by Reinhold, LMT
The wai khru (Thai: พิธีไหว้ครู, pronounced [wâːj kʰrūː]) is a Thai ritual by which we purify our intentions before rendering each session and practice gratitude for our teachers.
Although the Thera Veda traditions originating in Sri Lanka inform the bulk of what makes Thai Massage, the rituals of the wai khru are believed to have derived from ancient animistic beliefs, from India.
The wai khru is not only for practitioners of Thai massage. Thai people have unique wai khru ceremonies for different jobs and vocations. Children in classrooms and schoolyards recite a wai khru to respect the Buddha, their parents, and other teachers. Graduations for any discipline include a wai khru. Muay Thai fighters are well known for their ceremonies featuring the dance to respect teachers, especially the founder of this martial art. Performers, musicians, soldiers and doctors, all perform the wai khru for the discipline they belong to. Although each of these may involve a different recitation or chanting, all include the intercession of a higher power in order to accomplish a specific action or deed with integrity, clarity, and respect.
In Thai, the word for respect is “wai”; it is also a word for the common gesture of bringing two hands together, as in prayer position while slightly bowing with deference toward the receiver of our regard. The Thai adaptation of the Sanskrit/Pali word guru is the word “khru”. So wai khru literally is “respect teacher.” But there is so much more in this.
As students, practitioners, and teachers of Thai healing arts, performing a wai khru is an integral part of our practice. It calms our body and quiets our mind; it establishes a respectful, humble atmosphere within us.
Most effective whenever it is practiced in the morning, before the start of a day’s work, you can additionally practice the wai khru on a daily basis, and/or also add it to your existing regimen of meditation, yoga, or other spiritual and physical practices, whether in the morning or in the evening. Keep your eyes open for an annual wai khru somewhere in order to find yourself surrounded by others who do this.
In Thailand it is performed before an altar containing images or statues of the Buddha, Jivaka, and sometimes other deities or respected ones such as a reusi, a monk, or a revered person. Photos or mementos of deceased parents and teachers are also customary, as well as candles, incense, and other offerings, such as old coins and fruit.
Although the wai khru ceremony has been inextricably connected to Buddhism, (WHICH IS NOT EVEN A RELIGION) Thai massage practitioners who follow religious beliefs can adapt or eliminate or elaborate on their existing altars and prayers or mantras accordingly.
However you structure YOUR wai khru, it is important to recognize that traditional Thai healing arts are the life concepts and teachings of the Buddha, and to practice Thai healing without embracing these basic concepts is something else. Fortunately, the teachings of the Buddha are such that it would be difficult to find a person, whatever religion they may follow, who disagrees with the foundations embodied in Buddhist philosophy.
Regardless of your affiliation with an established faith, maintaining an attitude filled with respect, reverence, compassion, equanimity and loving-kindness are essential to a deep and effective massage practice.
Making the wai khru our regular routine can help to promote all of the elements that are necessary for us to have great effect on the person we touch.