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in some cases they think it commendable; that it may render service to the soul, by delivering it from an inconvenient habitation; and it is not uncommon to find a Siamese hanging upon a particular tree, dedicated to the god Mercury, and called in Balic Pra-si-maha-pout, or the tree sacred to the great Mercury.
The Talapoins, or priests, live in monasteries contiguous to the temples. They make vows of chastity, the breach of which is punished by the offender being burnt to death; but what is singular, and entirely opposite to the rules observed in India, any one may enter into the priesthood, and after a certain age may quit it, marry, and return into society. Nor are the people divided as in India into casts; but if the Hindu religion were introduced into Siam after a certain order of civil society had been already established there, it may be supposed that the system observed in India, of separating the people into casts, may have been omitted as no longer practicable. The Talapoins, however, are distinguished from,
and elevated above, the bulk of the people, nearly in the same manner as the Brahmins among the Hindus. They maintain with jealous care the respect they think due to their order; which, with charitable donations to themselves and the building and repairing of temples and monasteries, they inculcate as pious duties. They never return a salute to a layman, not even to the prince, though the prince never fails to salute a Talapoin.
By the rules of their order, they are enjoined to go to the temples and perform their devotions twice a day, in the morning and evening; to confess their faults to each other; to be watchful, not to encourage any wicked thought, or admit into their mind any doubt with respect to their religion; never to speak to any of the other sex alone, nor to look stedfastly upon any one they may accidentally meet; not to prepare their own food, but to eat what may be given, or set before them, ready dressed; not to enter into a house to ask alms, nor to wait for them longer at the
door than the time that an ox may take to drink when he is thirsty; not to affect friendship or kindness with a view to obtain any thing; to be sincere in all their dealings, and when it may be necessary to affirm or deny any thing, to say simply, it is, or it is not: never to be in a passion with any person, or from any cause strike any one; but to be gentle in their manners, and compassionate in their conduct: not to keep any weapons of war; not to judge any one by saying he is good, or he is bad; not to look at any one with contempt; not to make any one the subject of ridicule; not to say that any one is well made or ill made, or handsome or ugly; not to frighten or alarm any one; not to excite people to quarrel, but endeavour to accommodate their disputes; to love all mankind equally; not to boast either of birth or learning; not to meddle in any matters of government, that do not immediately respect religion; not to be dejected at the death of any one; not to drink spirituous liquors of any kind; not to disturb the
earth themselves by labouring in it; not to cut down any plant or tree; not to cover the head, nor to have more than one dress; not to sleep out of their monastery; not to eat out of any vessel of silver or gold; not to play at any game; not to accept of money but by the hand of the person in the monastery, who may be appointed for that purpose, and then to apply it to charitable and pious purposes; not to envy any one what he may enjoy; not to be in anger with any one, and, retaining that anger, come with him to any religious ceremony, or act of devotion; not to sleep on the same bed with any one. Beside these, they have many other rules respecting their morals and behaviour.
They are called every morning from their sleep by the sound of the gong; but they are enjoined not to rise, till they can discern the veins in their hands, lest they should kill any thing, by treading upon it.
Each monastery has its Sancra, or superior, who is elected by its members, to
preside over them. After having performed their ablutions, and before they eat any thing, they go with the Sancra to the temple, where they prostrate themselves before the images, and afterwards sit down with their legs under them, and chant and perform their devotions in the Bali language. Father Fontenay, in his relation of a voyage from Siam to Macao, speaking of some Talapoins whom he saw at their devotions, says: "They were sitting on the ground, with their hands joined together, and chanted for the space of an hour with their eyes fixed on the idol. Few persons in Europe perform their devotions with so much modesty and respect, especially when they last so long. I confess that their example made me feel more sensibly than any sermon could have done, with what humility and reverence we should behave before the majesty of God, when we address him in prayer, or appear before him at the altar."
They dine at noon, and except this meal,