The opening of the 13th conference of the International Association of Buddhist Studies was graced with the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, a princess with an impressive university education record, active in numerous welfare organisations, and currently director of the department of history at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. She is also praised for her literary talent, composes poems in Thai and French, has translated poetry and novels from Chinese and writes popular stories for children.
Due to an un-royal penchant for prolongued sleep, My Sleepy Self missed the first, early morning part of the opening ceremony, including the apparently spectacular arrival of Her Royal Highness as well as the detailed explanations of proper protocol to the gathered participants which preceded it.
Arriving late, My Ignorant Fingers quickly violated protocol by taking a photograph, which I was later informed had been forbidden. Here is the forbidden photograph.
The princess later attended several of the conference lectures. This always involved a complicated ritual: a special chair and pedestal had to be brought into the room, and security was all over the place. Everybody had to rise until Her Royal Highness had walked to Her Royally High Seat and sat down. At the opening lecture, she had eagerly taken notes, as you can see above (some participants including myself wondered what she had taken notes of, given that you could actually summarise the contents of the opening lecture on the back of a standard-size stamp. But this is a different topic and therefore justifiedly put inside brackets).
At one occasion, Her Royal Curiosity asked a lecturer a question. Protocol demanded that while she spoke, the listener had to kneel down in front of her, which the lecturer, a handsome tall young man from Australia, of course did. Then he answered her question. Everyone was pleased.
Protocol also demanded that whoever left the room or entered it, before leaving or sitting down, had to bow in the direction of Her Royal Back. Once more arriving late, My Sloppy Self had missed out on the protocol and, not finding a chair, simply sat down on the floor in the back of the room.
If the conference continues along Its Slippery Path of My Constant Violation of Protocol, I will be thrown out of Their Lovely Country in no time. Let us all pray to Lord Buddha and His Exalted Entourage that this will not happen.