I am in Thailand for the second time now, because I love it so much. Though I am not a Buddhist and I apologize in advance if I wrongly characterize their beliefs and rituals , I can tell you that the white bracelet IS probably white string. While visiting a Buddhist temple and bowing, then kneeling in respect, in front of a Buddhist monk, I (and others with me) also received a white bracelet of string on our wrists, I from an assistant to the monk (monks are not allowed to directly touch women, so the bracelet was handed to the assistant for me) or (in the case of males) from the Monk, himself. The bracelet , as I understand it symbolizes the blessings given by the monk, for strength in DOING the right thing, to ease one's own suffering and the suffering of others, and also to bring compassionate love into one's own life and into the lives of other suffering beings. These bracelets are also given by monks at other important times, such as the birth of babies and to couples being married. They are worn until they naturally fall off. Donations are commonly made for the maintenance of the temple and/or wat, or to support the work of the monks in the community, following the ritual. The color white has special significance and white is also used in the ritual greeting of honored guests, when a white scarf or "Kata" is placed around the neck of the guest. This is accompanied by bowing (waiing) to one another when they enter the home or work place.
The Kata symbolizes respect and indicates that the person presenting it has positive intentions, thus getting the visit/meeting off to a good start. Katas are similarly used in prayer by draping a Kata on religious images, such as statues of Buddha, or in some meetings with government officials or lamas, when requesting help or services.As a guest in Thailand, I have found the continuous expressions of respect and good intentions, whether in a "wai" (bowing to revered and/or older beings, with hands in a prayer-like posture) or in a more elaborate ceremony such as presenting the white bracelet or the Kata, very moving.
I am a 69 yr. old woman and have never been so certain that I am a valued human being to others, as I am here in Thailand. A wai and a smile from almost every younger person I meet (even passing strangers) makes my day, let me tell you!
But it is even more than that. It is that they are taking the time (even a brief moment in passing) to SHOW mutual respect, positive intentions and concern for the well-being of others, which is stressed in Buddhism. The emphasis is on reaching enlightenment by PERFORMING acts of loving kindness, to ease the suffering of others and it comes out of the understanding that we are all deeply interconnected as living beings and thus our happiness depends on the happiness of others and our own respect depends on ACTIVE respect for ourselves and each other.
Sometimes our own growth comes from unlikely teachers. Mr. Woods apparently has been seeking guidance from many sources, including the teachers (monks) of his mother's culture.
Out of respect for ourselves and others who suffer, we might use our curiosity, which was raised by the photo of Mr. Woods, to learn more about another faith.
Through that learning in turn, we might also learn more about the value of forgiveness.
I hope this is helpful to those who have questions. And again, I offer my thoughts with all due respect to my Buddhist friends and the Thai people I have met and love. They have taught me so much. Please feel free to correct me, if I have been wrong on any of this!
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