The Path to Earthly Riches

Saturday March 3, 2007

Baht Buddha

One of my first encounters with Buddhism was in the Sunday papers when I couldn’t have been much more than ten years old. I was flipping through the papers one rainy Sunday afternoon, when I came across an advert. I cannot remember the exact words, but the substance of the piece was something like this:

Magic Buddha Pendant!
This amazing Buddha pendant is the answer to all your financial worries. It is not only an attractive piece of jewellery, but could also completely change your life! Just rub the Buddha’s stomach and make a wish for riches, and you will be rewarded. Product comes with a thirty day money-back guarantee. Only £7.99 plus postage and packing. Harness the power of the mystical East! Buy a Magic Buddha Pendant today!

I remember looking in the advert half with ten-year-old scepticism and half with hope. I mean, it didn’t seem very likely to be true. But if it was, then it was obviously the rational thing to get hold of one of these things. Perhaps had I done so, my life would have been utterly different, and I would now be posting this from my own private island in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, at that age I was not equipped with a cheque book, so I lost my chance. I never did buy a Magic Buddha Pendant.

It now seems that I was a couple of decades too late, and born in the wrong country, because according to the Bangkok Post, the Thai government has been putting in place a scheme that brings together the hope of spiritual fulfilment and that of financial rewards to tempt school-aged kids in Thailand into the ways of true religion. Apparently temple attendance in Thailand has been shrinking amongst young people, and so this new scheme – to be launched tomorrow – aims to reverse the tide.

It will work like this. Pupils up to grade six will be issued with a pass book, and in return for temple visits they will get a stamp. When they have twenty stamps, they will be rewarded with 1000 baht, which is no small sum in Thailand, the equivalent of almost $30 US. It is a temple loyalty card, with financial rewards. It is not only Buddhist temples that are included in the scheme. Participants will get rewards for going to Churches and Mosques as well, although it is not clear whether it is possible to mix and match, or whether – as with store loyalty cards – consistency is expected. The Ministry of Social Development say that they hope it will turn rebellious youngsters into model citizens. Of course, it may work. But if it fails, then perhaps the minting of Magic Buddha Pendants and their mass distribution to might be a successful – and much more cost-effective – alternative strategy.

Image courtesy Mizjian on Flickr

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