The Heart Culture
The language of the people reveals a lot about their culture.
The the word Jai repeatedly appears in Thai contemporary and folk music.
Jai means “Heart”.
The word appears prevalently in the Thai language, not only by itself but more as a part of numerous compound words and phrases. In Thailand the heart and states of emotions – rather then the mind and reason – are foremost in the way we relate with the world. In fact, heart and mind are inseparable in our language, as shown in the word jit-jai, which means both, heart and mind, soul and spirit.
The state of mind reflects the condition of the Heart, and vice versa.
The two are not split and do not function in isolation. While cultures in the west subscribe to the philosophy “I think, therefore, I am,” Thai people are more aptly characterized by the statement “we feel, therefore, we are.” We are concerned about our own feelings, and we are even more concerned about the feelings of others, for we acknowledge that we do not exist in isolation but in relationship to all those around us. Each individual is an integral part of his or her environment and not separate from it. Therefore, maintaining social harmony and a heartfelt state of peaceful coexistence are very important values in Thai society.
The following commonly used compound words and phrases exemplify how thai people comprehend the world with their hearts.
To “understand” someone or something is expressed by kâo-jai, which means to “enter the heart,” and when we misunderstand, we kâo-jai-pit, or “enter the heart wrongly.” Another word for “not understand” is Mai Kao-Jai (when Mai is used as a prefix it reverses the word).These terms apply whether the understanding pertains to a human relationship and an emotional expression or to the intellect, such as understanding technical information and business instructions. When we make a decision to take a certain course of action, we fall “into our heart” (tòk-loang-jai), and when we change our mind, we “change our heart” (plien-jai). When we approach our work with interest, we “take our heart and put it into” that work (ow-jai-sái), but when we cant concentrate and get distracted, we are “not putting our heart where it should be" (mai-ow-jai-sai).
Some Important Heart Values ....
Of the many heart values importance in Thai culture, there are three that are difficult to explain, for there are no close English equivalents.
The first is Nám-jai, which means “water that flows from the heart.”
This refers to the genuine, unconditional generosity that comes straight from the heart, without agenda, without ulterior motivation for gain or expectation of return.
The second is Greang-jai. “Greang” can be translated as "consideration of" “to be in awe of” or “to fear”. This “fear” is not so much the feeling of being afraid of someone as it is the quality of reverence, respect and high regard and an implication of social boundaries. When you greang-jai, you have consideration for someone, and shown conseridate behaviour towards that person. You may, for instance, be reluctant to impose on someone by asking them for a favour, or you may refrain from doing something that you feel may overextend your boundary or cause someone embarrassment or to "lose face".
This person for whom you may have high regard may in turn reciprocate with conserate behaviour toward you. Greang-jai is a very important value maintaining harmonious social relationship and one that has a protective quality among people involved. It accounts for the high degree of politeness and civility you see in exchanges among Thai people everyone. Historical origins of "Greang Jai".
A third is maintaining a “cool heart” (jai-yen) as opposed to a “hot heart” (jai-rόn).
A person who is jay-yen is patient, forgiving, accepting of the circumstances that life brings, easy-going and can stay calm and collected even in the face of provocation or distress. A hot-hearted person, on the other hand, is impatient, hot-tempered, easily provoked and prone to emotional upsets over seemingly small matters. Having a cool-heart is often regarded as a sign of emotional maturity. In a culture that places great importance on social harmony, relationships and feelings, cultivating jai-yen is highly valued.
In modern ways of conducting business, however, a person who has a hot heart is gaining favour because he or she has the temperament to demand quick responses from others and to get things done faster. A person with too cool a heart may be too lazy for such high-stress jobs. Possessing jai-yen goes hand in hand with the easy-going attitude of mai pen rai, which universally permeates the Thai culture.
Mai pen rai means “it doesn’t matter,” “it’s all right,” “it’s fine and ok,” “never mind,” and so on, reflecting a penchant to go with the flow of things that don’t turn out well with a “mai pen rai,” saying it with a smile and moving on to something else that may provide just as much satisfaction. If there is little one can do to change things, saying “mai pen rai” may be preferable to pursuing the matter, especially if the change may impose on someone else’s feelings.
If you visit Thailand, be sure to practice a mai pen rai attitude along with a big smile, and you will endear yourself to the gentle and easy-going people. Give linear, analytical mind a vacation and experience this “land of smiles” with your heart. Keep your heart cool, too; the weather and food are hot enough so that you won’t need any extra heat to spoil your days there.
When we see eye-to-eye with a friend, we share the “same heart” (jai-diow-gun), and when we trust someone, we can “place our hearts” with that person (wang-jai).
When we try and uplift and give encouragement, we give “strength and energy to the heart” (gäm-lung-jai), and when we allow our children to make their own choices we say to them “tam-jai” or “follow your heart”. When we are generous and kind to others, we have a “good heart” (jai-dee), but when we are selfish, our heart is “narrow” (jai-käep).
When we feel let down or disappointed, our heart is “heavy” (nák-jai), but when we are joyful, our heart feels “cheerful and refreshing” (chéun-jai).There are hundreds of other expressions in common usage and new combinations continually emerging as people spontaneously attempt to express their inner states and processes. Jai is tangible; it can be felt. The heart that beats in our chest is none other than hûa-jai (“head of the heart”). It keeps us alive and is the place where our soul and spirit reside.