To start life afresh, Thais "practice" death

BANGKOK Tue Aug 2, 2011 12:22pm EDT

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - For those facing a run of bad luck and wanting to start things over, one Thai temple has an unusual solution: "rehearse" death with a mock funeral, including lying down in a coffin.

Pram Manee temple in Nakorn Nayok province, 107 km northeast of Bangkok, holds two of the rituals every day: at exactly 9:09 a.m. and 1:09 p.m., since the number nine is believed by Thais to bring good luck.

Participants in a recent ritual stood in front of their designated coffins, holding flowers and praying for bad luck to go away, then asked to receive good luck.

All had paid 180 baht ($6) for the flowers, a white sheet and "merit set" -- a collection of necessities sometimes including toothpaste, toothbrushes and food -- to be offered to monks, and the promise of a better life.

"First we pray for the 'dead,' to wash away the bad things. They will go away when the monk draws a sheet over the coffin," said Rin Manaboom, a monk at the temple who conducts the ceremonies.

"The monk will turn the sheet over and pull it back, like pulling the good things back in. First we push the bad luck away, then we put the good things in."

While the participants lie in their coffins, monks chant prayers. After this, they emerge from their resting place to be blessed with holy water by a monk.

Krisda Netmanee, a 39-year-old police officer, said he wanted a fresh start after a series of bad work assignments.

"I had bad luck this year. I'm here to wash my bad luck away, and ask for blessings for good things to come," he added.

Others take part in the ritual regularly.

Farmer Ra Damthanin said she has lain within a coffin at least six times in the hopes of a long life.

"I wish to live very long with my children, my neighbors, my sisters," the 62-year-old said.

"I wish to live a very long time."

(Reporting by Jutarat Skulpichetrat, editing by Elaine Lies)

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