IN THE LAP OF DHAMMA
Those interested in Buddhism must have been familiar with the word ‘Dhamma’ which generally refers to the Buddha’s teachings and doctrine of Buddhism. Having its roots in Prakrit word and written Dharma in Sanskrit, the word has many definitions in ancient religions and beliefs. All of the meanings are related to the law of nature: the way things are naturally or the nature of things.
That’s exactly what Dhamma means – nature. It’s also why Dhamma and lifestyle are the same thing, even if luxury is part of the picture. In fact, the richer you are, the more Dhamma you need in your life, says Patpong Mu Thanavisuth, a business mogul who was born to one of Thailand’s most influential families, and an avid luxury car lover.
As a co-founder of HisoParty, a niche magazine which focuses on the lifestyle of Thai socialites, Khun Mu and his wife Preyamon Thanavisuth, are a good example of a balanced life between both worlds. The couple met when they were studying in the US and began dating a year later, and have become inseparable since then. After 30 years of marriage, they are not only each other’s partners in life and business, but also each other’s best friends.
Behind the extravagance, however, lingered a question about Dhamma. After decades of soul searching, Khun Mu has found an answer and decided to embark on a spiritual journey. The sudden change wasn’t easy for Khun Ying.
But with patience and efforts, the couple has finally found a common ground.
What makes you interested in Dhamma?
Khun Mu – Most people are interested in Dhamma when their life is in trouble. At a glance, it seems my life has nothing to worry about, but that’s a huge misunderstanding. As long as you are humans, rich or poor, you have suffering…If we feel love, greed, anger, or stressed, you still have suffering. I’ve always been interested in the Buddha’s teachings since I was 8. At that time, the teacher taught that you need to follow the Five Precepts. The more I learned about the teachings of Buddha, the more I wonder, “What else did he teach?” That question had been with me since. Life went on and I drifted away from Dhamma when I went to study in the US. The interest came back after I returned to Thailand when I was aorund 27 or 28.
What brought back your interest?
Khun Mu – I started to get confused what righteousness is. For example, the Western culture says this thing is good, but it’s not the case in Thai culture. Sometimes it’s the same thing but the teachings are completely the opposite. So where’s the balance? Where’s the true righteousness?
How about obedience and gentleness? How much do we have to listen to older people since there are both good and bad elders? Another question is, what’s the criteria in defining “good”? And who has all the answers? What constitutes a genuine virtue? The kind of virtue we can reply on without further question.
How has meditation changed your view about money and social status?
Khun Mu – Lord Buddha never told people to avoid wealth or hate money and comfort. Although those things aren’t real and impermanent, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them. We still need to eat and live. There are people we have to take care of. I still love cars, amulets, and good foods. But I don’t try to get them. Not anymore.
And how you feel about his change?
Khun Ying – To be honest, I’m not a serious meditator but I believe in doing good things. I enjoy giving and started to meditate when he did. Our lifestyles are similar in general, but there was a period, about ten years ago, that he was so into it (meditation practice) and refused to dress up, always wearing white clothes or traditional shirts. I wasn’t okay with that. It took him some time before he could find a balance between Dhamma life and family life.
What is the biggest change Dhamma practice help in improving your marriage?
Khun Ying – I can say with 100% confidence that it does change. When his mind has Dhamma, he has become more gentle and understanding towards me and others. For example, he used to have a hot temper and would get upset if a photo shooting session took a long time especially if he had to change outfits many times. Now he’s willing to compromise. I can say he is now much more compassionate and patient.
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