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A rare moment of joy and unity

The celebration of His Majesty the King's 85th birthday on Wednesday brought joy and tears to hundreds of thousands of Thais, who thronged the Royal Plaza to pledge allegiance and wish a happy birthday to the beloved monarch. Thais had been anxiously waiting for this auspicious occasion to have firsthand experience of the baramee (reserve power) of the ariya (higher being) King.

The Ninth Reign is that of an ariya king, by virtue of his perseverance baramee and generosity baramee. Perseverance and generosity are two of the 10 baramees of one who will finally become a Buddha. The King cited Phra Maha Janaka to expound the virtue of perseverance. Even the angels pay homage to those who practice perseverance. Phra Maha Janaka was one of the 10 lives of the Buddha before he finally achieved Buddhahood.

By devoting his entire life to the welfare of his people and stability of his Kingdom, and protecting Buddhism, the King practices the virtue of generosity. Phra Vessantara was the last of the great 10 lives of the Buddha. Through generosity, one practices sila - detachment from delusions, hatred and ignorance. This is a prerequisite for attaining the highest wisdom of Buddhahood.

Many Thais arrived one or two days earlier to make sure that they got space close to the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, where the King would make a rare appearance at the balcony to greet his people. They brought food and drink for family picnics. Millions of Thais who could not make it to the Royal Plaza were glued to their TVs to watch the grand ceremony that saw the heads of the executive, legislative and judicial branches, and the Royal Guard, pledge allegiance to His Majesty.

The Royal Plaza, Rachadamnoen Avenue and surrounding areas turned into a sea of yellow shirts and Thai flags. The amazing scene was spectacular and unprecedented in recent memory.

It was unanimously agreed that yellow - the colour of the King, who was born on a Monday - should be the colour of the day. The anti-royalists, symbolised by their red shirts, volunteered to remain quiet and refrain from political rhetoric.

The Thai public cheered along the route that His Majesty and the royal entourage took from Siriraj Hospital to the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. They shouted: "Song Phra Charoen (Long live the King)."

When the King appeared at the balcony, the clock almost stopped ticking. His arrival was sudden, as if he had floated to the scene on the wind. The atmosphere seemed like it was not of this world. His baramee brought immense joy to the hearts of Thais. Many, including me, could not hold back their tears. We were experiencing firsthand the perfect King with metta (compassion). His Majesty reached out to his people with a brief statement. He called for unity: "If Thais truly hold these values in their hearts, they can be assured that the country will be safe and will survive, regardless of what situation the country is in. Dharma [teaching] will protect you from all harm," he said.

The King graciously offered his sage advice for all Thais to live in harmony while expressing gratitude for their unwavering faithfulness. "The wishes and oaths of allegiance that you have taken are so evident. I thank you and all Thais who have come here en masse. The compassion, goodwill and unity you have demonstrated today makes me happy. You have greatly boosted my spirits," the King said before the huge gathering of loyal subjects at the Royal Plaza.

Ironically, 10 days earlier at the Royal Plaza, the police used brute force to disperse an anti-government gathering led by General Boonlert Kaewprasit. Thai politics has become unstable and violent since 2006. The anti-royalists are now planning to rewrite the Constitution to undermine the monarchy. Internally, there is always a threat of a civil war. Externally, superpower rivalry has also posed a threat to Thailand's security as the US and China face off for military predominace in the Asia-Pacific region.

In this way of the world, His Majesty the King has steered Thailand through troubled waters for more than 60 years, by strengthening unity to achieve stability. The King embodies the trinity of Thailand's stability - nationhood, Buddhism and monarchy. In the way of the Dhamma, the King aspires for Buddhahood. Many Thais believe that the King is a bhodisattva, an enlightened being who will be born a Buddha.

In 1957, or BE 2500, at the mid-point of the Buddhist Era, there were fears that Buddhism and Buddhist society would suffer a decline, as the Buddha had prophesied that Buddhism would last only 5,000 years before the next cycle came. The King and Her Majesty the Queen took part in the revamp of the Tripitaka in Rangoon, Burma. The King also presided over the construction of Phutthamonthon in Nakhon Pathom as a site to pay homage to the Lord Buddha. In so doing, the King laid the groundwork for Buddhism to continue to prosper in Suvarnabhumi and become a chatra, or royal, white, tiered umbrella for the Thai people.

All human beings have flaws. But His Majesty the King is the most perfect human being of all - both in the way of the world and in the way of the Dhamma. It is because of these attributes that Thais feel immense joy in their hearts upon seeing him - an emotion that foreigners find hard to fathom.


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