Sacred threads, or “Sai Sin” as they’re known in Thai, are probably best known for their use as string bracelets occasionally picked up by tourists and travellers on their travels. But these meager cuts of string bracelet often come from a much longer string that has been blessed by monks in Buddhist ritual. I come across these rituals umpteen times throughout the book, so much that they’re not really mentioned for most. The most extravagant example would be during Songkran when we are part of a ceremony at ‘the big temple’. When we arrive we find that threads have been strung through the rafters of the temple to connect the congregation with the monks at the front. There’s a kind of grid made above the congregation and pieces of string dangle down to those in the congregation. The congregation then tie these strings to heads or wrists or anywhere really, and connects and channels the good karma from prayer to everyone in the temple. When the ceremony ends the congregation will take apart the grid of string and pocket it for later when they will likely use them to make shorter lengths for string bracelets.
Blessing the Thread
To give a more intimate example, my first ever visit to Broken Road was for a Monk Blessing Ceremony (Tor Ar Yu) to give health and prolonged life to grandpa Ta. Through the ceremony a length of cotton thread is held by nine monks in the front room of the house which, again, connects to the members of the congregation via ceremonial candles, a Buddhist altar and a golden bowl filled with water. The prayers and ceremony last roughly thirty minutes as the candle wax drips into the now Holy Water. The monks then present the elders of the house with the blessed string and splash them with holy water using a brush made from bamboo. The sacred thread, and bowl of Holy Water is then left with the family as the monks leave. Ta then sits, legs crossed, and with palms held tight in prayer, as the elders of the congregation cut lengths of string bracelets to tie to his wrists. Before tying the bracelets the thread is first rubbed up the arm while reciting words of good luck and fortune to Ta. “Stay well, drink your milk, eat your greens”. The same goes the opposite, rubbing the string down the arm, while asking for bad feelings to go way. The string bracelets are then tied to his wrist, then the next person is up.
Sai Sin Bracelets
Since this time, roughly three years ago, I have had at least one or more string bracelets on my wrists. As I type this from the UK, I am now wearing a basic white string bracelet on my left wrist, an orange string on my right, and a pendant necklace round my neck. Ta presented me the latter on the morning we flew to Taipei just in time for Typhoon Soudelor (it’s all in the book). The orange bracelet has been on my wrist since the day of Ta’s blessing. We actually dropped a slight bombshell the previous night telling the family that we married in Bali, where most of them didn’t know I existed. After a slight kerfuffle the family all came together to each bless us and welcome me to the family. This was quite a significant ceremony and money notes are included under the bracelets to wish us wealth and prosperity in our future. Fanfan also gets a blessed gold bracelet from Meh who is surprisingly well prepared. Each family member will also sprinkle the bracelets, our bodies and heads with the blessed water from the earlier, this time using a branch from a gooseberry tree. Anyway, I still have the orange bracelet from this time, which was presented by Ta, and the family do think it’s a bit odd. Most people don’t wear them long, a hygiene thing maybe as they do get tatty over time, and people will normally discard of the basic string bracelets after a day or two. They will do this by untying them where breaking or cutting them remove the good fortune and blessing of the bracelets.
25 thoughts on “Monk Blessed String Bracelets (Thailand)”
We spent time in Thailand right around the Sonkran festival and had the pleasure of meeting a few monks and receiving lots of Sai Sin bracelets. Great post and pictures!
Thanks ZenMonkees. It’s been near a year since writing this and I still have a fray of bracelets on my wrist. I expected the family to be proud I kept them so long but they looked at me as though I were crazy ;D
Just wondering.. if you remove the bracelet (it hasn’t been untied) and put it back on after 3 years or so, does this bring bad luck? Or does the luck and prosperity still remain present with the bracelet?
Dear author, as for removing the sai sin/ fai, you can manually untie the threads or let them remove by themselves. You cannot cut them because cutting them also cuts the goodluck and wishes the elders granted unto you.
Thanks Yimsao. I have updated the above. I left mine until they fell off and they lasted longer than a year. I kept the fancy orange thread.
You’re welcome! I did the same! I learned a lot from your blogs! keep it up!
Hi what does it mean being put around wrist 3times looped tied,after blessing
Do different colors hold different meanings?
3 times repetition is used a lot in Buddhism and signifies 1. Buddha, 2. Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and 3. the Sangha (Buddhist community).
Thank you l have just seen your reply..
It was white, rolled up and down my arm.
With monk saying a prayer,also elder lady who l knew from temple also
Blessing me.water poured.
Then my head blessed with bamboo brush ?
Interesting, the string is still on my right wrist,a year on now with small
bead like bobbles..
I have 2 on my left wrist but they are the regular ones..but blessed.
With bracelets it would typically be white which signifies purity. Or orange / saffron which is the same as the monks holy robes 🙂
Hello There, I am really interested into bracelets. Ii wonder how it works,if I want to get done for my kids and my husband,do I need to do knots before putting on their wrist ? is it ok to wear for kids 8 and 11 years old? please give a bit info and where can I get bracelets as we live in Ireland?
Hi Vaida. I don’t see why it should be a problem for 8-11 year olds. When tying them the piece of string is put around the wrist before making the knot. So they will not come off. If you plan on travelling to Thailand then any (at least most) temples will offer them to visitors. Just find a monk (normally around the ordination hall) and ask for ‘Sai Sin’. They will be especially happy to offer them to tourists. Otherwise I am uncertain when outside of Thailand. I guess the local Thai Buddhist temple is your best bet. Although I’m up here in Northern Ireland, and I cannot think of a temple to visit 🙂
Great post. Would it be possible for you to tell me more about the significance of Sai Sin and wedding? My daughter is getting married this year and they would like to give each other Sai Sin as well as one for each guest. I am from Thai but grew up in England and my knowledge of it is pretty limited. I know that it plays a part of the wedding ceremony but not really sure what it represent. Any information will great full.
Hello! what does it means if a monk stops me on the street & gives me 2 bracelets 1 brown & the other with different colors also gives me a green Buddha neck less. He also ask me to write my name on a book, please let me know. I am not too familiar and I would like to know.
I was also happy and grateful to be chosen on a busy street.
Letty, you are very BLESS to have an amazing aura around you that lead a Monk to you. The enlightenment is within you, as we know and understand that within us is a BUDDHA. So live your life with kindness and respect, and pass on the enlightenment so that people around you can be bless also. May your day fill with enlightenment.
I visited Koh Samui about a month ago, we visited the mummified monk, and i was called over by the Monks for a blessing and the white bracelet was tied around my right wrist, it was so serial and then he sprinkled water on us, my bracelet is Still on. My Sister said to let it come off on its own so that’s what I’m doing Thank you for explaining the meaning…
Hi at all, I have a question regarding the sai sin. What happen when the bracelet fell off. Is the luck gone away or is it already there?
And if I lost the bracelet by putting it over the wrist? What happened if I put it back an my wrist?
Thank at all !
I’d like to know answer to bianca question too mine was on my right wrist multicoloured and got loose and came off l put it on my left wrist ?
I hope they delete my other post… too many mistakes… overtired. Corrected version….. My apologies.
Hello…. In the four months I spent in Thailand I recieved a couple of white Sai Sin at temples. They have a bit of fancy knotwork in the middle of them., … and during two months in Cambodia I received several red, or red and dark yellow multicolored Sai Sin… but they use a different name for it in Cambodia. I even received a white one at a Khmer Krom Theravada Buddhist temple in Canada.
You can also find this tradition also in Myanmar, Laos and Sri Lanka. Anywhere there are Theravada Buddhist Temples I guess..
My Thai friends told me that normally you leave it on for three days… at that point you have received all the blessings and good luck and can remove it. Some leave it on for seven days. And some leave it on until it rots and falls off.
Perhaps as a teaching of the Buddhist teaching of Impermanence. Like leaving flowers on your altar until they wilt and die even though you water and take care of them. The problem is… some of the bit thicker and stronger ones could take a few years to rot and fall off. Long before that.. they would be getting kind of funky if you know what I mean.
Leave your blessed Sai Sin on for at least three days. Or leave it on for seven days… whatever . And then you can remove it. But it should be an odd number… not an even number.
If you remove it…do not cut it.. carefully untie it. Use the tine of a fork to slowly work it untied if it is very tight.
Do not cut the string. Or you are cutting the connection with the monk who gave you the blessings.
Do not throw it out… save it somewhere special.
Yes.. some people leave it on until it falls off. But that’s not necessary. My Sai Sin are now on my Buddhist altar… draped around my little Buddha statues in the same direction as monk’s robes.
And to be quite honest… the real… actual blessings come not from the monk or the string…
You can collect all the Sai Sin string and monk blessings you wish. There is really no “magic” in them. There is really no “magic” in my Buddhist altar and statues.
I use my altar as a focal point… to help bring my mind to Lord Buddha and the Dhamma. But the REAL blessings come from the Dhamma…. the teachings of Lord Buddha himself… when you accept the teachings in your heart and mind and practice it in your daily life…that is the greatest blessing of all.
Three does make sense. It’s typical to repeat the same number in respect of Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Where dharma is the teachings of Buddha, and the path to enlightenment, while Sangha is the community of practising Buddhists.
Hi is there anywhere you can buy them from Thailand
Not that I know of. I think the worry here is you may just be getting a piece of string. It is much to do with the ritual when it is tied to your wrist.
Hello! Thank you for this post! Do you maybe know if it means something when a monk tells you to give him the other hand than usually used? I’m a woman and automatically handed over my left wrist like the other woman in the room, but the monk insisted he wants to put it on my right wrist…. I’m clueless…
A new one to me, unfortunately.