‘Kha’ and The 3rd Step
The 3rd step to the eightfold path is right speech. One integral part of this is to avoid ‘idle chatter,’ something I’ve come to realize The States seems to specialize in. The other day, I asked my Thai professor, how do I say “I agree” or “You’re right” and she didn’t have an answer for me, she said we don’t really use that expression, its not necessary. I’ve found the more and more I learn about Thai language, the more this theme comes up. The arbitrary small talk question of “How are you” is rarely used, and the semi-automatic response of “Nice to meet you” is found unnecessary as well.
One of the very first words you learn in Thai however is ‘kha’ (or ‘khrap’ for men) a way to end every sentence when speaking Thai. There is no way to translate it in English, I’m still unsure if there is a distinct meaning in Thai, but it simply shows respect and good intention to your words. (Look at that, Right Intention, the second step in the eightfold path). And when in doubt, you can just say ‘kha’. It’s as if Thai people don’t have the need to verbalize everything like we seem to do so often in English, instead there is more of an understanding between them that allows a simple respectful ‘kha’ to express all that needs to be understood in one syllable.
The more I study Thai language and Buddhism in Thailand, the more I’ve come to understand the intimate relationship between a people’s culture and their language, and how much of a community it can make among strangers. And so, the third step of the middle path, leading to the ultimate goal of enlightenment has made its way into the Thai language in the form of Kha.