The visit to the always surprising Wat Rong Khun or White Temple in Chiang Rai is an opportunity to comprise one of the fundamental differences between Animism and Buddhism, we refer to how they understand human behaviour and its consequences.
Before you enter the main building by crossing a bridge, there is a moat whose content is truly disturbing.
What is the significance of all those imploring hands with gestures of distress?
Taking advantage of the freedom enjoyed by the viewer, once the artwork is exhibited, we can hazard a Buddhist reading in which the moat represents the realm of hungry spirits.
A place that recalls the Christian purgatory depicted at the bottom of the wheel of law, in which one suffers greatly and is reached after a life with too many immoral deeds, personal decisions made at times when one could and was free to choose. The law of Karma.
Our friend Ked offers us the Animistic interpretation.
She says they are the hands of those who have no one to care for them after death. They have no father, no mother, no children, no boyfriend, no wife, no friends to go to temples to care for their souls, so they have no other choice but to beg themselves.
The first scenario (Buddhist viewpoint) is the result of negative personal behaviour in earlier lives and in the course of successive reincarnations. Everyone will have another chance.
The second scenario (Animistic viewpoint) is the result of very unfavourable circumstances on earth, largely unrelated to the behaviour that they displayed in the world of the living and which are directly projected in the underworld where they are now. It is a pity.
Interesting, isn’t it?