as very special. They have traveled and helped financially through donations to their Thailand self selected projects.
If you have more information please let us know. We would like to hear your ideas and if you too thought it was an great experience during your global exchanges and travels.
At Chulalongkorn University there is a research report one has stated.
There is more information out there to be learned and read but right now we are preparing for Sandra’s Bai Sii ceremony. She comes from all the way from Australia to help Thai monks and nuns learn more conversational English and computer skills.
Life is good in Isaan, Thailand.