The Cult Worship of King Chulalongkorn of Siam. How an Ancient King Became a God in a Modern Thai Society


Bachelorarbeit, 1996

78 Seiten, Note: Distinction


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Contents

Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1:The Life and Achievements of King Chulalongkorn
The Equestrian Statue

Chapter 2: Religion in Thailand
History
The Role of the Bhikkhus in Thai Society
Modern Thai Buddhism.
The Development of Other Cults in Thailand

Chapter 3: Amulets and the rise of Buddhist Commerce
History
Popular Amulets of Thailand
The Consecration Ceremony
'Superstar Monks'
Marketing by Magazines
Marketing by Miracles

Chapter 4: The Cult at the Equestrian Statue
Bin Banluerit and the Birth of the Cult
The Growth Period 1992 - 1994
The Decline of the Cult
Method of Worship
Demograhics of Worshippers

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Appendix
Appendix 1 The Equestrian Statue
Appendix 2: The Amulets of Thailand
Appendix 3: Advertisment for Rama V Amulets
Appendix 4: Marketing By Miracles
Appendix 5: Bin Banluerit’s Khata

Bibliography
English Language Sources:
English Journals, Magazine articles and Newspaper articles:
Thai Language Sources:
Thai Language Interviewees
Thai Language Sources:
Thai Language Interviewees:

Acknowledgments

The author would like to express his gratitude to Professor Nithi Iawsriwong from the faculty of History, Chiang Mai University, who provided the inspiration for this dissertation. For encouragement and supervision I am indebted to Dr. Christopher Court from the Department of Thai Studies, Monash University. Initial ideas and insight were provided by M.L. Walwipha Burusraranaphand from the Thai Khadi Research Institute at Thammasat University and Miss Suthinee Eungjornsakdee from Silapakorn University. Translations of Pali texts were made possible with the help of the Venerable Somwang Suvannamogaro, from the Melbourne Thai Buddhist Temple, Box Hill. Finally, the author would like to thank the many Thai people who patiently answered the author’s questions.

Geoffrey Blyth

Preface

In the well known work, The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer asserts: ...it was a belief widely held throughout the ancient world that the shadow of reflection of a person was his soul or at any rate a vital part of himself. If trampled upon or struck, he would feel the injury as if done to himself. As with shadows and with portraits; they are often believed to contain the soul of the person portrayed. Until the reign of the late King of Siam1 no Siamese coins were ever stamped with the image of the king, for at that time there was a strong prejudice against the making of portraits in any medium.2

The king that Frazer was referring to was King Chulalongkorn, the fifth king of the Chakri dynasty of Thailand, the first monarch to commit his image and have it printed on a commemorative medal and on Thai coinage. He was also the first king to allow numerous photographs of himself to be taken. Since Thai people have a great respect and admiration for their kings, I do not consider it strange to see photographs or paintings of Thai kings, both past and present, in their homes and work places.

However, whilst traveling in Thailand in November 1994 , I noticed the rise in popularity of photographs, paintings and statues of King Chulalongkorn in restaurants, banks and almost every small business property. Beneath these artifacts, I noticed offerings of various food stuffs that had been placed apparently for the late kings consumption!

At the same time, I noticed many Thais wearing amulets bearing the late King's image. Lastly, I discovered that, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, thousands of people were going to the King's Equestrian Statue at the Royal Plaza to worship the late King , believing that his virtue would help them achieve success in business.3 I was interested to find out the causes of this phenomenon, to discover what had occurred to initiate it and what it might reflect in Thai society. To this end, I spent time in Thailand, investigating the emergence of this new 'religion'. The results have been summarized in this paper. I found that the subject covered a wide range of disciplines, including the life and achievements of the King himself; Popular Buddhism, encompassing Brahmanistic, Hindu and Animistic elements; the origin of Buddhist amulets and amulets; as well as other objects bearing the image of King Chulalongkorn.

I have also analyzed the status of Buddhism in modern day Thailand, its relevance to the average Thai, the different forms of Buddhism and the convergence of Buddhism with consumerism apparent in the increase in marketing of Buddhist goods. I am particularly interested in the possibility of the changed status of Buddhism and how this may have provided the necessary conditions for the birth of the cult of Rama V.

All these areas are discussed in some detail to allow the reader to understand the environment in which the birth of the cult at the Equestrian Statue took place , the consequent growth under the auspices of a famous Thai movie Star and the background of amulet and magazine producers. Finally I have attempted to show what this cult worship of the late King may reflect in Thai society.

Introduction

With its 200,000 square miles, Thailand covers less than a third of the Indo-Chinese peninsular in South East Asia. Lying on the overground route from India to China, the country's four main rivers (Ping, Wang, Yom and Nan) all combine, in the north of the country to form the Chaophraya river, an easy network between the sea and the upland areas. Thailand has a population of 60 million, most of whom are of the Buddhist faith, with a small minority of Muslims in the South. The climate is tropical - humid with high temperatures, and the Southern and Western plains receive enough annual rainfall to support agriculture. The main crops are rice, maize, beans, coconuts and groundnuts.4

The main products are rice (which is exported extensively to surrounding Asian countries), electrical machinery, textiles, clothing and fish. Thailand is also one of the world's main exporters of rubber and tin. There is also a small scale petro-chemical industry being developed.

The earliest evidence of civilization in Thailand is of the Mons who came across from the Indian sub-continent, bringing Buddhism. Sumatrans and Khmers were also present, but it was during Kublai Khan's expansive movements that the Thai people moved South from Southern China. In 1220, the Thai princes took over Sukhothai and established the first capital city. In the fourteenth century, the capital moved to Ayuthaya and was briefly conquested by the Burmese in the sixteenth century. However the Thais recaptured Ayuthaya and it remained the capital until the eighteenth century when it was finally destroyed, again by the Burmese. A new capital was built in Thonburi but at the beginning of the reign of the Chakri dynasty in 1782, this was moved across the Chaophrya river to Bangkok where it remains today.

In 1932, after a peaceful coup, a constitutional monarchy was established and in 1939, the country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand, meaning land of the free. After the second World War, in 1948, the military took over and Thailand was governed by military dictators. In 1973, a student revolt restored democracy but due to factionalism and internal squabbles, this did not last long and once again the military regained control in 1976. Since then the military has continued to play a powerful role in the system of government maintaining a strong balancing force to the political parties that had formed government alliances since 1977.5

Chapter 1: The Life and Achievements of King Chulalongkorn

To become a monarch does not mean that one should amass material wealth, intimidate others, exact revenge on those one does not like; nor does it mean that one should be idle, or eat and sleep comfortably. If that is what one desires, one has two choices; either enter the monkhood or become a millionaire. To be a king, one has to tolerate both happiness and suffering with equanimity and be on one’s guard against love and hate which could surface in one’s mind at any time or at the instigation of others. The only reward a monarch may look forward to is the praise he receives when he is dead for ensuring the continued survival of his family and for shielding his subjects against suffering. A king must set out to achieve these last two goals above all else. If he fails to cultivate this kind of attitude, I cannot see how his reign can survive for very long. King Chulalongkorn in a letter dated July 8th, 1893.6

Prince Chulalongkorn, born on the 20 September, 1853 was a sickly 15 year old boy when his father, King Mongkut, died in 1868. The Chakri dynasty had been ruling since 1782 in Bangkok and the capital, as well as the dynastic line was stable. For five years, Rama IV’s Chief Minister, Chao Phya Sri Suriyawong, acted as Regent and continued Mongkut's policies while the young prince was tutored and traveled abroad to Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma and India, gaining first-hand experience of European administration.

At the age of twenty, the prince ascended to the throne as King Chulalongkorn, Rama V. The young Monarch’s first reform, though not particularly significant except symbolically, was to abolish the ancient practice of prostration before the king, demanding that his subjects stand before him as fellow human beings, not as if worshipping him as a god.7 His attitude toward his new responsibilities are clearly documented in a letter to his son, Prince Maha Vajirunhis, dated May 23rd, 1893:

When I was crowned at the age of only 15, I felt like I was a lamp which has almost been extinguished. But with my firm resolve to uphold integrity, to abstain from anger, to avoid a negative attitude toward others; and to try to follow in the footsteps of all the kings that preceded me, who performed their duties with perseverance and carefulness, I have thus far prospered.8

Traditionally, in theory, the King's power was 'absolute', however this power was difficult to assert due to poor transport and communications. In reality, provincial villages and towns were self-governing with a government-appointed official as a figurehead.9 When King Chulalongkorn took the throne, Thailand was in a state of being threatened by the surrounding colonial powers and despite his father’s efforts to keep them at bay, Siam was weak. The kingdom was loosely centralized and controlled by an elite group of the nobility who ruled as ministers with their own interests to protect.10 Rama V recognized this and in 1874 he appointed a royal commissioner to govern Chiang Mai, leading to an extension of royal control nationwide.11 King Chulalongkorn saw that to push through his reforms, he would have to surround himself with those who supported his ideas. Hence, he set up the Council of State and the Privy Council as advisory councils in matters of public policy to inject new young blood that would influence, or at least outnumber the older conservative government officials.12

Previously, the government consisted of a series of inter-dependent departments, each having jurisdiction over a range of functions within a range of territories, often these departments would overlap and compete with each other.13 Almost immediately after his second coronation, the king started attacking the foundations of the existing governmental institutions, bringing in reform decrees that weakened the power of the nobility.14 Rama V started setting up small specialized departments to focus on one function, starting with a Revenues Development Office in 1875. This department's first task was to study the current distribution of taxes and eventually laid the foundation for the future Ministry of Finance. Also in 1875, Rama V set up a Royal Telegraph Department, bringing in the telegraph system, thereby immensely improving communications to the provinces. In 1881, the Post Office was established, followed in 1885 by the department of Foreign Relations and the Department of Survey to aid the telegraph service and set the foundations for the coming railway system and to serve as a basis for land registration.15 The king saw the advantages in establishing diplomatic relations with foreign countries, particularly those in Europe. In 1881, for the first time, ambassadors were sent abroad. The king also made many state visits abroad and improved ties with the various heads of foreign nations, thus maintaining Thailand’s independence.16 In the twenty years from 1890 to his death in 1910, many alterations were made that testify to King Chulalongkorn’s determination to bring Thailand into the modern world and the administerial structure of the 1970’s was a direct outcome of Rama V’s reforms and ideas.17 1891 saw the overhaul of the judiciary system to match that of European countries. Under the supervision of Prince Rabai (1874-1920) The various courts, divided according to the ministry with which they were affiliated, were disbanded and a single Ministry of Justice was founded to clear the backlog of civil court cases that had mounted up due to the delays caused by the old inefficient system.18 Major changes took place in 1892 when Rama V totally restructured the bureaucratic system by abolishing the existing system of chatsadom which was a remnant of the Ayutthaya court from 400 years earlier, and paved the path for the present system of government by consolidating specialized areas of interest and establishing new ministries to deal with areas which, hitherto had been distributed among the various territorial departments. The most important areas of government were consolidated into Ministries - defense, territorial control, foreign affairs communications, education, finance and justice. At the centre of this new government was the recently established Ministry if the Interior, responsible for the administration of the entire country and having territorial officials to enforce the new laws. In 1897, the Ministry of the Interior was responsible for the forming of the National Police Service. The Ministry also started training personnel and recruiting the graduates returning from their overseas education (as studying abroad was encouraged by Rama V), and a governmental cabinet was set up. Rama V often invited foreign specialists to help set up the Ministries and train the Thai personnel.19

What are often seen as the most progressive reforms were the two decisions to introduce compulsory education and compulsory military conscription, against the advice of his Western advisers on the grounds of expense and risk of political opposition. Despite this, King Chulalongkorn carried his proposals through.20 Between 1871 and 1884, schools for the children of nobility and government officials had been established and in 1897, the king started a royal grant to send gifted children from all levels of society to study abroad. Education was important to Rama V on the basis that it provided training for government service, more useful citizens and instilled Buddhist teachings at a young age.21 Following the traditional support of the monarch towards Buddhism and the Sangha the King revised the Tipitaka and had it translated from pali to Thai then printed so that a wider range of people would be able to understand Buddhism. The King also built many new monasteries and restored older ones.22

Perhaps the achievement which most endears Rama V to the Thai people is his role in the abolishment of slavery. One year after Rama V's ascension to the throne, in 1874, he decreed that anyone born after October 1st 1868 would be freed on their 21st birthday if they were a slave. At that time there seven type of slaves namely: 1. Slaves bought from a previous owner. 2. Children born from slaves. 3. Slaves given as presents. 4. People who had been helped with payment of fines after criminal conviction. 5. People who were helped in times of high prices for rice. 6. Prisoners of war. 7. Children given in to gambling houses as payment for gambling loses.23

If they were born free, they could only be sold into slavery after the age of 15 and only with their consent. In 1897, it was decreed that it was illegal to sell oneself or anyone else into slavery. The final decree in 1905 banned slavery altogether. This steady abolishment avoided angering the slave holders by depriving them suddenly, ensured very little social disturbance and cost nothing to the government. In fact it was extremely beneficial financially to the government: prior to Rama V's reign, slaves worked for free men and were not obliged to pay taxes. By the slow abolishment of slavery, the ranks of tax-paying peasants swelled gradually as they began to work their own land, increasing the supply of rice to be exported. In the 1850's, rice exports amounted to less than one million picules per annum; by the end of the century, rice exports had increased to eight million picules a year. To aid the increase in rice exports, Rama V promoted irrigation and the building of dams.24

The king recognized the fact that his country lacked the qualified staff to bring Thailand on a par with western countries. Thus, he started employing foreigners to be attached to and to advise various ministries. In Western accounts of Thai history, the onus of development is often placed on these foreign advisers, but credit must go to the king and his ministers for their foresight in recruiting them: “Employing foreigners means we are using ready made textbooks, that is, we are using what has already been tried and tested.” King Chulalongkorn in a letter to Phraya Visuthi Suriyasakdi, February 3rd, 1899.25

In 1891, a Department of Mines was implemented to control the growing tin industry and export and in 1896, Rama V invited a British forestry officer to come from India and establish the 'Siamese Forestry Department', recruiting European officers to train Siamese staff.26 Uniformity, stability and order, in the monkhood, were made possible with the introduction of the Sangha Act in 1902 which led to the development of the national Buddhist ecclesia in Thailand.27

All these reforms are a credit to King Chulalongkorn and establish him as the founder of modern Thailand, but must be regarded as even more so when placed in the context of the risks he was taking with increasing opposition from the established government at the beginning of his reign. On his first coronation in 1868, the nobility also appointed a ‘second heir’ - his elder cousin, Prince Wichaichan who was to succeed to the throne should the young, sickly Chulalongkorn die. Prince Wichaichan was given his own army and ‘mini-government’ and the grounds of what is now the National Museum, just hundreds of yards from the Grand Palace. In this ‘Front Palace’, the heir apparent was a constant threat, and the king’s supporters began to worry about political opposition in the wake of political unrest among the elder ministers due to his reforms. In November 1874, Prince Wichaichan was verbally attacked in the Privy Council by the king’s supporters, after which military preparations were undertaken by both sides and the threat of civil war was ever-present. It is unknown exactly what happened, but the prince eventually took asylum in the British Consulate. The matter was resolved and the prince was left with a considerably reduced army. ‘The Front Palace Crisis’ as it is now known is significant in that it illustrates the danger in which the king placed himself and also shows that there was strong political opposition to the king’s reforms. It also explains why the king slowed down the progress of his reforms around 1875, and it wasn’t until the mid 1880’s, as the older and strongest political opponents were removed either by death or infirmity, that the king took up his reformist crusade again.28 The 42 year reign of Rama V, the longest of any King in Thai history, brought about considerable change and improvement to the Thai economy and the system of government. By helping people increase their income, the government increased its own through taxation, thus funding its development projects.

Through determination, perseverance and patience, Rama V pushed his reforms to bring Thailand into the twentieth century, achieving his aim, as he once declared in a speech upon his return from Europe in 1897: “I am determined to do everything in my power to make Siam a free and progressive country.”29

The Equestrian Statue

In order to mark the fortieth anniversary of Rama V's ascension to the throne, the longest reign of any Thai monarch, Prince Ora Mongkut Klao Jao You Hua, who later became King Rama 6, organized donations from other relatives, government officials and businessmen and collected a sum of 1,200,00 Baht to donate towards a statue of King Chulalongkorn. During this time King Chulalongkorn , who was on his first trip to Europe, was greatly impressed by the statue of King Louis 14 at the Versailles Palace in Paris and decided that it would make an excellent monument.30

On August 22nd, 1907 King Chulalongkorn visited Paris for the second time in order to allow the sculptor to carve the statue. The bronze, slightly larger than life figure, which stands on a marble pillar, was sculptured by Professor Corrado Feroci, better known as Professor Silpa Bhirasri, the Italian artist who founded Silpakorn University at the Suess Seur Brothers foundry in Paris.31 In 1907, upon its completion, it was sent to Bangkok and mounted on a marble stand in front of the Dusit Palace, next to the Amporn Gardens. The marble stand measures 6 meters high, 2 meters wide and 5 meters wide. King Chulalongkorn unveiled the statue on 11 November, 1908 the date which coincided with his coronation.32 In 1910 it was decided that the 23 October, a date very close to the day of his death, would be chosen for an official-wreath laying ceremony to pay respect at the statue. This government-initiated custom has continued to the present day.33 Since then the statue has been the focus of occasional unwelcome attention, the gold hat-top being stolen in the 1950's, and in 1980 the Bronze sword was taken by thieves.34 The total cost of the monument amounted to less than one million Baht and the balance was used to establish a school which later became Chulalongkorn university. A photograph of the statue can be seen in appendix 1.

Chapter 2: Religion in Thailand

In 1928, J. B. Pratt in ‘The Pilgrimage of Buddhism’ wrote: the influence of Buddhism on the Siamese people is generally admitted to be, from the moral point of view, excellent. This is the chief reasonwhy Christian missions have made such slow and slight progressThe Buddhists are so satisfied with their own religion that it is difficult to make them see that they need another.Buddhism is, moreover, probably the greatest force for democracy in Siam. The poorest peasant may become a monk, and once a monk he is spiritually on the level of the king...It teaches its followers that this is an ideal world, that the forces which ultimately control it are moral forces, that what a man sows he inevitably shall reap, and that death is not the end.35

In the following chapter, we shall map the growth and development of Buddhism and its many variations, and determine if the above quotation can still be said of Thai people today.

History

Animism is the earliest world religion and the predecessor of many modern day beliefs. The word ‘animism’ is attributed to the worship of natural objects and phenomenon and is based on the theory that the soul is the vital principle.36 Brahmanism and Buddhism were brought to South East Asia by Indian traders on their way to China, and spread throughout the region from the second century BC to the ninth century AD. Brahmanism was an early Indian religion that later developed into Hinduism, and Buddhism branched off from Brahmanism but remained related - both beliefs promote the concepts of karma and reincarnation. Buddhism acknowledges the Hindu gods but plays down their role as guardians and servants of the Lord Buddha.37

The Mon and Khmer cultures that inhabited the area that is now Thailand easily absorbed these two religions as they allowed for Animism.38 Later, the Tai-speaking people, who were the ancestors of modern day Thais, were also Animists and believed in spirits, known as phi. Through contact with the Mon people, they were converted to Buddhism and their phi were adapted to their new religion.39 In the thirteenth century, the Sukothai king, King Ramkhamhaeng, promoted Theravada Buddhism as the national religion. After conquering the Khmer capitol, Angkhor, Thai kings brought Brahmanical priests to their court to legitimize their divine existence. These Brahmans played an important role in ceremonies, predictions and dream interpretations.40 The Khmers had used these priests to assert the king as a reincarnated god (usually Shiva or Vishnu) which was essential to the maintenance of their power. The devaraja or Royal God was worshipped in the form of a stone phallus or a statue of Shiva or Vishnu bearing the face of the present king.41

In more recent history, most Thai Buddhists have understood their national religion not through reading the original scriptures or the Tripitakas ( the Buddhist ‘textbook’), but from ceremonies or dramatization of Buddhist folklore.42 More attention is paid to three popular texts - Trai Phum Phra Ruang, Phra Malai and Maha Chat - for the popular definition of Buddhism.

The Trai Phum (the Three Worlds) was allegedly written in the fourteenth century by Phra Ruang who was to become Prince Lithai, one of the later Sukothai kings. In the text, he sets forth a cosmological world order relating to karma and demonstrates how the king is the most meritous person, and therefore at the top of the world order, and lays down a guide for a king’s behavior. In Phra Malai, written in the fifteenth century, is an account of the author’s visit to heaven and hell and a description of his experiences to those on earth. The author, Phra Malai, details the punishments afflicted for certain sins in hell, and the privileges enjoyed in heaven by those with good karma. Both of the above texts are common sources for Temple murals. The Maha Chat relates the story of the Buddha’s last incarnation in which He acquires generosity as the final pre-requisite to becoming the Buddha in the next life. This is probably the best-known and most important text in terms of aiding the understanding of Buddhism for the lay people.43

In the nineteenth century, the world view was challenged by the arrival of Christianity and by those in the Siamese court who had, for the first time, been exposed to Western thinking. King Mongkut encouraged monks to return to the original Buddhist texts for teaching, spurned the mix of religion and folklore and discouraged the teaching of the Maha Chat on religious occasions. The king also took the Protestant view of religion being born, of the conviction of belief rather than being inherited at birth. He also encouraged interest in science, leading to a more naturalistic approach in studies of the world.44

The Role of the Bhikkhus in Thai Society

In village life, the monks or bhikkhus, are vital to the lay people, not only as religious representatives and moral role models, but also as a means of collecting ‘merit points’ to augment their positive karma. The bhikkhus are active in all spheres of village life - no ceremony is complete without them, although this is more due to tradition than to fulfil any actual religious role. The Wat is the centre of village activity and the monks the organizers . For the average villager, the concepts of Nirvana and the Dhamma have little to do with everyday life - their comprehension comes from the simple notions of karma, rebirth, merit and sin. They collect merit by their present actions but a ‘better life’ to them usually means in material terms, not in ideal Buddhist terms of the ridding of all desire, so Buddhist teachings are adapted by the monks for the better understanding of the common people. Sometimes this adaptation of Buddhist teachings can include non-Buddhist elements, particularly from Animism and Brahmanism. This is partly due to the Buddha’s own approach to his theology - commentators assert that He couldn’t ban or deny the entrenched belief in deities and spirits without losing His followers, so He admitted them into His religion.45 As Dr. Sumitr Pitiphat, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology at Thammasat University points out “If you read the Buddha’s teachings, He never condemns other religions.”46 For example, the sacred thread (sai sin) often used in religious ceremonies can be traced back to the practice of Brahmanism; before eating food donated by villagers, monks make an offering to the Buddha image, which is an Animistic practice; and in North East Thailand, the monks supervise and take an active part in the skyrocket (Bun Bang Fai) festival, worshipping the rain god.47 Until the nineteenth century , the arama, where the ruling body of monks (Sangha) lived in each village was regarded as a spiritual, social, cultural and educational centre. In small communities the Sangha still have an impact but in cities, such as Bangkok, this no longer applies. With the expansion of British and French colonialism throughout SE Asia, the influence of Buddhism was reduced. In Siam, however, the Sangha and the government remained close, but in recent years, the government has become more corrupt, even to the point of oppressing its own people. As consumerism and materialism crept into Thai society, the bhikkhus’ lives became more comfortable, and their role has been somewhat reduced to performing in ceremonies - blessing households, weddings and funerals. Now the Sangha is supported by those who only care about their own gain and it is easy to forget the poverty and the suffering that is still rife in most of Thai society. Those who rule the country and the businesses still need their superstitions to support their business risks, and some monks embrace and endorse magic and astrology to keep in favor with the ruling class. By supporting the government (while claiming to be non-political), the bhikkhus are becoming more and more alienated from the lay people. The new middle classes, who are educated and able to seek their own answers in Buddhism without the help of the bhikkhus, are now challenging the Sangha’s intellectual leadership. They can see that business with the West , bringing commercialism and materialism, clashes with essential Buddhist teachings. As Sulak Sivaraksa asserts, “Modern development encourages competition and success, whereas Buddhism encourages collaboration and contentedness.” and “Buddhism is being killed by capitalism”.48

In an article in The Nation newspaper, dated 3rd March 1995, Dr. Phra Maha Somchai Kusalacitto49, speculates as to the reason why there are less ordinations of monks despite the increase in population - out of 30,000 temples nation-wide, 5-6,000 are without an abbot - as being because of the change in monks’ relationships with the lay people. The younger generation see them as cut off from reality and their teachings as irrelevant to every day life. Even monks who understand the current social problems still use outdated texts in their teachings and include Pali words which have no meaning to the average person .50 Another reason that could account for the decline in interest in joining the monkhood is the recent spate of bad publicity this ancient institution has been receiving in the media. The sex scandal involving Phra Yantra Ammaro Bhikkhu, who is accused of breaking his vow of celibacy, has focused Thai Buddhists attention on the behavior of monks and in particular, the Sangha Supreme Council, the main governing body of the bhikkhus, who ignored the accusations until public and media pressure forced them to investigate.51 On this subject, the highly respected scholar-monk, Phra Dhammaphidok asserts that the issue of Phra Yantra’s guilt should not be the focus of attention - that it should be seen as a symptom of the problems facing contemporary Thai society. According to Buddha’s teachings, lay people have the right to judge and punish a monk’s conduct, but over time, this has been forgotten, and people have neglected their duty and responsibility as the monks have almost become a separate species supposedly endowed with supernatural abilities. As such, all sides are to blame. Monks were originally the message carriers but over the years, there has been a shift in focus from the Buddha’s teachings to the idolization of individual charismatic monks.52 With this in mind, it is not surprising that a separation in Buddhist belief should occur, and new branches, maybe even new religions should develop out of the failure of traditional Buddhism to fulfil the religious requirements of a modern day society.

Modern Thai Buddhism

In his book ‘Buddhism, Legitimation and Conflict: The Political Functions of Urban Thai Buddhism’, Peter A. Jackson defines three differing forms of Buddhism prevalent in Thailand today: the metaphysical form, advocated by the Thai establishment; the rationalist form developed by the middle class; and the supernatural form, practised by peasants, workers and uneducated people. He also points out a definite relationship between the form practised and the socio-economic background of the adherent, reflecting the political aspirations of the follower.53

Establishment Buddhism is the traditional royal form used in the past to justify the institution of absolute monarchy and puts a particular emphasis on karma. It has developed a theory of social hierarchy based on past morality in former incarnations - for instance, a peasant at the bottom of the social scale must have behaved immorally in a former life to find himself in this position, whereas, at the other extreme, the king must be the most meritous person, displaying exemplary moral behavior in his past lives and therefore deserves his position at the apex of the social pyramid. Using the Trai Phum Phra Ruang which describes a hierarchy of multi-leveled heavens and hells, inhabited by gods, demons and humans (the gods Brahma and Ishvara and their devata occupying the higher levels of heaven), the king and nobility legitimize their own superior and privileged position in society, as reflected in the cosmological world view. Due to this, the Thai king became endowed with a semi-divine status and Brahmanical rituals establishing the king as a god were absorbed into the royal religious cults.54

Reformist or middle-class Buddhism is practised by professionals and intellectuals who have accepted western rationalism and have set out to demythologise Buddhism. One well-known advocate is Phra Phutthathat (Buddhadasa) Bhikkhu who asserts that the establishment’s ‘heaven’ (sugati, svarga) and ‘hell’ (dugati, naraka) are metaphors for mental states of well-being and suffering respectively. In this form of Buddhism, “ Heaven is in one’s breast, hell is in one’s mind, Nirvana exists in the human mind”55 In other words, gods and demons are merely representations of human beings experiencing ‘heavenly’ or ‘hellish’ states of being. This interpretation emphasizes human life now and justifies the middle class desire for social and economic development and material prosperity.

Reformist Buddhists turn to the original scriptures in Suttapitaka and Vinayapitaka in the aim of purifying Buddhism - rejecting later texts incorporating non-Buddhist elements. The attainment of karma and merit is through individual perseverance, not by donating to the monks and although they don’t reject the Sangha outright, Reformists are opposed to their administrative system and the close links between the senior monks and the establishment.56 Many Reformists call for the striving of salvation through productive work, hence their own position in society : “The word ‘working’ (Kaan-tham-ngaan) is Thai. If it were rendered into Pali, it would be the word ‘sammakammanto’, which translates as ‘having right work’. When there is ‘right work’ then it is one component of the practices of the Noble Path.”57 This is a justification of their own commercial activities and accumulation of material wealth and with their assertion that Nirvana can be achieved by anyone, they reflect their own desire for a democracy in which individuals (particularly the middle class) have more access to the manipulation of political power, as opposed to Establishment Buddhism in which there is a clear hierarchy of power. However, both the Establishment Buddhists and the Reformist Buddhists are agreed on one thing - the breakdown of the village social system is threatening Thai commitment to Buddhism. Not only is secularism a threat, but also the growth of Supernaturalism which undermines Buddhism.

Traditional Thai Supernaturalism focuses on the belief in spirits and magic, or the base arts, known as saiyasaat. It concentrates on the manipulation of protective spirits whose power is transmitted through material objects such as amulets (phra khryang) and material inscribed with magic spells (phaa yan). Reformists condemn saiyasaat as irrational and at odds with Reformist Buddhism that rejects all supernaturalism. However, some Establishment monks include saiyasaat as a minor part of Buddhist practice, justifying it by : “The Buddha did not deny the reality or efficacy of saiyasaat, but rather taught that it was not the highest spiritual refuge and nor could it lead to a complete release from suffering”58

Despite this, both Reformist and Establishment Buddhists agree that Supernaturalism is a threat to Buddhist values. Worried that society might reject religion and rely on saiyasaat and astrology, they envisage a return to the ‘Dark Ages’. This is because of the emphasis on individual protection, opposed to the collective identity developed by the national Buddhist church, and is seen as weakening the church’s authority.59

In December 1983, the Siam Rat weekly magazine reported an upsurge in donations given to certain well-known spirit houses in Bangkok, such as that at the Erawan Hotel, in the last 2-3 years, and speculated that this may have been caused by a drop in the economy. The return to the worship of spirits may also be due to the breakdown of village-based sense of community as more and more provincials migrate to the cities. Maybe individual Supernaturalism provides more meaningful support among the anonymous masses of the city and fits better into a competitive society .60

The Development of Other Cults in Thailand

Cult: The ritual observances involved in the worship of, or communication with, particular supernatural persons or objects or their symbolic representations. A cult includes the collection of ideas, activities, and practices associated with a given divinity or social group, e.g.,, the cult of Dionysius.61

At the same time as Buddhism was branching off into various forms based on social class, other cults were developing. Two of the most popular cults based on Buddhist teachings are the Dharmakaya and the Santi Asoke. The Dharmakaya cult focuses on meditation and asks for donations from followers with the assurance that this will gain the donor ‘merit points’. The donations go towards expanding their compound and the cult is planning the erection of a one tonne gold statue of their late leader, Luang Pho Sod Wat Paknam. At the other extreme, the Santi Asoke cult are hard-liners - strict vegetarians and celibate, even if they are married. Their followers must break completely with their families if they are to join, and the teachings are extremely difficult to follow.62

The more well-known and popular ‘cult’ is that of Kwan Yin. This appeals to the middle classes and can be described more as an ideology than a cult. It defines a moral code of behavior that, if followed, promises success to its adherents. Kwan Yin is a recent development and reflects profound changes taking place within Thai society: As Asia embraces the Western world and all the materialism it brings, the Temple no longer fulfils the requirements of the new middle class. Original Buddhism focuses on the Buddha’s teachings with regards to two social classes only - the royal court and the peasants - there was no existing middle class until recently, so there were no ready-made adaptations to satisfy their religious needs. Animism does not fill the religious gap either because of the lack of any coherent moral code. Although Animism includes certain prohibitions, they are not related to Buddhism and are only tools for feeding Man’s passion and prejudices. Kwan Yin developed when Animism was at the peak of its popularity but this ideology attempts to combine Animism with the morality and Paratthama Dhamma of Buddhism.63

Chapter 3: Amulets and the rise of Buddhist Commerce

The tourist who comes to Bangkok and visits the monasterieswill see in every vihara and ordination hall a Buddha image, nearly always larger than life-size and often colossal. occupying the place of honor; and he will see an indefinite number of lesser ones distributed in halls and galleries - often several hundred of them, and in certain monasteries, more than a thousand. So remarks A.B. Griswold in his work ‘What is a Buddha Image?’64

In this chapter, we will analyze the popularity of amulets as part of contemporary Thai culture, and discuss the changes in the past twenty years where marketing, via the media, has instilled value in the amulets using ‘superstar monks’, magazines, newspapers and pricing techniques. From the history of amulets, their meaning, through to the shift in focus from Buddhist and Animistic amulets to those bearing Rama V, we will investigate the causes and effects of this new intensity in amulet promotion.

History

According to legend, the Buddha's disciple Ananda asked Him if his followers could be allowed to perform a regular ritual in His memory, or if they could have a substitute to remind them of Him. The Buddha replied that they could make pilgrimages to places of great events in His life to inspire them or, if necessary, they could take His bodily relics such as bones and teeth, and build stupas to house them . Physical representations are needed the world over, regardless of religion, as a sacred reminder of the faith they have chosen to follow. However, there is a tendency to forget the original purpose of these representations as they take on more superstitious characteristics and the purpose of displaying one's wealth and status.

Before the first century AD, Buddha’s image was never represented in Buddhist art: His deeds were merely symbolized by the bodhi tree (representing His Enlightenment), the wheel (His first sermon) and His footprints (to represent His stay in the wilderness).At about this time, the first images in Buddha’s likeness were made. These objects were not only meant to serve as a reminder, but were also supposed to contain great power, stemming from association with Buddha, the makers of the objects, those who blessed the image and followed Buddha’s teachings religiously, the consecrating ritual itself and the natural power of the materials used - metal, wood, gem or stone. Since then, the Buddha image has been seen to have a radiating energy or power, and as such, has become much sought-after by Buddhists. Moreover, wearing a Buddha amulet is believed to lend the wearer protection from harm as the amulet's power is transmitted to the owner.65 Originally, many small, intricate Buddha images were made for the sole purpose of stuffing inside a larger Buddha statue to infuse the statue with power. Now these amulets are extremely popular and there is a thriving business in selling antique amulets that have been buried for hundreds of years inside a statue.

Popular Amulets of Thailand

The popular amulets of Thailand can be divided into four types: Firstly, depictions of historic Buddha images; amulets sacralized by famous monks (especially from the nineteenth century, e.g. - Phra Somdet and Phra Kling); the representations of gods, animals and people, sacralized by monks; and finally, those blessed by forest-dwelling 'meditation masters'.

Many ancient Temples contain well-known Buddha images believed to benefit worshippers. Due to their fame, amulet copies are made and promoted in magazines and catalogs and as such, are in great demand. One example of this is the three Buddha images found in Phitsanulok which, over time, have been endowed with legendary stories. They were probably made in the fourteenth century and are supposed to be protected by angels and a god. Added to their fame is the reputation of having been worshipped by many Kings in the past. Of the three, two are now found in Bangkok - Buddha Jinasiha and Phra Sri Sasta, the other, Buddha Jinaraja remains in Phitsanulok but its copy, commissioned by King Chulalongkorn, resides in the Marble Temple, Bangkok. The first batch of medallions depicting Buddha Jinasiha was made in 1897 to commemorate the return of King Chulalongkorn from a tour of Europe. In 1942, Phra Cham of Wat Makutkasat sponsored the production of another batch representing both Bangkok Buddha’s. However, of the three, it is Buddha Jinaraja that has been most copied and sacralized. Perhaps the best-known and most worshipped Buddha is the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew. The jewel is originally from India and legend has it that the Buddha had seven Buddha relics embedded in it at its consecration ceremony. Rama I brought the Emerald Buddha from Vientiane, Laos, after defeating the principality there, and placed it in his own personal chapel in the Grand Palace. Many Thai chronicles have been written about this Buddha, who is worshipped by the present King, and copies of this image are made by the millions.

The power of an amulet is determined by four factors namely its age, the name and fame of the blessing monk, the proof of its efficacy and finally its price. Most famous amulets are made in limited batches and sacralized on a historical occasion by monks famous for their virtue and having Royal Patronage. These amulets often have distinctive shapes and markings to guard against fakes. The best-known antique amulets - Phra Somdet - were blessed by Luang Pho To, a forest monk living during the reigns of Rama IV and Rama V. These amulets are small tablets made of yellow or white clay with an image of a meditating Buddha, sitting on a pedestal of varying number of layers. They were made in different Temples and their Temple of origin can be discerned by their design -

i. Those made in Wat Rakhang and Wat Suthat show a three-layered pedestal
ii. If made in Wat Ketchaiyo, the pedestal has nine layers and the Buddha is distinguished by his long ears and an incision on the chest
iii. The amulets produced in Wat Plap are small and oval in shape with a pedestal of three layers.
iv. Seven layered pedestals distinguish those made in Wat Bangkhunphrom.

These are the Temples to which Luang Pho To allegedly retreated and blessed the amulets. They have become valuable collectors items, and one businessman is reported to have paid 700,000 Baht for a tablet from the first batch.

The other well known antique amulet on the market is the Phra Kring amulet. These are small and hollow with a small piece of metal inside that 'krings' when shaken. Only thirty were made at Wat Bovonniwet under the Abbot, Prince Pavares, who also blessed them. More of these Kring amulets were made at Wat Suthat, but were only given to the Nobility. Believed to contain super-natural powers, they have become priceless collectors pieces and because of this, many fakes have been added to the market. It is interesting to note that the two monks who sacralized these amulets were both highly revered in their own lifetime. Prince Pavares, besides being of royal blood and patronized by royalty, was also an Abbot of a Wat that was previously under Rama IV, in fact, Prince Pavares succeeded Rama IV as Abbot. Luang Pho To was a respected forest meditation master and had the ability to get on with both the establishment and the Temple authorities. His disciple Luang Phu became the Abbot of Wat In and also became famous for his supernatural powers.

Even older are the Phra Ruang amulets which are alleged to have been made during the reign of the first Sukothai king. These amulets depict the Sukothai-style Buddha and are supposed to be particularly effective in protecting the wearer from weapons.

Other popular amulets represent animal, bird and human images and bring the wearer anything from business success to increased sexual prowess. Many are professed to have been sacralized by monks but there is no way of judging their authenticity as this type of amulet is cheap and abundant. (The most common amulets can be seen in table 1 in appendix 2. Other amulets depict figures connected with the animal kingdom as shown in table 2.)

As seen, most of these amulets are designed to help manipulate the behavior of others. Any monk that blesses this type of amulet is considered to be at the bottom of the 'range' as opposed to the monks who bless more 'worthy' amulets at the top, as none of the above charms have anything to do with purification and Nirvana, indeed, some of them are considered to be dabbling in the art of magic.66

The Consecration Ceremony

Consecration ceremonies may differ in order and intensity, but the basic idea behind them remains the same. If a Temple wants to hold a consecration ceremony (phutthaphisek), first it must chose an auspicious day, when the spirits are 'strong' - this could be on a Saturday or Tuesday, or on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. When a day has been decided upon, an invitation is sent to a number of renowned monks and anyone who wants to sacralize an amulet must wrap it and hand it in to the organizing committee where it is recorded. There is usually a special medallion made to commemorate the occasion. The ritual usually takes place in the Temple where four tall, many-tiered umbrellas are placed at the four corners of an elevated platform on which the monks sit and chant. There must be an uneven number of tiers on the umbrellas - usually nine. A sacred white cotton thread, sai sin, is strung 1.5 meters above the ground to enclose the platform, including the main Buddha image. All the objects to be blessed are placed inside the segregated area, and the monks take their places on the three sides that don't contain the Buddha image, with their begging bowls in front of them. Each bowl contains a small amount of water and a candle attached to the rim. Taking a piece of sai sin, the monks first prostrate themselves before the Buddha image and then light the candle. The next four or five hours are spent chanting Pali texts and meditating. The power generated by their chanting and meditation is transmitted along the sai sin to the center of the platform to the objects to be blessed. During this time, all doors and windows are kept closed so the power doesn't escape, and the sai sin is supposed to be so highly charged with permanent energy that pieces of it are often sold off as amulets themselves. Monks can bless an object by simply bringing it to his mouth, uttering Pali spells (pluk sek) and blowing on it. Objects can also be sacralized by monks unintentionally - if a bundle of wrapped objects is placed near the monk during meditation or chanting, the objects become 'charged' with beneficial power. The most important aspect of the consecration is the proximity to an important ritual. Lay people can also bless amulets if they know the correct actions and spells but they usually manipulate more aggressive and dangerous magic whereas a monk's blessing transmits beneficial magic.67

'Superstar Monks'

In an article dated 27th December 1993, the Manager Weekly newspaper gave a ranking of 'The Five Most Popular Monks in Thailand at Present'. At the top of the list was Luang Pho Koon from Ban Rai Temple whose amulets have become exceedingly popular since reports of miracles involving his amulets have abounded in newspapers.

Following in order of ranking were Luang Pho Kasem Kaemmako from the Trilak Cemetery in Lampang , this monk is a new-comer to amulet production and has only done so to support his public community projects; Luang Pho Peun from Bang Pra Temple in Nakorn Pathom, regarded as the most famous monk in central Thailand, originally produced amulets for immortality and safety but has recently changed their purpose to assure business prosperity to 'meet the demands of the present market'; Luang Pho Yid Jantasuwanno from Nong Jok Temple who produces phallic talisman amulets valued for immortality and mercy, he is known for simplifying Buddhist teachings for the better understanding of lay people; and finally, Luang Pho Kram Nasotarow in Rayong Province who, in 1993, blessed certain politicians who later became ministers, his amulet business is reported to be worth more than one billion Baht, using over 8,000 street vendors nationwide and investing between 100 and 200 million Baht per year in advertising.68 The practice of Image Worship is an intrinsic part of Thai culture and, despite its animistic connotations, survives in Buddhist Thailand. Many people believe in amulets' supernatural abilities to bring luck and protection and so enterprising marketers have seized upon this belief to make money by selling amulets bearing likenesses of Buddha and famous monks. As in any business, promotion is needed to assure success.69

Marketing by Magazines

Buddhist magazines, catalogs and books have existed for a long time but in recent times their purpose has changed. Twenty years ago a magazine would be circulated among an elite few of collectors and traders and would only contain a history of each Buddhist artifact and a brief biography of the monk who consecrated it. The magazine's role was to inform the reader about Buddhism. Later, as amulets became more popular, the magazines started including such information as characteristics of certain amulets to help the reader guard against buying fake copies, the materials used in their production and their value - information previously known to only a few specialized traders. In recent years, the magazines' reader circulation has widened along with the circle of people who buy amulets. Meeting demands, amulet traders started setting up stalls in department stores and advertising. To create new product lines, new amulets bearing the image of popular monks, both living and dead, were produced and advertised in such magazines. The target group of these magazines changed from the collector to the investor - investing either financially or in their good fortune - no longer interested in the history behind the amulets, only their value.70

When people started losing interest in the new monk amulets, those depicting Rama V were produced and promoted by reports of the miracles that have happened in their presence. In 1992, adverts promoting Rama V coins appeared in national newspapers. This was the first time this form of high profile advertising occurred, and its practice has continued so that now it is common to see these advertisements every day in a national newspaper and in January, 1993 was believed to have accounted for up to 60% of the advertising space in newspapers. In an investigation conducted by Manager Daily newspaper, 3.2 million Baht was spent on amulet promotion during the period of July 26th to 31st.71 In July, 1994 the Government began looking into the lucrative amulet trade in order to find a way of taxing amulet traders who had managed to avoid paying taxes.72 By October, 1994 it was planned that a special panel of the Education Ministry would have completed drafting rules governing the commercialization of Buddhist artifacts.73

Marketing by Miracles

In 1950, Luang Pho Koon went to Wat Ban Rai and started passing out amulets made in his image. They were not popular, and so Luang Pho Koon remained largely anonymous outside his province.74 In 1994, The Nation newspaper reported a rapid rise in popularity in the market value of this now well-known 'super-monk', claiming that people come from surrounding Asian countries - Hong Kong, Singapore and The Philippines to make pilgrimages to his Temple.75 The reason for this, the paper attributes to the reports of his miracles: In 1993, the famous boxer Khao Sai Noi paid respect to him before winning a big, important fight. In 1993, survivors of the Kader Toy Factory fire, in which hundreds died, were wearing his amulets. Also in 1993, when the Royal Plaza Hotel in Khorat collapsed, the only survivors were wearing his amulets.76 It was after these reports that Luang Pho Koon really became a household name. Although originally Luang Pho Koon's amulets were valued for their immortality-giving power, they are now thought to bring wealth and prosperity, being sold under such names as 'Lucky multiplied by Lucky', 'Good Business' and 'Rich multiplied by Rich'.77 In the same way, reports of miracles surrounding Rama V amulets abounded , increasing sales. One such report claimed that a fire in June 1993 in Chiang Mai which destroyed several buildings, failed to touch a shelf holding Rama V amulets.78 Rama V Amulets King Chulalongkorn was the first Thai king to commit his portrait to a medallion. Before this time, it was Thai superstition that to reproduce one's image would bring bad luck. The first Rama V coin to be struck was done so to commemorate the King's eighteenth birthday in 1871.79 In 1893 , a souvenir coin was produced to mark twenty-five years of reign , and another in 1897 to celebrate Rama V's trip to Europe, the first Thai king to do so. All these coins are in demand and fetch high prices on the collectors market .80 Since then, many Rama V coins have been produced, such as in 1968, to mark the centenary of his ascension to the throne. This coin was made in two limited batches, the first of 200,000, costing five Baht, the second of 5,000, at a price of one hundred Baht. One month later, the Bangkok Post warned of fake copies on the market.81 In the first October issue of Manager Weekly 1992 it was estimated that Thaimid Wittayoo Temple, which produces most Rama V coins and relics on the market, was generating an income of over 20 million Baht per annum. One of the best-known coins of 1991 (the Mahathongchai model) increased in price from 12,000 Baht to 20,000 Baht each in the first month on the market. Prices usually depend on the monks that consecrate the medallion, as well as the materials used. The more limited the batch, the higher the value and the coin is usually coded to prevent fake copies. Most coins sold in the Temple usually make a 50% profit, taking production, advertising and overheads into account. The income generated goes towards care of the Temple and various charities and community projects.82 Once a coin has left the Temple, it is out of the producer's control. There was one case of certain amulets produced at Bak Nam Temple were being sold for one hundred Baht each inside the Temple grounds, but once outside, the price rose to 300-1,000 Baht. The Nation newspaper reported that the upsurge in belief and worship of Rama V has increased the value of the coins, especially of those made during King Chulalongkorn's reign.83

Also benefiting from the Rama V popularity are the portrait artists/sellers. In an interview, Preecha Veachprasit, a portrait seller at MBK Shopping Centre, claimed that sales of Rama V portraits have boomed in the last five years and that he'd once sold a portrait for 100,000 Baht. Another portrait artist interviewed claimed to have sold one for 400,000 Baht and spoke of people paying up to one million Baht but also believed that both the amulet and the portrait market was becoming saturated and may cease to be profitable in the next two years. Asked how the consumer market had altered, he replied that until about 1987, the only people who bought these portraits were well-educated civil servants, doctors and lawyers who held Rama V in great esteem. However, over the last five years, a new group of people have started collecting anything to do with King Chulalongkorn. When asked why, he stated that he believed the media had influenced many people through advertising and stories of miracles.84

The author has attempted to trace the origins, history and development of Buddhist amulets to the present times when as Professor Srisak Walipokom recently stated.

The increased desire for consumerism and extreme individualism has led to loneliness which has led to a lack of confidence in life causing people to turn to amulets instead. However the result of this “Buddhist Commerce” won’t be increased happiness and peace as the objectives of the believers are to become rich in this life only. They therefore don’t consider their future lives and final release which are the objectives of Buddhist philosophy.85

Chapter 4: The Cult at the Equestrian Statue

The prominence and site of the Equestrian Statue, at the heart of a busy intersection, makes it an ideal landmark or meeting place for the general public and as with all religious and cultural icons in Thailand, passers-by show respect with a 'wai' and occasionally with a garland of flowers. With the advent of government-organized wreath-laying ceremonies, the statue, which is located in front of the Dusit Palace, has become the place where people from all levels of society pay their respects to King Chulalongkorn each year on the anniversary of his death, October 23rd. In 1989 "Yai Pohm"or Somboon Ongart, a flower vendor from Khon Khaen, became the first person to clean the area around the statue after losing her job at the nearby Amporn Gardens. Being homeless, she slept in the Amporn Gardens and showed her respect to Rama V by keeping the area around the statue clean, making a modest income selling flowers and incense to passers-by.86 In an interview with the author, Yai Pohm claimed that at the time she sold flowers, about 100 people would come to pay their respects informally, using joss sticks, flowers and candles. The paraphernalia common in recent worship - tables, photographs, portraits etc. - was not used.87

In late 1991, Yai Pohm was involved in a car accident, breaking her leg and hospitalizing her for a month. When she returned to the statue, she found that in her absence, well-known Thai movie star Bin Banluerit had visited the statue and initiated the organized worship of Rama V, which eventually gave birth to the cult worship of King Chulalongkorn.

Bin Banluerit and the Birth of the Cult

Bin Banluerit, was born on the 27th of June 1962 in amphur Jantakam, Prajinburi just before his twin brother "Ekaphan", and graduated with a Commercial College Certificate in Marketing from Bangkok Polytechnic College. A poor childhood often led him into mischief but taught him the importance of helping others. From an early age, Bin received assistance from charity, which led him to join the Ruam Katanyoo Foundation in 1980. The Ruam Katanyoo is a Bangkok-based charity specializes in the collection of corpses and the provision of funeral services for the needy. Bin became well-known after receiving several rewards for his films in 1986, 1987 and 1989 and his popularity increased when media attention focused on his role in the Lauda Air disaster in 1991 when newspapers printed photographs of Bin carrying corpses from the aircraft wreckage.88 Bin had been fascinated with coins bearing the image of Rama 5 since 1985 when he was in a jungle location filming the movie "Exchange Death" in the province of Kanchanaburi. During the movie he fell to the ground during some special effects where he discovered a coin bearing the image of King Chulalongkorn. Two weeks later, he dreamt the king entered his dreams and blew softly on his head as if to cure the injury he had sustained in the fall. From then on, he started to pay respects to King Chulalongkorn.89 In April, 1985 he discovered a second coin whilst cleaning in a house and a third coin was given to him by a close friend. Bin had all the coins gold plated and often wore them around his neck.90 Bin, like Yai Pohm, decided to come, with his brother Siksaka Banluerit (Jack) to pay respect to the Equestrian Statue. In an interview with the author, Siksaka mentioned- Towards the end of 1991 we started coming to pay respects at the statue. When we arrived we noticed that the whole area around the statue was very dirty so we decided to clean it up by removing the candle wax. I've studied Thai history for quite some time so whilst I was there I would inform the people about King Chulalongkorn's importance. More and more people came until there were so many that we decided there should be a specific day on which they should come. In view of the fact that King Chulalongkorn was born on a Tuesday, I decided that Tuesday would be the most suitable day and so in January 1992, we set up tables and organized the ceremony of worshipping King ChulalongkornWe found out the types of things that King Chulalongkorn enjoyed and I was the first person to set up a table with offerings such as red or pink roses, fried rice with shrimp paste, sweet bananas, brandy and cigars.91

As to be expected, the publicity generated by the regular attendance of Bin and his brother at the Equestrian Statue attracted fellow worshippers and the Ruam Katanyoo foundation to regulate the worship by forming a sub group called the Equestrian Statue group.92 The group installed tables for worship materials and sand boxes in which to place joss sticks and candles. They also placed a portable metal fence surrounding the statue and volunteers came to assist the group by controlling the area of worship on Tuesdays, chosen because it is the day of the King's birth. Later, as more and more people came to pay respect to King Chulalongkorn, Bin was approached by the Chinnabanchol mediation group who asked for permission for their members to be allowed to meditate in front of the statue. So it was decided to extend the worship to Thursdays.

The Chinnabanchol meditation group, led by Dr. Pichai Dtiwiwichon, a chemistry professor at Chulalongkorn University, meditates at outdoor locations, such as King Chakri’s statue on Fridays and at King Taksin's statue in Thonburi on Saturdays. The aim of the meditation was to invoke assistance from various dieties to help the country develop steadily and progress peacefully.93 In an interview with the author, Dr. Pichai mentioned that he, not knowing whom he should officially contact regarding organized meditation at the equestrian statue, as well as not wanting to offend the Ruam Katanyoo Foundation who were already present at the statue, decided to ask permission from Bin Banluerit. Bin had no objections and it was agreed that Thursday would be more suitable as, apart from being teacher's day, there were already too many people going to the statue on Tuesdays. So, on the evening of October 9th 1993, twenty people went to the statue to meditate. The number quickly grew to over one thousand. Dr. Pichai asserts that the group members are clearly distinguishable from other visitors to the statue as they don't take any materials with which to worship. Members of the group consist of government officials, vendors and small business people. The group arrives shortly after 8:10 pm, starts meditating at 8:30 pm and leaves just after 9:30 pm.94 The group distributes sheets of paper containing various khatas which had been prepared from ancient prayers.95 The author noted that one khata asked for the assistance from the "great" Thai kings, including Ramkhamhaeng, Naresuan, Taksin, Chakri and Chulalongkorn.96

The Growth Period 1992 - 1994

Bin's popularity as a movie star attracted a great deal of media coverage with stories of miracles appearing both on television, radio and in the national newspapers. The radio station "J.S. 100" and the Grammy entertainment program "Dam Pai Doo" interviewed and filmed Banluerit in the area. This publicity resulted in an increased number of people visiting the Royal Plaza to worship King Chulalongkorn. People wishing to make offerings were able to purchase them in the area, where it was even possible to hire a group of dancing girls, at a cost off about 1,212 Baht for a twenty minute period.97 It was during this early period that Bin's brother, Siksaka saw an opportunity to sell Rama V products directly from the key location at the Royal Plaza, where infusion ceremonies could take place on the spot, in full view of potential purchasers, and sales could be made directly, with no need for expensive advertising.

In an interview with the author, Siksaka mentioned that many temples had asked the group to distribute their amulets. The temples offered to pay the group 10% commission but this was not enough to cover the expenses incurred by the group such as payments to the police and the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority. Rather than producing large quantities of amulets to sell at a low price - a strategy used by many temples - Siksaka was able to control the market demand by producing high quality amulets in limited quantities, to ensure their rapid sale. Only 'superstar' monks were used in the ceremonies and were given donations. Potential purchasers would be told which products would be most suitable for them. Paintings or photographs of the King cooking would be recommended for people with restaurants whereas those of the King in a suit would be suitable for people working in government departments or business. Siksaka continued: when I saw what the temples were doing, I thought we should do it ourselves. Problems have occurred with people copying our products. We produce a product one day and sell it for 1,000 Baht and within two weeks, someone else is selling a similar product for much less. Prices for items sold at the statue vary from time to time, however the best time to sell items would be on Rama V's birthday or the anniversary of his death, when large oil paintings bearing the Kings image are auctioned for up to 80,000 Baht. People purchasing these types of paintings would not have time to walk around the shopping centers, and of course, having the pictures here at this location automatically increases their intrinsic value and we've been able to control the whole market in this area, Siksaka boasted.98

Apart from selling Rama V paraphernalia to the general public, the group has produced several materials which may have served to promote the worship of the late King. On the 20 September 1992 Mr. Banluerit printed 100,000 brochures containing information and prayers about how Rama V should be worshipped.99 Bin was also given a photograph depicting what appeared to be the image of the King behind the statue. Bin invested 60,000 Baht to produce more than 20,000 copies. The photo, later printed in the Thai Raht Newspaper , was shown to be a fake.100

At the same time as Bin and Siksaka were creating public interest at the statue, amulet magazines began publishing more and more stories of miracles involving people who owned Rama V coins and even large banking corporations began offering gold lockets valued at up to 8,000 Baht as promotional tools.101

The Decline of the Cult

Early in 1995, it appears that a conflict began to develop between the Ruam Katanyoo Foundation and other parties who had an interest in the area. An article dated 2nd. February, 1995 in the Bangkok Post newspaper reported that there was conflict arising from groups other than worshippers, the Dusit police claiming they had to maintain order amid a disorderly crowd. The Ruam Katanyoo Foundation criticized the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority for failing to clean the area around the statue, and the police for taking bribes from the vendors off the Rama V paraphernalia. The police in turn lashed out at monks who were seeking donations by distributing amulets and photocopied pictures of the King, and also at volunteers who, under the guise of helping worshippers, were selling books and amulets.102 On the 23rd February, 1995 The Nation newspaper reported that the Ruam Katanyoo Foundation was receiving criticism from many Thai's who believed that the faith of the general public in the sanctity of Rama V was being commercialized and the statue at the Royal Plaza "monopolized by certain groups of people" and the foundation had set up a table to receive donations, sell incense, flowers and candles , collect parking fees and sell Rama V amulets and other sacred items to believers. The new Chief of Police, Pol. Col. Manus Natnititada had ordered the foundation to stop collecting donations.103 On the 16th of February, 1995 the 35 year old treasurer of the group, Mr. Surin Susawa, was arrested by police from the Dusit police station for receiving illegal donations. The police confiscated 70,000 Baht104 In an interview with the author, Bin acknowledged that they stopped organizing worship ceremonies at the statue on 21st February, 1995.105

Bin's elder brother, "Jack" complained that changes that took place at the Dusit Police station made life difficult for the group:

There was a change in the police that were coming to the statue, the officers started asking us for more and more money. When we refused to pay them they confiscated donations that had been made to us. We used to get 70-80,000 Baht a day and the police thought we used the money ourselves but that isn't true. We have helped several charities. We shouldn't look at the small details, we should look at the overall picture of the good things that we've done. Could anyone else have done such a good job?106

At the time that the group was arrested they had a lawyer with them in the group and the lawyer was able to stop the group from being arrested. A professor from Thammasat University who had been studying the activities at the statue mentioned to the author that the group had taken advantage of people's belief in order to pursue their own financial gains through the sales of Rama V paraphernalia:

People were unable to go directly to the statue due to the fact that the group had set up a barricade. This area does not belong to Bin Banluerit. When people come to fulfil their vows, they need joss sticks and when the joss sticks have completely burned to the bottom, you can say that the deity has taken the offerings, such as the coconut or the drink. Bin's team arrive and shove them out. It's not fair.

The professor also accused Siksaka Banluerit of researching the history of Rama V solely in order to promote amulets or other products on the anniversaries of significant times in the history of Rama V.107 Yai Pohm, the first lady to clean the area , commented "I'd like to go back to the statue but I can't. I feel very sorry for King Chulalongkorn with so many bad people around him"108 The Chinabanchol mediation group continues to meditate at the statue on Thursday evenings. It remains to be seen if the worship of Rama V will continue in popularity now that Bin Banluerit's influence has been reduced. The current trend shows a sharp drop in the number of worshippers though the formal practices of worship - tables, offerings, portraits etc. - are still in use.

The author therefore argues that Bin Banluerit was the instigator of the cult, that with the Thai love of glamour and the help of media coverage, the cult has grown. There was already an established practice of private worship of Rama V, but until the publicity created by Bin's interest, there was no worship at the Equestrian Statue and so it can be assumed that the Banluerit family were responsible for establishing the new practice of worship at the Royal Plaza. Rama V has always been a respected figure in Thai history and at a time when an interest in diverse faiths was growing in the Thai population, and when the amulet traders were looking for a new market, the time was ripe for an explosion in the new worship of a 'hero'. It could also be argued that the cult's rapid development was no doubt caused to a great extent by the investment by amulet dealers in continuous advertising of their new product. It is for this reason that the cult has now grown to such an extent that it has transcended the control of the Banluerit family. In all probability, there are those who have taken advantage of Rama V's increased popularity, maybe among the group itself, and seen the business potential in this market, though this remains difficult to prove. There is certainly an advantage in the group's location at the statue and while the author's impression is that Bin seems genuinely sincere in his goals, the group as a whole seems to have taken control over the area without the legal authority to do so and therefore rendering their motives open to suspicion of personal gain. Now that the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority have taken over and improved the organization of the worship, the glamour has gone and there is a distinctly business-like ambience at the Royal Plaza, to the extent of Bangkok Metropolitan Authority officials extinguishing joss sticks almost as soon as they are lit, to make room in the sand boxes for fresh incense, thereby decreasing the time in which wishes are granted and thereby possibly angering worshippers.109 In recent interviews with portrait and amulet dealers, the author found that the interest in Rama V has levelled. The market for Rama V images, though stable, is no longer booming, and this may be an indication of a waning interest by the general public.110

Method of Worship

On several occasions the author was present at the organized worship and observed the various rituals and methods of worship.

Those worshippers paying a short visit, maybe passing by on the way home, usually buy joss sticks, candles and garlands from the surrounding vendors. Those worshipping for the first time use sixteen incense sticks to represent the sixteen layers of heaven. One worshipper informed the author that the reason 16 joss sticks were used was that so the message reaches the King, regardless of which level he is at.111 After this, it is customary to use either nine or five joss sticks - nine representing the Thai word 'kaw', which sounds like 'progress', and five to represent the fifth king in the Chakri dynasty, Rama V. Sometimes, the author saw people using three joss sticks, representing the worship of Buddha, His Teachings and the Monkhood. Some say that the use of three sticks is incorrect. After lighting joss sticks and candles, worshippers kneel and pray, using invocations known as 'khatas' to ask for assistance frm King Chulalongkorn. One such khata, distributed by Bin Banluerit,112 can be seen in appendix 7.

According to instructions on the prayer sheet, the worshipper concentrates on their request and asks Rama V to help him attain his/her wish. After 'waiing' the statue, the worshipper places the incense and candles in the sand box and gives the garland of flowers to the official to place near the statue in the enclosed area to be infused with virtue from the king. After five or ten minutes, they are able to collect their newly-infused flowers from the official behind the statue. Those who have made a special trip to the statue specifically to attend the organized worship usually bring and set up tables, mats and umbrellas (during the wet season) and may spend several hours meditating. Sometimes a portrait of the late king is placed either on or in front of the table. A candle on either side of the portrait is placed and the joss sticks are lit. It is believed that while the sticks are burning the deity comes down to feast on the offerings. When the sticks are extinguished, the deity is said to have finished eating. The table usually holds various food or drink offerings, believed to be favorites of the King - the most common being coconut, pink roses, sweet bananas, betel nuts, fried rice with shrimp paste, sweet eggs, brandy and cigars. The author noted, however, that on Buddhist days, brandy and cigars were unlikely to be offered. Thai Chinese generally offered beer oranges and other fruits.

Wealthier Thais may have an open bottle of “Johnny Walker Black Label” whisky whilst the poorer worshippers may offer local Thai whisky showing that the late King is accessible to all classes in society. On certain occasions the author spoke to people who had brought dozens of pink roses to offer the king or might be seen dancing. These people were in the process of "Kae Bon".113 Typical examples of this are those who sold their car or got a job. Prior to elections, politicians can be seen paying respects to the statue.114 On Most Tuesdays and Thursdays a dance troupe and small orchestra is ready to perform dances for people who wished to "Kae Bon" with the following prices for a twenty minute dance: Four persons 1,200 Baht, Six persons 2,000 Baht, Eight persons 3,000 Baht.115

Demograhics of Worshippers

The author did not take demographic data in great detail and the following data is therefore concluded through observation:

Most people interviewed by the author mentioned that they had heard about the worship ceremony at the statue from others who had been. People talked about their experience at the statue and so many people were drawn by curiosity. There was an equal number of men and women at most times and it appeared that younger people used the area as a meeting place. Most of those interviewed were from lower education groups without Bachelor degrees or higher qualifications. Many were self employed in small businesses. It would appear, from the large number of mobile phones and cars, that the majority were from the middle classes. At various times of the evening different groups could be seen to be worshipping at the statue. From 6 pm until 8 pm one could observe government officials and their children. After closing their businesses, the self-employed come as they pass by from between 9pm and 11pm. Owners of larger businesses come between 11pm and 1am and after this time, singers and other entertainment workers arrive to worship.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

In this final chapter, I would like to draw together my investigations as to why the worship of King Chulalongkorn has grown in popularity (as we’ve acknowledged an already-existing private worship by individuals), the significance of the timing of this growth, and what this may reflect about current Thai society.

Using the influence of Brahman priests, Thai kings were able to use the Trai Phra Ruang to legitimize their position at the apex of the social order in the cosmological world view. (See chapter on religion) Thus, Thai kings automatically became endowed with a semi-divine status as the Brahmanical rituals established the king as a god. This god-like status of Thai kings has been confirmed by the establishment of cults and rites associated with the spirits of past kings, of whom Rama V is the latest and most popular.116 King Chulalongkorn was one of the greatest leaders that Thailand has ever known. His skills as a leader came through diplomacy rather than war, as had his predecessors’. Almost every single person who spoke with me believed that the King was solely responsible for the abolishment of slavery and the prevention of colonization of Thailand by the British or French.

To many Thais, especially the more educated, King Chulalongkorn represents the benevolent father figure which is reflected in the title that he is often given, "Sadet Pho " or the royal father. Some see the king as a talisman for modernity.117 "He represents the father of Thailand,” said one worshipper, “and we are his children. When we have a problem we can't always go to the temple so we ask for his help."118

To the lower educated, possibly more animistic Thais, King Rama V has already become a god and therefore has the power to bestow wishes upon those who respect and worship him. Adjarn Thammakiat Kanari, a well known writer and philosopher, pointed out that there were three types of gods. Samutithep- supposed deities, which would include all kings, Obatitthep- people who had become gods upon their death due to the merit they had made during their lifetime, and Wisutithep- the purest gods of which there is only one, the Buddha Himself. Adjarn Thammakiat mentioned that in the Thai peoples’ hearts, King Chulalongkorn, upon his death had the status of Obatithep.119

The negative effects of Capitalism, leading to an move away from Buddhism towards Magic Modern development, which encourages capitalism, is clashing with the essential Buddhist teachings. The emerging middle-educated middle classes are now challenging the Sangha's intellectual leadership. Buddhist monks, becoming more alienated from the lay people, are giving less relevant sermons and people now tend to follow monks with ‘supernatural abilities’. Poor publicity, with recent problems of Phra Yantra and other monks, are adding to the loss of faith. Increased consumerism and extreme individualism are also factors that instill loneliness and create a situation where individuals need an element of security in their lives, a faith in something outside their lives that does not contradict the way they live. The reform that occurred in European Reformation has not come to Thailand and people are not interested in spiritual debt, but in survival. These people need protection and security in a world of change, a belief to grasp, not for the purpose of religion, but as an identity and a means to secure blessings for themselves.

To this end, monks are becoming less the representatives of the Buddha Dhamma, and more involved in the manipulation of Sing Saksit (magical powers) that ensure protection and well-being.120 A survey carried out by the religious department of Chulalongkorn University showed that the decline in serious attention paid to, and the lack of knowledge of, Buddhist teachings, and the production of amulets, were considered to have caused the population to become disappointed with the monkhood.121 It could be argued that Buddhism is being killed off by the growth of capitalism leaving people with nothing to hold on to.122

This need, for something to cling to "ti peung jai and sin yeud niow" was mentioned by most of the subjects interviewed by the author. "He provides hope and aspirations for us all," a Taxi Driver commented: if you ask me, Thai people don't have anything to hold fast to these days and the ritual of worshipping Rama V filled the gap. You have to understand that we Thais need more self confidence when we do things. Look at my Taxi- the owner has put a photograph of King Rama V in it. This is a machine to make money and therefore it is not strange that we might add anything that might bring in a little more income.123

As Professor Iawsriwong mentions:

The majority of followers are urban, independent business people with irregular incomes whose income depends of the whims of the authorities. Life for this group has become more unpredictable and uncontrollable and this group needed a deity that could provide predictability.124

Despite the fact that the worship at the statue was initially a government-organized event in the form of annual wreath-laying ceremonies, the worship today is open to anyone, regardless of background and status. There are no fixed rules or codes of behavior, as in other religions, and in this sense, can be said to be very ‘Thai’ - ‘Thai’ meaning ‘free’, ‘Thailand’ meaning ‘land of the free’. In the Goddess of Mercy cult, there are strict rules - followers refrain from eating beef, for example. Professor Iawsriwong argues that the lack of such rules in the Rama V cult attracts the busy urbanite middle classes who are already burdened with the problems of living in a big city. He states that the worship ceremony at the statue is indicative of the open, democratic nature of the cult itself:

The Royal Plaza is an open vihara where people from all walks of life can just walk in to pay respect to their father. There are no mediums, that monopolize access. People can just go and have direct personal communication with their compassionate Royal Father.125

This is an attractive picture painted by the professor but not strictly accurate when one considers the actions of both Bin’s group and the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority in controlling the area immediately around the statue.

Over the last twenty or thirty years, many changes have taken place in the Thai social organization. There are no longer only two classes - peasants and land owners - the modernization of Thailand has spawned a new social class that requires different belief systems. The traditional religious beliefs can no longer fulfill the aspirations or satisfy the spiritual needs of the new middle classes - they are not interested in protection from weapons of war, or in using magic to meet members of the opposite sex. Their values are commercial, their motivation is to improve their standard of living - traditional deities cannot lend the security they need when they make the everyday business decisions that could bring them fortune or bankruptcy.

They need a symbol to believe in, a symbol that already has meaning. King Chulalongkorn, the Royal Father, provides this. Already regarded as Thailand’s greatest monarch, his image represents dependability, stability and predictability, attractive qualities to those whose lives lack all of these.

Not only does the cult satisfy the demands of the middle classes, it does so in a manner that does not threaten the establishment - there are no rules that challenge Buddhism or any existing cults, nor does it express any animosity toward the state. As such, it suits the needs of the followers - they are not in a position to change government policies and it is in their interest not to antagonize the establishment. We could say that this group comprises middle class city-dwellers who earn their living from businesses that rely on the policies and actions of the state without being big or powerful enough to revolt against the state. They are usually well-informed and wealthy (considering the price of some of the amulets).

The worship of a past king is nothing new to Thais, though organization of the worship on the scale it has reached is a development aided by the twentieth century instrument of marketing, involving such personalities as movie stars to highly respected monks. The worship of Rama V has come from the demands of this group and can be said to be the first cult product in the ‘new Thai era’ which is increasingly less dependent on agriculture with more of the Thai population moving from the countryside to the cities.126

Considering the conditions that have developed over the years to create this gap in the needs of a considerable portion of Thai society, the environment was ripe for opportunistic individuals to take advantage of the Thai tendency to be susceptible to any belief that can bring them security. The Banluerit brothers saw the opening and took the opportunity to take control of the worship at the Royal Plaza. Bin appeared to be and is still regarded by many as the personable public figure who simply wanted to make merit by collecting donations for the Ruam Katanyoo Foundation. Meanwhile his brother Siksaka planned how products depicting Rama V could be most effectively marketed. Bin’s movie star status inevitably attracted a great deal of media coverage, leading to an increased attendance at the statue. At the same time, the slump in the amulet market caused traders to look for new products to satisfy the needs of the growing middle classes, and millions of Baht was spent on the promotion of Rama V amulets. New marketing strategies paying close attention to the four marketing tools of product, price, place, promotion to effectively increase the demand for amulets and turn around a depressed market into a multi-million Baht industry which has now become known as Phuttapanit.127 128 129

Appendix

Appendix 1 The Equestrian Statue

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

This photograph was taken in November, 1908 during the silver jubilee of the King’s coronation. King Chulalongkorn unveiled the statue on the 11th. November, 1908.

Source: Nawigamune, A. 1989. Chulalongkorn the Great: Pictures of Thailand’s Beloved King. Sangdad Publishing Co., Ltd. Bangkok. p. 267.

Appendix 2: The Amulets of Thailand

Table 1: Common Amulets of Thailand

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Table 2 : Amulets Depicting Figures from the Animal Kingdom

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Information for both tables from Tambiah, S.J. The Buddhist saints of the forests and the cult of amulets. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. pp. 226-227.

Appendix 3: Advertisment for Rama V Amulets

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The three dimensional coin is manufactured at the world famous “Hungary Mint”. The advertisment provides details of the infusion ceremony and depicts the “Superstar Monks”, from all regions of Thailand, who attended. Prices for the coins, which can be booked at several locations, range from 400 Baht for the basic copper coin up to 30,000 Baht for the limited editon 99.9% gold plated model.

Source: Daily News. 15th August, 1995. p.28.

Appendix 4: Marketing By Miracles

The above magazines, and many like them, were published to during the growth of the cult to inform people of the various miracles occouring at the statue. The same publishers print a variety of amulet magazines.

Top left:

Deangkamphol, S. The virtue of Royal Father R.V. True Stories at Equestrian Statue. Attasarn Co., Ltd. Bangkok. First published in March, 1993.

Top right:

Wichachan, S. Experience the Virtue: Miracles of R.V. at the Equestrian Statue.

Attasarn Co., Ltd. Bangkok. First published in June, 1993.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Citibanks’s full page advertisement in the “Thai Raht” featuring free Rama V lockets for members introducing friends to the bank’s credit card service.

Source: Thai Raht. 9th. January, 1994. p.18.

Appendix 5: Bin Banluerit’s Khata

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Meet Yai Pohm Somboon Ongart, The First Person to Start Cleaning the Equestrian Statue. Chiwit Dtong Soo. 23rd.-29th. October,1993.Vol. 1,48, pp.1-5.

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Thai Language Interviewees

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Thai Language Sources:

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Thai Language Interviewees:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

[...]


1 Siam was the former name of Thailand.

2 Frazer, J. 1911. Taboo and the Perils of the Soul. The Golden Bough. Macmillan. Toronto. pp. 78, 98-99.

3 The Royal Plaza is an area in front of the former Dusit Palace in Bangkok.

4 Keyes, C. F. 1989. Thailand Buddhist Kingdom as a Modern Nation State. Westview Press. Colorado. pp. 6-22.

5 Terwei, B. J. 1989. A Window on Thai History. Duang Kamol. Bangkok. pp. 88-90.

6 Chakrabongse, N. 1992. A Pictorial Record of the Fifth Reign. River Books. Bangkok. pp. 28-29.

7 Wyatt, D. K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

8 Chakrabongse, N. 1992. A Pictorial Record of the Fifth Reign. River Books. Bangkok. pp. 28-29.

9 Riggs, F. 1966. The Modernization of Bureaucratic Polity. East-West Center Press. Honolulu. p. 114.

10 Wyatt, D.K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

11 Riggs, F. 1966. The Modernization of Bureaucratic Polity. East-West Center Press. Honolulu. pp. 114-116.

12 Wyatt, D. K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

13 Riggs, F. 1966. The Modernization of Bureaucratic Polity. East-West Center Press. Honolulu. pp. 114-116.

14 Wyatt, D. K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

15 Riggs, F. 1966. The Modernization of Bureaucratic Polity. East-West Center Press. Honolulu. p. 114-116.

16 Chakrabongse, N. 1992. A Pictorial Record of the Fifth Reign. River Books. Bangkok. p. 171.

17 Wyatt, D. K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

18 Wyatt, D. K. 1982. Thailand A Short History. p. 210.

19 Riggs, F. 1966. The Modernization of Bureaucratic Polity. East-West Center Press. Honolulu. pp. 117-119.

20 Wyatt, D. K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

21 Chakrabongse, N. 1992. A Pictorial Record of the Fifth Reign. River Books. Bangkok. p. 123.

22 Suksamarn, S. 1993. Buddhism, Political Authority, and Legitimacy in Thailand and Cambodia. Buddhist Trends in Southeast Asia. Institute of South East Asian Studies. Singapore. p. 123.

23 Chakrabongse, C. 1960. Lords of Life: The Paternal Monarchy of Bangkok, 1782-1932. Tapliger Publishing. New York 1960. p. 245.

24 Wyatt, D. K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-278.

25 Chakrabongse, N. 1992. A Pictorial Record of the Fifth Reign. River Books. Bangkok. p. 98.

26 Wyatt, D. K 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

27 Yoneo, I. 1986. Sangha, State, and Society: Thai Buddhism in History. University of Hawaii Press. Honolulu. pp. 68-69.

28 Wyatt, D. K. 1994. Studies in Thai History. Silkworm Books. Chiang Mai. pp. 276-288.

29 Chakrabongse, N. 1992. A Pictorial Record of the Fifth Reign. River Books. Bangkok. p. 29.

30 Noicharoen, S. 1986.The Equestrian Statue. Rotfai Samphan. Vol. 4. 28th. November, pp. 4-5. Nawigamune, A. 1993. What has the Equestrian Statue in Bangkok got in common with Paris?. Various stories of R.V Saeng Deed Rong Phim. Bangkok. pp. 78-80. A photograph of the statue, taken near the opening date, can be seen in appendix 1.

31 Tangwongprasert, C. 1993. Crowning Glories. The Nation. 23rd October, p. C1.

32 The History of the Equestrian Statue. Bangkok Business Newspaper. 23rd. October, 1993. p. 4.

33 Syamananda, R. 1973. A history of Thailand. Thai Wattana Panich. Bangkok. p. 145.

34 City to repair statue. Bangkok Post. 7th. September, 1969. Precautions at King’s statue. Bangkok Post. 19th. October, 1981.

35 Pratt, J. B. 1928. The Pilgrimage of Buddhism. New York. p. 184. cited in Sivaraksa., S. 1984. Buddhism and Society in Thailand. South East Asian Review Office. India. p. 104.

36 Majupuria, T.C. 1987. Erawan Shrine and Brahma Worship in Thailand. Craftsman Press. Thailand. p. 35.

37 Ibid., pp. 43-44.

38 Gueldon, M. 1995. Thailand into the Spirit World. Asia Books. Bangkok. pp. 17-24.

39 Keyes, C. F. 1989. Thailand Buddhist Kingdom as a Modern Nation State. Westview Press. Colorado. p. 178.

40 Desai, S. N. 1980. Hindusim in Thai Life. Popular Prakashan. Bombay. pp. 46-47.

41 Gueldon, M. 1995. Thailand into the Spirit World. Asia Books. Bangkok.. pp. 17-24.

42 Dhitivatana, P. Religion and Beliefs in Bangkok. Department of Sociology & Anthropology. Kasetsart University, Bangkok.

43 Keyes, C. F. 1989. Thailand Buddhist Kingdom as a Modern Nation State. Westview Press. Colorado. pp. 178-180.

44 Ibid., pp. 178-179.

45 Klausner, W. J. 1981. Reflections on Thai Culture. Siam Society. Bangkok. pp. 136-145.

46 Gueldon, M. 1995. Thailand into the Spirit World. Asia Books. Bangkok. pp. 17-24.

47 Klausner, W. J. 1981. Reflections on Thai Culture. Siam Society. Bangkok. pp. 136-145.

48 Sivaraksa., S. 1984. Buddhism and Society in Thailand. South East Asian Review Office. India. pp. 97-119.

49 Deputy Rector for Foreign Affairs, Mahachula Buddhist University (MBU) and the president of the International Meditation Centre (IBMC).

50 Prombunpong, S. 1995. Monkhood Faces Further Decline. The Nation. 2nd. May, p. 3.

51 Chanthalertlak, K. 1995. A Matter of Faith. The Nation. 12th. February, p. 1.

52 Why Wisdom is Better than Magic. Bangkok Post. 17th. March, 1994. p. 25.

53 Jackson, P. A. 1989. Buddhism, Legitimation and Conflicts. The Political Functions of Urban Thai Buddhism. Institute of South East Asian Studies. Singapore. p. 40.

54 Ibid., pp. 40-47.

55 Phra Phutthathat Bhikkhu. 1982. Kharaawaat Tham - The lay person’s dhamma. - Samnak-nangsyy Thammabuuchaa, Bangkok 2525, p. 111. cited in Ibid.,. p. 48.

56 Ibid., pp. 47-57.

57 Phra Phutthathat Bhikkhu. 1986. Kaan-ngaan khyy tua khwaam-kaaw-naa - working is progress in itself - Suun-nangsyy Mahawithayalay Srinakharinwirot Prasaanmit, Bangkok 2529,1986, p.159. cited in Ibid., p. 50.

58 Phra Sophanakhanphorn Bhikkhu, 1987. Saiyasaat Kap Chiwit Chaaw Baan - Supernaturalism and the Life of the Common People- Thammajaksu 70, no. 10., February, p. 68. cited in Ibid., p. 58.

59 Ibid., pp. 57-60.

60 Ibid., pp. 60-61.

61 Winick, C. 1970. Dictionary of Anthropology. Littlefield, Adams & Co. USA.

62 Chanthalertlak, K. 1995. A Matter of Faith. The Nation. 12th. February, p. 1.

63 Iawsriwong, N. 1994. Kwan Yin Ideology. Art & Culture Magazine. Vol. 15,19 August pp. 79-106.

64 Griswold. A. B. 1962. What is a Buddha Image. The Fine Arts Department. Bangkok.

65 Ibid

66 Tambiah, Stanley J. 1984. The Buddhist saints of the forest and the cult of amulets. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

67 Terwei, B. J. 1975. Monks and Magic: An analysis of religious ceremonies in Central Thailand. Curzon Press. London. pp. 79-83.

68 The Top Five Monks of 1993. Manager Weekly. 27th December, 1993. pp. 53-54.

69 Sawasdichai, K. 1994. Blind Faith: Lord Buddha offered no image for worship, few Thais heed his word , cashing in on superstition. The Nation. 24th July, p. 1.

70 The Market for Buddhist Amulet Magazines Grows Bigger and Bigger. Manager Weekly. August 9-15th, 1993. pp. 46-47.

71 Buddhist Products. Manager Weekly. 9th-15th August, 1993. pp. 45,56.

72 Bai-Ngern, C., & Sutthapintu, Y. 1994. The Business of Idolatry. The Nation. 24th July, p. 3.

73 Wongpom, K. 1994. New Rules for the Supernatural: A special commission is tackling the thorny problem of regulating the amulet business but the new rules won’t make everyone happy. The Nation. 24th. July, p. 3.

74 Yorsaengrat, N. 1994. The Humble Face of Buddhism. The Nation. 3rd. March, p. 1.

75 Mongkolchart, A. 1994. The Special Magic of Luang Pho Koon. The Nation. 24th. July, p.3.

76 Yorsaengrat, N. 1994. The Humble Face of Buddhism. The Nation. 3rd. March, p. 1.

77 The Top Five Monks of 1993. Manager Weekly. 27th December, 1993. pp. 53-54.

78 A Review of the Rare and Valuable Rama V Coins in the Era of the Cult of King Chulalongkorn Manager Daily. 13th. August, 1993. p. 7.

79 Suvarnasthira, P. 1979.The first King to adorn a commemorative medal. Bangkok Post. 23rd. October, p. 22.

80 A Review of the Rare and Valuable Rama V Coins in the Era of the Cult of King Chulalongkorn Manager Daily. 13th. August, 1993. p. 7.

81 King Rama V Ceremony Today. Bangkok Post. 23rd October, 1968.

82 Rama V Coins Make More Than One Million. Manager Weekly. 28th.September - 4th. October, 1992. pp. 25-6. See appendix 2 for graph showing the production and sales of Rama V amulets from October, 1991 to October 1992. Appendix 3 shows advertisement for Rama V amulets.

83 Tangwongprasert, C. 1993. Crowning Glories. The Nation. 23rd October, p. C1. Chalanuchpong, S. 1993. Medals: Luck as Collectible. The Nation. 15th, August, p. B1.

84 The author interviewed the managers and owners of four art shops selling Rama V portraits in the Marboonkrong Centre on 12th August, 1995. Also see: Phataranawik, P., & Knitthichan, K. 1994. Images of a Hero. The Nation. 23rd. October, p. c1.

85 Walipokom S. 1994. Buddhist Amulets: “Buddhist Worship or Buddhist Commerce. Art and Culture Magazine. January. p. 89.

86 Meet Yai Pohm Somboon Ongart, The First Person to Start Cleaning the Equestrian Statue. Chiwit Dtong Soo. 23rd.-29th. October, 1993.Vol. 1,48, pp.1-5.

87 Interview with Yai Pohm on 29th. August, 1995.

88 Wanurat, W. 1990. The many facets of Bin Banluerit. Satrisarn. 8th. April, pp. 22- 24. Bin Banluerit, A star both on and off the screen. Sakhol Thai. 15th. August, 1990.Vol.36,1856, pp. 67-68. Bin Banluerit, A star with merit. Di Chan. 14th. January, 1992. Vol. 333, pp. 304-319. Introducing Bin Banluerit. Siam Raht 3rd. June, 1995. p. 9.

89 Banluerit, B. 1992. Millionaires Playthings. Thai Raht. 7th. November, p. 56

90 Yootakarn, S. 1990. The coins encircling the neck of Bin Banluerit. Praew Weekly. 1st. June, p. 102.

91 Interview with Siksaka Banluerit 6th June, 1995.

92 Interview with Pattana Thiwasasithorn, a volunteer of the Ruam Katanyoo Foundation.

93 Interview with Mr. Pravith Suwanasit, Managing Director, News in Bulletin Service Co. Ltd.,. 9 p.m. 29th June, 1995 along with Mr. Prasert Sukhotanang, Secretary of the Chinabanchol Mediation Group.

94 Interview with Dr. Pichai Dtowiwichon, Rong Sasarajan, Chemistry Department, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University Thursday 20th July, 1995.

95 Prayers used to invoke the assistance of deities.

96 Sighted in Chinnabanchol Prayer sheet distributed on 29th. June 1995.

97 The belief in Rama V. Dtam Pai Doo. Broadcast on 18th. October, 1992. The belief in King Chulalongkorn has not yet changed. Manager Daily. 24th. October, 1994.

98 Interview with Siksaka Banluerit 4th. July, 1995.

99 Interview with Bin Banluerit 20th. September, 1995.

100 Wornsiri, P., & Jithichanon, Y. 1993. Bin Banluerit and the Rama V Cult. "Respect him but don't be fooled". Sunday News. 10th.- 14th. December, Vol. 17, 861, pp. 38-43.

101 The belief in King Chulalongkorn has not yet changed. Manager Daily. 24th. October, 1994. See appendix 5 “Marketing by Miracles and appendix 6 “Rama V Premiums”.

102 Sukpisit, S. 1995. Devotion and conflict in the statue's shadow. Bangkok Post. 2nd. February, p. 23.

103 Commercialization of Rama V statue raises hackles. The Nation. 23rd. February, 1995. p. A2.

104 Dusit Police Arrest the Twin Stars. Siam Rath. 18th. February, 1995 p. 15.

105 Interview with Bin Banluerit 20th. September, 1995.

106 Interview with Siksaka Banluerit 6th June, 1995.

107 Interview with M.L. Walwipha Burusratanaphand, 9th of June, 1995.

108 Interview with Yai Pohm 29th. June, 1995.

109 As previously mentioned when people come to fulfil their vows, they need joss sticks and when the joss sticks have completely burned to the bottom, you can say that the deity has taken the offerings, such as the coconut or the drink.

110 The author interviewed several amulet dealers both at the Tha Prajan Amulet Market and at the Penthip Plaza shopping Mall. The author also interviewed portrait artists in the MBK shopping complex.

111 This information was confirmed by Ven. Somwang Suvannamogaro, from the Melbourne Thai Buddhist Temple, Box Hill.

112 Sighted in booklet distributed by Bin Banluerit.

113 To thank the deity for granting a favor.

114 Bangkok Business. 23rd. October, 1993. p. 1.

115 Prices sighted on name card of Khun Supaporn Rueksasarn. Leader of Dance Troupe.

116 Jackson, P. A. 1989. Buddhism, Legitimization and Conflict: The Political Functions of Urban Thai Buddhism. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Singapore. pp. 40-42

117 Chiang Mai University history professor and relative of King Chulaongkorn, Rujaya Abhakorn cited in: Valikiotis, V. 1995. Long Live the King: Turn-of- the century Thai monarch enjoys new surge of popularity. Far Eastern Economic Review. 23rd. March, pp. 42-43.

118 Interview at statue 22nd. May, 1995.

119 Manager Daily. June 1st., 1994. Also in interview with author.

120 Mulder. N. 1979. Inside Thai Society: An Interpretation of everyday Life. Duang Kamol. Bangkok.

121 Satananant S. 1994. What is Thai Society Disappointed with in the Monkhood? Buddhist Education. 1,3 October - December pp. 4-9

122 Sivaraksa, S. 1984. Buddhism and Society in Thailand. South East Asian Review Office. India pp. 97-119. See also Walipokom, S. 1994. Buddhist Amulets: “Buddhist Worship or Buddhist Business. Art and Culture January. p. 89.

123 42 year old Taxi Driver from Rayong - 29th of November, 1994

124 Ekachai, S. 1993. Sadej Pho: What lies behind the cult of worship? Bangkok Post 18th. August, p. 25.

125 Ibid., p. 25.

126 Iawsriwong, N. 1994. The Cult Worship of King Chulalongkorn. Matichon Press. Bangkok. pp. 45-46.

127 Phuttapanit is a new word in the Thai language meaning Buddhist Commerce.

128 This is the standard way to start any Buddhist Prayer.

129 This prayer was translated with the assistance of Ven. Somwang Suvannamoaro. He mentioned that there were several grammatical and spelling mistakes in the prayer and that it was probably written by someone with a poor knowledge of Pali. None of the people at the statute interviewed by the author could translate the meaning into Thai.

78 von 78 Seiten

Details

Titel
The Cult Worship of King Chulalongkorn of Siam. How an Ancient King Became a God in a Modern Thai Society
Hochschule
Monash University Melbourne  (Asian Studies)
Veranstaltung
BA (Hons)
Note
Distinction
Autor
Jahr
1996
Seiten
78
Katalognummer
V948834
Sprache
Deutsch
Schlagworte
Chulalongkorn, Thai, Thailand, King, cult, rama, V, 5, Siam, Buddhism, Animism
Arbeit zitieren
Geoffrey Blyth (Autor), 1996, The Cult Worship of King Chulalongkorn of Siam. How an Ancient King Became a God in a Modern Thai Society, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/948834

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