Not far away from the place where I was about to take the dog photo for my blog article "申請輪迴轉世 / Dog Day Afternoon in Bangkok"), I came upon these two individuals who were sitting near the temple gate asking visitors for money.
(a) On the left, a woman was selling birds to visitors who would then set the birds free. Her sign said: "In this temple, you give freedom to the birds, you will have good luck and happiness in your life forever." I didn't ask her who had caught the birds and deprived them of their freedom in the first place.
(b) On the right, a man with an amputated leg(s) made his claim on a sign that said: "Please help for a handicaped (sic), I need money for a hospital." With his specially made bicycle, the umbrella and other set-up, he must have been there for the long haul.
As a kind-hearted visitor to the Buddhist temple, are you prepared to give money to either one or both of them?
To be frank, I did not give to neither, for the following personal reasons:
(a) Giving the bird-lady money would just encourage her and/or her associates to catch more wild birds for sale. Later into the SE Asia trip, I gave money to another tour guide who bought a fish from the market and helped it escape the frying pan by setting it free into the river (btw: He was not introducing an invasion species into the ecosystem!).
(b) Even if the man's claim was legit, it would still make more sense to give money to help a village/community/group as opposed to just one individual. Later on when K and I were in Laos and Cambodia, we made donations to MAG (the Mines Advisory Group), a neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation that clears landmines, UXO (unexploded ordinance) and other remnants of conflict for the benefit of communities worldwide; as well as to CPI (Clear Path International), a sister organization that serves landmine and bomb accident survivors, their families and their communities in targeted countries.
As I was walking thru the temple gate, there was one fleeting thought that went thru my mind:
At least the birds might have a chance to fly free. But a person who lost his/her limb(s) from landmines and other mishaps would never be freed of the living memory.
Of Birds and Man!!
* Lotusandcedar blog article: 申請輪迴轉世 / Dog Day Afternoon in Bangkok
* Mines Advisory Group (MAG): http://www.maginternational.org/about/
* Clear Path International (CPI): http://www.cpi.org/index.php
* I took all three photos on Jan 10, 2011 at around 10h30 inside Wat Intharawihan in Bangkok, Thailand 泰國 曼谷 瓦因和漢寺.