Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THE GODDESS OF PATTAYA

I'm still trying to catch my breath after the last posting and waiting for the right moment to continue the reflections on the Marion Shrine of Litmanova, which, by the way, celebrates its 20th anniversary on August 8th, less than two weeks away, when more than 200,000 pilgrims are expected to ascend the holy mountain in the company of the two original visionaries. The very generous young priest in charge of the shrine, Father Vasil, has invited me to the event and offered to let me stay in his house in town. I'm still praying over that invitation at the moment.

However, because this is an inclusive blog, dedicated to openness and appreciation of other faith traditions, I felt that I should go on record and say (before I get too carried away with Marion apparitions) that I believe that "Jesus and Mary" exist within a much larger universe of spiritual beings, far, far more expansive and mysterious than orthodox Christianity is yet capable of comprehending. To make this point, I offer this brief anecdote.

Two and a half hours south of Bangkok, Thailand, is the beautiful seaside resort of Pattaya, the nearest major beach resort to the capitol. During the thirty years I lived in the country, I made frequent trips to the resort, usually staying south of the main city, far away from the honky tonk atmosphere. Apart from its spectacular scenic beauty, Pattaya is also notorious for its vital, heart pounding sex industry, with thousands of young women and several hundred boys working the hundreds and hundreds of go-go bars. However, one can find secluded, beautiful beaches south of the city with beautiful hotels surrounded by the assortment of pizzerias, souvenir shops, tailors, 7'11's, so that one need never leave the area.  My favorite location was Cozy Beach and the Cozy Beach Hotel (one of ten in the area -and I can hear my friends gnashing their teeth and saying, "No, no, don't give the secret away!).


To the north of the city, however, is located the five star hotel, The Dusit Resort (which has since changed it's name to the Dusit Thani Pattaya Hotel) one of the most aesthetically beautiful hotels in all of Thailand. I've visited here frequently, dined here many times, stayed here a few times because it is quite pricey. But every time I've walked into the grounds I've been overcome by a sense of profound sacredness and this feeling has increased in intensity as one walks through the grounds and heads out past the swimming pool to the point that faces the expansive Pattaya Bay. Every single time I've been out here, I've felt the presence of a divine feminine being, who seems to be watching over the thousands of young women working the sex trade. The sense of presence was so holy and compassionate and profound, a presence that seems to envelop all who come here. My good friend, John McConville, whom I've known since our Jesuit novitiate days in the 60's, has also felt her presence on numerous occasions and we both 'know' that she is distinct from the 'Blessed Virgin Mary' of the Catholic tradition. Who could she be?


Living in  Thailand at the time was a good friend of ours, Len Cranmer, who was a practicing psychic of recognized spiritual gifts - though Len hates the designation 'psychic,' because he feels it gives people false expectations when they meet him that he is some kind of fortune teller. He prefers the term, "metaphysical healer." Len is a 'spiritualist,' meaning he believes that Jesus is a radiantly enlightened being, but not the only such figure in human history, and he believes not only that we reincarnate many times on this earth, learning numerous lessons each time, but that we choose the circumstances of each incarnation. So I decided to invite Len to the Dusit Resort for dinner and rather shrewdly, I didn't tell him my motivation for doing so. However, being a very gifted person, Len caught on that something was afoot. When I walked him through the grounds, he said simply, "This is a sacred place and it has a sacred history." When we reached the swimming pool, before walking out to the point, he stopped and said - as if it were the most natural thing in the world - "Oh, there is a goddess here." I said, "really." He smiled, looked at me, and said, "Yes, but you knew that already, didn't you." We walked out onto the point and Len said, "Oh, she is very powerful and she is here to watch over the many women who suffer in this city. Very powerful indeed," and he remained silent for a while, wafting in her atmosphere, almost like the aromas of a fine cigar ( a crude image, but the best I can do.). After dinner, Len wanted to explore the matter a little, so we walked up to the front desk and asked the lovely Thai staff if they knew anything about the history of the point where the resort was located. We received many lovely smiles and looks of incomprehension. No, they didn't, they told us, but maybe we should ask the personnel manager, Khun Saowapa, who would be in her office in the morning. She had been with the hotel since its founding, almost thirty years ago! We thanked the Thai staff and made a resolution to have breakfast in the hotel the following morning and have a chat with Khun Saowapa. 

The following morning, after indulging ourselves at the fabulous breakfast buffet, replete with fresh lobster, giant prawns, smoked salmon, oysters in the half shell - and champagne, we made our way to the front desk and asked to speak with Khun Saowapa. We were greeted by a very charming older Thai woman in her 60's, wearing beautiful garments of Thai silk and a magnificent hand wrought silver necklace. When we said we wanted to ask her about the history of the hotel, she took us downstairs to her office. Following his instincts, Len went right to the point and asked Khun Saowapa if she had ever experienced any kind of special presence in the hotel or out on the point. Being a timid soul myself, I was aghast at his effrontery. Wasn't there a more tactful way of approaching the subject? Wrong! Khun Saowapa's eyes lit up and she said, "Oh, have you felt her? She doesn't make her presence known to just everyone, you know." Len said, "Oh, you mean the goddess on the point." Khun Saowapa explained, "Yes, but we don't like to speak of her too openly. Thai people are very superstitious, you know,  and very afraid of ghosts, and they would hesitate to stay here if they knew. Even the Thai staff are rather nervous about the experience, but I can assure you she will do no harm. You see, many years ago, there was a small Indian shrine dedicated to the Hindu god, Ganesha, on this point, and it was favored by the sea gypsies who were fisherman at that time, long before Pattaya was discovered as a resort. A young girl (and we don't know the exact circumstances) was brutally murdered by her lover on this point and her body was tossed into the sea. But the waves, instead of taking her far out to sea, brought her back to the shore, where she was eventually discovered. We don't really know who she was, but we feel her presence every day, and I've gotten quite used to her. That's why I've stayed at this hotel for so many years, it's a holy place to me. And if you look outside at the entrance to the hotel, you will see a large shrine dedicated to Ganesha, the Elephant god, with many flowers and gifts placed around it. Those are placed there mainly by the Thai staff, who are both grateful for the blessings of the Elephant god and the 'goddess of the point,' as you call her, as well as a little bit nervous about her, She seems to confirm for us the Thai belief that the 'world' is populated by spirits we cannot see, some benevolent and benign, some not so kindly disposed."

Len and I thanked Khun Saowapa for her graciousness to us and went for one final walk out to the point, where we both said a silent prayer to the goddess. Len was quite calm, as if nothing we had learned was particularly unusual, but I was completely taken aback. This was my first really intimate, personal encounter with a 'sacred being' completely outside the Christian, Catholic universe.  I had experienced the sacredness of many Buddhist temples, but never that 'personal' touch that usually characterizes our encounters with the Blessed Mother of Jesus.  However, I walked away from this conversation not sure of what was the more extraordinary element in this story, the presence of this gentle, compassionate 'goddess' who had manifested herself spiritually to us or this wonderful, gracious, cultivated and utterly civilized Thai woman who had served at this hotel for over thirty years because, as she explained it, she felt called to serve the secret mystery of "the goddess of Pattaya."

3 comments:

Ortseid said...

is this true wow that was cool is that their god. all i know jesus chris our lord and savior is our god and no other else. but i respect their faith.. while i read this i have been watch true blood season 3 episode 7 online

Jayden Cameron said...

Hi Ortseid. Thank you for your comment. I lived in Thailand for thirty years and have a great respect for their own spirituality and for the Buddhist path or way, which is very spiritual. I'm not sure I could agree with you that Jesus Christ is the only savior. If you feel connected to him in the Spirit (as I do), then he is your way into the heart of the Father, and the human image of the unseen God. I'm curious to know what country you are from.

Edward said...

Hi Jayden,

On one of my early visits to Pattaya, you took me out to that point at the Dusit, and I could see how spiritually moved you were. But I couldn't tune into your experience even though I am open to the presence of spirits throughout the world we live in. How wonderful that metaphysical healer Len was so tuned in to the goddess that he brought you to another level of enlightenment about her. And that marvelous Thai woman serving the goddess bringing you to still another level. Everyday revelations for those who have eyes to see.

Ed Vargo in Thailand