Animism and Thai Occult

Animism is a belief system that posits the existence of spirits or supernatural forces residing in natural elements, animals, and objects. In Southeast Asia, animism has deep historical roots and continues to play a significant role in the cultural and religious landscape of the region. Here are key aspects of animism in Southeast Asia:

Jom Khamang Waet Sorceror

  1. Diverse Animistic Traditions:
    • Indigenous Beliefs: Many indigenous communities across Southeast Asia adhere to animistic traditions that are specific to their cultures. These beliefs often involve a profound connection with nature and a reverence for spirits dwelling in mountains, rivers, trees, and other natural features.
  2. Spirits and Deities:
    • Nature Spirits: Animism in Southeast Asia involves the veneration of spirits associated with various elements of nature. These spirits are believed to influence daily life and are often appeased through rituals and offerings.
    • Ancestor Spirits: Ancestor worship is a common animistic practice in the region. Ancestors are considered to be powerful spirits that can influence the well-being of the living. Rituals, ceremonies, and offerings are performed to honor and seek the guidance of ancestors.
  3. Shamanism and Rituals:
    • Shamanic Practices: Shamans, known by different names in various cultures (such as dukun in Indonesia), play a crucial role in animistic traditions. They are believed to have the ability to communicate with spirits, mediate between the spiritual and physical realms, and conduct rituals for healing, protection, and divination.
    • Rituals and Offerings: Animistic rituals often involve offerings of food, incense, and symbolic items to appease spirits and seek their favor. These rituals are performed during significant life events, agricultural activities, and to address specific concerns or challenges.
  4. Syncretism with Other Religions:
    • Integration with Buddhism and Islam: In many Southeast Asian countries, animistic beliefs coexist with major religions such as Buddhism and Islam. There is often a syncretic blending of animistic practices with elements of these larger religious traditions.
  5. Cultural Expressions:
    • Art and Festivals: Animistic beliefs are often expressed through art, traditional dances, and festivals. These cultural expressions celebrate the interconnectedness of humans, spirits, and the natural world.
  6. Conservation and Ecology:
    • Environmental Stewardship: Animistic beliefs often emphasize the sacredness of nature. Some communities practice environmental stewardship, viewing the natural world as inhabited by spirits that must be respected and preserved.
  7. Regional Variations:
    • Diversity of Beliefs: Southeast Asia is culturally diverse, and animistic beliefs vary significantly among different ethnic groups and communities. Each group may have its own pantheon of spirits, rituals, and practices.

Understanding animism in Southeast Asia requires recognizing its dynamic and diverse nature, deeply intertwined with the cultural, historical, and ecological contexts of the region.

Animism in Thai Buddhism: Where doe it Fit In?

Thai Buddhism, deeply rooted in a rich tapestry of folklore and Jātaka stories, provides a unique lens through which to explore the intersection of Buddhist teachings and animistic beliefs. One captivating Jātaka story, the “Migapotaka Jātaka” (Jātaka No. 15), unveils the Buddha’s previous life as Migapotaka, a benevolent tree spirit.

Migapotaka Jātaka: The Tale of Generosity and Selflessness

In this Jātaka, the Bodhisatta manifests as a golden goose dwelling in a tree. A king, captivated by the allure of the golden feathers, seeks to possess them. Instead of resorting to harm, the king chooses patience, deciding to wait until the goose naturally molts. Witnessing the king’s intentions, the Bodhisatta willingly sacrifices its feathers, exemplifying virtues of generosity and selflessness.

hun payont voodoo doll

Nature Spirits in Thai Buddhism

While the Migapotaka Jātaka itself doesn’t explicitly introduce nature spirits, it provides a gateway to understanding the amalgamation of Buddhist cosmology and animistic beliefs in Thai Buddhism. Throughout Southeast Asian Buddhist traditions, animism interweaves with Buddhism, giving rise to a recognition of beings inhabiting various realms, including nature spirits associated with trees, rivers, and other elements.

Consciousness within Medium

Buddhist Teachings on Interconnectedness

At the heart of Buddhist teachings lies the principle of interconnectedness. The reverence for nature and all living beings is integral to Buddhist ethics. While the Jātaka stories may not explicitly detail nature spirits, they echo the broader Buddhist message of compassion, respect for life, and mindfulness of the interconnected web of existence.

IN one of the Jātaka tales, the Buddha was incarnated as a Ruglkha Tewada (Tree Deva) a spirit within a tree, sentient. This shows the belief that there are sentient spirits within the plant kingdom and apparrently inanimate things (to the human eye)

IN one of the Jātaka tales, the Buddha was incarnated as a Ruglkha Tewada (Tree Deva) a spirit within a tree, sentient. This shows the belief that there are sentient spirits within the plant kingdom and apparrently inanimate things (to the human eye)

Animism’s Role in Thai Buddhism

Thai Buddhism’s incorporation of animistic elements reflects a cultural synthesis where traditional beliefs seamlessly merge with Buddhist doctrines. Animism adds layers of spiritual significance to the natural world, fostering a deepened connection between practitioners and the environment.

If we take an unbiased view of Thai Buddhism and Animism, it becomes evident that the teachings, while not explicitly focusing on nature spirits, create a framework that resonates with the intricate balance between the spiritual and the natural, which is an integral part of the cultural and spiritual traditions and beliefs, embedded in Thai Buddhism.

Phra Kring Thai-Chinese Mahayana Style Medicine BuddhaAmulet

A Deeper Look into the Origins and Beliefs surrounding The Phra Kring Thai Medicine Buddha Amulet

The Phra Kring Thai Medicine Buddha amulet, a relic deeply embedded in the spiritual and cultural milieu of South-East Asia, warrants a comprehensive academic examination. This article endeavors to provide an insightful exploration into the historical, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of the Phra Kring amulet, with an emphasis on its significance in Thai Buddhist tradition, as well as its resonance in the broader realm of Buddhism, including Tibetan Vajrayana and Chinese Mahayana sects.

Historical Origins and Cultural Significance

The roots of the Phra Kring amulet are firmly grounded in the historical legacy of Thailand, a nation where Buddhism has flourished for centuries. Although primarily associated with Thailand, the amulet bears relevance to Mahayana Buddhist countries, including China, Tibet, and Taiwan. It is frequently acknowledged as the Medicine Buddha or Phra Buddha

Pra Kring Ha Jantr Paen Lor Boran Gon Ud Pong - First edition 2541 BE - Luang Phu Jantr - Wat Wang Wern

Pra Kring Ha Jantr Paen Lor Boran Gon Ud Pong – First edition 2541 BE – Luang Phu Jantr – Wat Wang Wern

The Bhaisajayaguru, is revered for his healing and compassionate attributes. The amulet’s evolution within the Thai Theravada tradition is a testament to the amalgamation of diverse cultural influences, particularly from Chinese migrants who settled in Thailand. This migration brought with it the practice of venerating Phra Buddha Bhaisajayaguru, offering protection and prosperity during voyages and business ventures.

Phra Kring Traimas 2548

Phra Kring Traimas 2548

The historical roots of the Phra Kring amulet can be traced to the reign of King Naresuan and Phra Somdej Panaret in the Ayutthaya period. Unfortunately, historical texts, referred to as tamra, which elaborated the intricate process of crafting Phra Kring amulets, were lost during tumultuous times. However, the preservation of this sacred knowledge by devoted individuals such as Somdej Ma of Wat SamPloem and later Somdej Pavarit of Wat Bovorn marked the beginning of the amulet’s prominence.

Pra Kring Ha Jantr Paen Lor Boran Gon Ud Pong - First edition 2541 BE - Luang Phu Jantr - Wat Wang Wern

Pra Kring Ha Jantr Paen Lor Boran Gon Ud Pong – First edition 2541 BE – Luang Phu Jantr – Wat Wang Wern

The creation of Phra Kring amulets diverges between Mahayana and Theravada traditions. In Mahayana Buddhism, these amulets are meticulously crafted by amalgamating the life story of the Medicine Buddha’s Bodhisattvahood and Enlightenment with precious metals. In Theravada tradition, a specific set of Yant designs and the preference for nava loha, a combination of nine sacred metals, are employed. The internal ball, known as ‘Kring,’ which produces a melodious sound when shaken, holds immense cultural and spiritual significance. This sound mirrors the sacred chants using bells, deeply resonating with the Mahayana tradition.

Phra Kring Niramit Choke solid gold Luang Por Jaran

Phra Kring Niramit Choke solid gold Luang Por Jaran

Spiritual and Healing Properties

The Phra Kring amulet is celebrated for its spiritual and healing attributes. Devotees hold firm the belief that wearing or keeping these amulets in close proximity brings healing to physical ailments, protection, and prosperity. Central to the amulet’s potency are the twelve magnificent vows made by Phra Buddha Bhaisajayaguru upon his attainment of Enlightenment. These vows, as detailed in the sacred Medicine Buddha Sutra, encompass radiating divine light, awakening dormant minds, fulfilling material needs, dispelling heretical views, and providing healing for a myriad of afflictions, both physical and mental.

A significant aspect of the amulet’s practice is the recitation of the sacred Katha, a mantra that serves as a conduit for invoking the blessings of Phra Buddha Bhaisajayaguru. This ritual connects the practitioner with the divine energy of the Medicine Buddha, facilitating healing, protection, and spiritual enlightenment.

Phra Kring Wat Suthat: Prominence and Legacy

Phra Kring and Phra Chaiyawat Thai Amulets

Phra Kring and Phra Chaiyawat Thai Amulets

Ven. Sangharat Pae, the esteemed abbot of Wat Suthat, played a pivotal role in elevating the prominence of Phra Kring. He proclaimed Wat Suthat as the custodian of the most exceptional Phra Kring amulets. This temple, colloquially known as the “Temple in the Heavens,” stands as one of Thailand’s six most revered religious sites. The amulets of Wat Suthat derived their profound spiritual power, known as “Palang Saksit,” through a sacred and mythical ritual that has been preserved throughout the years. The current methodology of crafting Phra Kring amulets, however, remains closely guarded, adding an aura of mystique to their production.

Phra Kring Wat Bovon Early Era

Phra Kring Wat Bovon Early Era

One could say perhaps, that the Phra Kring Thai Medicine Buddha amulet represents a compelling nexus of historical, cultural, and spiritual dimensions. Its significance is not confined to the boundaries of Thailand but extends to various Buddhist sects, underscoring its universal appeal. As scholars, historians, and anthropologists embark on the study of South-East Asian cultures, Buddhism in Asia, and the anthropology of spirituality, the Phra Kring amulet provides a fertile ground for scholarly exploration. With its profound historical legacy and enduring spiritual allure, it continues to captivate the minds of those in pursuit of understanding its place within these intricate contexts.

Buddhism and the Significance of 108

The number 108 serves as a bridge that connects us to the external world. The Tibetan Buddhist canon, referred to as the Kangyur, is a relatively broad collection of 108 volumes of sacred texts that have been acknowledged by many schools of Tibetan Buddhism and thus are referred to as the Sacred Word of Buddhism.

Thai Buddhist temples

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of the Buddha. It originated in ancient India more than 2,500 years ago and spread to many parts of Asia, including Thailand. Today, Buddhism is one of the major religions in Thailand, and it plays a crucial role in the country’s culture, history, and way of life.

Meditating Buddha made of pure light in a dark cave, slight illuminaton of walls, with five orbs around him in the form of a crescent shaped glowing aura of orbs with alien looking symbols inside each of the 5 orbs

One of the essential beliefs in Buddhism, is the concept of impermanence. Buddhists believe that all things are constantly changing and that nothing lasts forever. This belief is reflected in the architecture of Buddhist temples in Thailand. The buildings are designed to be temporary, made of wood or other materials that are easily replaced.

The number 108 is considered significant in Buddhism, and it is believed to have many auspicious meanings. The number is said to represent the 108 virtues of Buddha, which include wisdom, compassion, and love. It is also said to represent the 108 defilements that humans must overcome to reach enlightenment.

In Thailand, the number 108 is significant in many ways. For example, during Buddhist ceremonies, devotees often recite prayers or mantras 108 times. The number is also significant in Thai astrology, where it is used to calculate horoscopes and auspicious dates. In Thailand, the number 108 is also used in colloquial slang to mean ‘a heck of a lot of’ or ‘countless’, as in ‘108 ways to die’. 
The number 108 is considered a sacred and significant number in many Buddhist traditions. Here are a few possible reasons for its significance:

  • Mala beads: A mala is a string of prayer beads used in Buddhism to count mantras or breaths during meditation. A traditional mala consists of 108 beads, which are counted by running the beads through the fingers as each mantra or breath is repeated. The number 108 is said to represent the 108 earthly temptations that a Buddhist must overcome to reach enlightenment.
  • Cosmology: In Buddhist cosmology, there are said to be 108 defilements or delusions that a person must overcome to attain enlightenment. These defilements are categorized into six groups of 18: six senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought), six afflictions (ignorance, attachment, aversion, pride, doubt, and wrong views), and six negative emotions (lust, hatred, desire, envy, delusion, and pride).
  • Sacred texts: The Buddhist scripture contains 108 volumes of the teachings of the Buddha. These teachings are said to be divided into three groups: the Vinaya (monastic rules), the Sutra (discourses), and the Abhidharma (philosophy).
  • Astronomy: In ancient India, there were 27 constellations or nakshatras, each of which was divided into four parts or padas. This gives a total of 108 padas. In some Buddhist traditions, the number 108 is associated with the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is said to be approximately 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
  • Overall, the number 108 is considered a sacred and auspicious number in Buddhism, representing the spiritual path towards enlightenment and the overcoming of earthly temptations and delusions.

As a piece of Trivia, the number 108 also figures prominently in the symbolism associated with karate.

Meditating Buddha made of pure light in a dark cave, slight illuminaton of walls, with five orbs around him in the form of a crescent shaped glowing aura of orbs with alien looking symbols inside each of the 5 orbs