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    i

    Cosmology

    in Ceylon around 20 B.C., and was accepted as the true scripture in Burma,

    Siam

    and

    Cambodia. ·

    f

    t Pitaka (which includes the core Patimokkha rules of discipline); Sutta

    Ji ~ P i t a k a (the sermons and discourses

    of

    the Buddha); and Abhidhamma,

    The Pali Canon, known as Tripitaka (three baskets), consists of Vinaya

    C SM G Y

    f:

    which is later than the

    Sutta and

    consists mostly of a complex arrangement

    .

    f.

    and commentary on the discourses.

    1

    Rather

    than

    begin

    the

    exposition

    of Buddhism

    by

    discussing

    doctrine t It

    is clear

    that the

    components of

    the

    Pali

    Canon

    were

    not

    composed

    I shall begin with cosmology'. But

    what

    is the difference bet ween doctrinef

    s i m u l t ~ e o u s l y

    ..

    Lines of

    g r o ~ h are visible in the Vinaya and the Sutta.

    and cosmology, and how are they connected? And why do I choose t ~ f A c ~ o r d m g to. Smhal7se t r a d 1 ~ 1 0 n however, the Canon \.Vas fixed at the

    unorthodox path? J Third Council held m

    the

    reign of Asoka c. 272-232 n.c.). The author

    Bishop Copleston, who

    in

    some respects was a more sympa theti c com-t of The Questions ofMilinda, which book was composed by the beginning

    mentator

    on

    Buddhism

    than

    most of his Christian contemporaries, gave[. of the Christian era, knew

    the

    Canonical books

    by the

    names they bear

    an unexpected answer to a question he posed: to what extent does the[ now. Thus apparently nothing discredits the conclusion that the Pali

    content of the Pali Canon serve for a description of Buddhism in Ceylonf Canon was subs tantial ly fixed in Asoka's time, so far as

    the

    Vinaya

    and

    today (i.e. 1890s)? He first divided the contents

    of

    the classical l i t e r a t u r e ~ · the Sutta discourses are concerned. Thus it can be said that, despite the

    into two groups:

    that

    which dealt with the mora l system [and] thef accretion of commentaries which,

    in

    any case, must

    refer

    to the original

    human life on which it rests , and that which was composed of 'the[ text , doctrine as such has been transmitted in the southern school

    legendary histories

    and

    the

    theories

    of

    cosmogony

    and

    geography'.

    He '.

    relatively unchanged.

    then gave this answer: The whole being divided into these two groups

    1

    t

    In

    contrast

    it

    is said that Buddhist mythology and cosmology have

    we may assert that the first, the moral, is held now with little alteration;j grown lush

    and

    unrestrained like a wild creeper. It is, however, interesting

    but

    that the second, the mass of legends and cosmogony, has been

    so{ to

    note that the seeds of the full-blown beliefs, myths and cosmologies

    greatly developed and raised

    to

    so much greater prominence, as to makef of a later period are

    found

    in

    the

    Pali Canon.

    The V£naya and

    Sutta

    the later Buddh ism differ widely from the Pitakas' (1892). ' Pitaka have many references to supernatural beings and occurrences.

    Curiously, the first half of

    the

    answer,

    though

    unorthodox, is probably '. The Khuddaka Nikaya of

    the

    Sutta collection contains the Jataka stories

    true; and

    the

    second half, which is conventional, is unduly exaggerated/ · in verse form which are

    the

    kernel for

    the

    later prose elaborations. Similarly

    Where the

    Bishop was right

    in

    a novel way-against those who saw[' the skeleton of the pantheon and

    the

    framework of the cosmology are

    a vulgarization of doctrine over time,

    and

    in repudiation of

    the

    arrogantf clearly perceived in

    the

    Vi naya

    and Sutta

    2

    (e.g. Atanatiya

    Suttanta

    (Rhys

    claim of some nineteenth-century

    European

    scholars that the S i n h a l e s e ~ Davids, Part III, 1957, Ch. 32) ).

    have

    been content

    to

    relearn

    their

    own religion' from

    them-was t h a t ~

    With

    the

    passage

    of

    time,

    the

    elaborations

    in

    tl1e

    realms

    of

    cosmology

    the major conceptsand assertions of he Buddhist doctrine cannot r a s t i c a l l y ~ and mythical history have been fantastically ornate.

    The

    life story of the

    change. Where the Bishop exaggerated

    in

    a conventional manner was tOfi Buddha has been enlarged and embellished with many incidents unknown

    think that a vast gap separates the wild jungle of cosmology

    and

    y t h o l o g y ~

    to

    the Pitaka: The details of the Buddha s birth and of his renunciation,

    from

    the ploughed fields of doctrine: such a view is possible only i it isk

    thought that doctrine and cosmology have no affinity or similarity

    off

    message contents whatsoever.

    There are many versions or Canons of

    the

    Buddhist Scriptures-such

    the Sanskrit Canons, Chinese and Tibetan Canons, ~ t c . b u t I am c o n · \ ~

    cerned here primarily with the Pali Canon, or more accurately with thatf;

    particular recension

    of the

    Scriptures of the ancient sect

    of

    Vibhajjavadimf

    that

    was set down

    in

    writing at

    the

    Mahavihara monastery

    in

    Anuradhapura :

    32

    f'

    1

    The Vinaya Pitaka i n ~ l u d e s

    in

    addition to the PatimoMha,

    the

    111.ahavagga and

    Cullaoogga (which deal

    with the rules of

    admission to

    the order give

    the

    occasion and

    circumstances when the Buddha made the rules, and give b i o ~ r a p h i c a l detni s

    of

    the

    Buddha). The Butta Pitaka is divided into

    four prose

    collections called the Nikaya

    (Digha, Samyutta,

    Majjhima

    and Anguttara) and a fifth section mostly

    in

    verse

    form

    (Khuddaka Nikaya);

    this last

    includes the Dhammapada, the Them and Theri-gatl1a

    (devotional songs) and the

    ataka

    stories in verse form. See Eliot (1954) for information

    on the contents of the Canon.

    1

    In

    a

    subsequent chapter we

    shall see

    that the

    paritta (verses chanted for protection)

    also have

    their

    final

    authority or

    source

    in

    the

    Canonical

    literature.

    3

    33 TB

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    Cosmology

    of his visit to his mother in heaven,

    and

    of his visits to Ceylon, camel· samsara(cycl eofrebir ths),nirvana(finalextinc tion),dukka(suffe ring), etc.,

    actually to take precedence, in interest and

    in

    the poetical wealth l a i d ~ which are alleged to explain man s predicament and to direct his religious

    out upon them, over the more authentic incidents in the Vinaya (Copleston·I·· action, are also embedded

    in

    the cosmology (and its associated pantheon).

    1892, p. 422).

    The

    theory o f a succession of previous Buddhas, which had: But what is the advantage of the aid of cosmology in studying religion?

    its nucleus

    in

    the Canon, was developed

    in

    time into elaborate accounts

    In

    this monograph I approach religion through ritual and I would like

    of

    their

    lives. Perhaps the

    most

    important elaboration

    in

    respect

    of.f

    to suggest that there is a close connection between cosmology and ritual.

    c ~ n g r e g a t ~ o n a l interest and usefulness for

    i n s ~ r u c t i o n

    are the

    55of;

    Cosmological

    and

    supernatural categories are embedded

    in

    the rituals

    birth stones of the Buddha, the

    Jataka

    collection. Fmally there has beem. I shall describe; they chart the geography and define the architecture

    of

    the boundle ss field of cosmogony/cosmology which, with its cycles

    oft

    sacred space and are expressed

    in

    the material symbols that are manipulated

    ages, multitude of universes, concentric circles of oceans and cataclysmicf in the rituals.

    In

    the rituals we see cosmology

    in

    action.

    cosmic changes (both big bangs and steady states), has appeared at

    first;.

    f one may allow oneself

    the

    luxury of some aphorisms, it may be said

    sight to be mere fantasy

    run

    wild

    and

    away from religion. t that ritual is for the practical man what ,philosophy is for the thinker.

    But is Buddhist cosmology (and its related mythology) really simplyf If the saint and

    the

    ascetic act

    upon themselves-their

    minds and bodies,

    the systematizing

    of

    the imaginary which is the bese tting intellectualf and inner states-the layman acts upon the world with the external things

    sin of India and the Orient?

    Is

    it quite unrelated to the doctrinal andi

    of

    the world. For the layman ritual acts are outward symbols of interior

    ethical idea8 of Buddhism as most commentators appear to think? t state; the ascetic on the other hand performs disciplinary acts directed

    The Encyclopaedia Britannica

    describes cosmology

    in

    the broades t sensef inwards upon himself so that he can gain mastery over the outer world.

    of the word as that branch of learning which treats of the universe asf Forallthereasonssetoutishallnottreadtheconventionalpathbystarting

    an

    ordered system .

    The

    name is derived from

    the

    Greek kosmos

    (

    r d e r , ~ with the definition of basic ethical

    and

    doctrinal concepts of Buddhism,

    harmony , the world ) plus lo os ( word , discourse ). Cosmology isj but rather describe first its cosmology and the implications thereof.

    that framework of concepts and relations which man erects or the} The cosmology that I present is an abbreviated version of ideas that

    purpose of bringing descriptive order into the

    wor-ld

    as a whole, including):

    are

    prevalent

    in

    Thailand, Burma and Ceylon and are reported

    by

    several

    himself as one

    of its elements. It describes

    the

    world in terms of space,£; writers (e.g. see

    De

    la Loubere 1693, Alabaster 1871,

    Hardy

    1880, Yoe

    time, matter, motion and causality. (The related questions of inner

    nature{,

    1896, Monier-Williams 1890). No villager in Baan Phraan

    Muan

    is able

    and

    purpose are usually relegated

    to

    the branches of cosmogony, ontology,f

    to

    present

    the

    details of the total picture in the way I do.

    But

    fragments

    e s c h ~ t o l o g y ,

    etc.,

    but

    I shall include them here under the c o s m o l o g i c ~ ~

    of

    and allusions

    to

    the traditional cosmology appear in many myths and

    rubric.)

    ;

    rituals, and the ritual experts

    in

    the village can

    in

    such contexts expound

    I would like to suggest that, contrary to the normal practice of ignorind relevant portions of the lore to the inquirer. Parts of the cosmological

    Buddhist cosmology or relegating it to footnotes, it be seen as providingt scheme will come to life

    in

    some of the rituals and myths documented in

    a nice entry into

    the

    universe

    of

    religion.

    It

    has many facets:

    it

    first of

    l l ~

    later chapters.

    gives a picture of the universe in terms of space, time and matter;[ Thailand itself is the home of a cosmological treatise written in 1345

    secondly, it translates this physical universe into a pantheon of d e i t i e s , ~

    by

    the heir apparent to the throne of Sukhodaya (who later became

    humans, animals and demons to which can be attributed ethica l andr King Lut ai). This work entitled Trai bhumikatha ( The History of the

    moral qualities; finally, the cosmology gives a dynamic picture of

    thef;

    Three Worlds ), while written

    in

    Siamese, was entirely based on Pali

    nature, workings and purpose of the universe in terms of the motiont

    works

    (Coedes 1957)·

    I t

    brought together, however, various fragments

    of the personifications in the pantheon, this motion up and down

    and?;

    and passages

    in

    a single work which appears to have been the first syste

    bursting out of the universe altogether) being conceived

    in

    terms o t· matic treatise on Buddhist cosmology.

    t

    not only contained the traditional

    ethical and spiritual force and energy.

    Thus

    it might be said that t h e ~ cosmology

    but

    also used

    it

    as a vehicle for moral dissertations and to

    cosmological scheme says figuratively and

    in

    terms of metaphorical

    imagest·

    present a picture of o n r c h y ~ c o n f o r m i n g to Buddhis t ideals.

    the same kind of thing which is stated in abstract terms in the

    d o c t r i n e . ~

    Again, in 1776, Phya Tak, who recovered Thailand from the Burmese,

    The

    basic doctrinal concepts

    of

    Buddhism such as

    karma

    (ethical causation),

    t

    compiled a sta ndard Siamese work

    on

    Buddhist cosmology.

    It

    was called

    34

    f

    35

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    Traiphoom,

    ran to sixty volumes, and was no doubt based on classical

    Cosmology

    sources (Thomps on

    1941,

    p. 624 . l The six heavens ( deva loka )

    Although the Buddhist· cosmology in its broad outlines shows much t The first heaven is below the summit of Mt

    Meru

    and is the residence

    simi Iarity to the Hindu version, it expresses variations and systematization g of the four guardians of he world ( okapala . The second heaven (Tavatinsa/

    in

    terms of Buddhism s own religious world view. Hence it should be

    f

    Tawutisa) is on the summit of Mt Meru, over which presides god Sakka

    treated in its own right. f

    or

    Indra. These two heavens must, in fact, be taken together because

    According to Buddhist cosmology, the re are innumerable world systems f Indra presides over the four guardians; and together they impinge on

    or

    galaxies. Each system has its own

    sun

    and moon,

    and

    its ear th containing

    J

    the world

    of men and

    animals. n myth and ritual

    Indra

    always appears

    continents and oceans, with a mountain

    in

    the centre called

    Mt

    Meru.

    j

    as the presiding deity.

    Upwards from the mountain extend the heavens, downwards the hells.

    t

    Around and

    just

    below Indra s abode at the summit of Mt Meru are

    These world systems are periodically destroyed and re-formed in cycles V the four mansions of the world guardians.

    1

    The palace to the east is that

    of vast stretches of time kalpa)-in modern astro-physics this charac-, of Dhrita-rashtra (Dhratarashtra), King of the Gandharvas (choristers

    terization would be called the theory of the pulsating universe. . r and musicians) who guard the eastern domain of the world and minister

    The world system consists of thirty-one planes of existence divided l to the pleasure of all gods. They wear white garments and are mounted

    into three major categories: kama loka (in which there is form and sensual f on white horses and wield swords and shields of crystal.

    On

    the south is

    desire (pleasure and pain)); rupa loka (in which there is form but

    n o ~

    the palace of Virudhaka (Virudha) whose attendants are

    the

    Kumbandas,

    sensual enjoyment, only a kind of intellectual enjoyment); and the arupa i monsters of immense size and ugly form. They wear blue garments, are

    loka (in which there is no perceptible bodily form and no sensation). The f mounted on blue horses, and their swords and shields are made of sapphire.

    order

    in

    which they are presented here is hierarchical from the lowest

    f

    They guard the southern division

    of

    the world.

    The

    palace

    of

    Virupaksha

    to

    the highest. We may note

    that

    the scheme is based on a

    p r o g r e s s i o n ~

    stands in the west

    and

    he is the King of the N agas. Their colour is red;

    from corporeality to incorporeality, from body to intellect. fr they wear red garments, ride red horses, carry weapons of coral and

    These three major planes of existence subdivide into the thirty-one? flaming torches. They are the guardians of the western portion of the

    more specific planes in a complex manner. And in order to describe the \ world. The northern division belongs to Kuvera or Vaisravana (Vessavano ),

    ordering we must start from the centre of the world system. f: who rules over the Yakshas; they are adorned in golden garments, ride

    Mt Meru stands in the centre of the earth, and it is the pillar of t h e ~ horses that shine like gold, etc. The Y akshas in the classical descriptions

    world. Between Meru and the great rocky circumference which is

    thel are

    not as malevolent as they have come to be in modern Ceylon. (See

    wall of the earth are alternating concentric circles of seven mountain f, Hardy 1880,

    PP·

    45-J). The Thai represent them in their temples as

    ranges

    and

    seven oceans.

    A

    last (eighth) great ocean adjoining the rimf. enormous

    and

    horrible, though recognizably

    human

    in form. .

    contains four continents at

    the

    cardinal points; the southern continent

    n

    Buddhist mythology the Yakshas and Nagas appear frequently.

    Jambudvipa (which is ours).

    It

    is

    the

    most sacred

    in

    the time cycle

    inf

    In

    Ceylon

    the

    Yakshas,

    ruled over by Kuvera

    the

    god of wealth, have

    which Gotama Buddha was born. { been elaborated

    on

    and transformed into the much-feared malevolent

    f: demons. In Thailand, on the othe r hand, it is the N agas who have

    a

    special

    . place.

    KAMA LOKA

    t

    Th

    . e Nagas will fig\}re importantly in this study of Thai religion. A brief

    The kama loka plane

    of

    existence expresses the cosmology that is [email protected] introductory note on them is therefore appropriate. They are thought

    relevant for our study. This plane of bodily form

    and

    sensual

    f e e l i n g s ~ to

    reside under the rocks that support Mt Meru and under the waters

    is divided into eleven

    loka:

    six are heavens inhabited

    by

    gods

    (deva loka ;

    of the earth. Their bodies take

    the

    shape

    of

    serpents. They

    e11joy

    the

    five are worlds, four of which are inhabited by human beings, animals, t status of demi-gods , and in Buddhism are usually represented as favour

    ghosts, and demons. The fifth world consists of eight major (and other u ~ € able to the religion and its adherents. At the same time they are considered

    sidiary) hells, situated in the interior of

    the earth, in which intense

    o r m e n t ~ ·

    1

    In Thai the four guardians

    (thao lokaban)

    are called: Thataret, Wirulahok, Wirupak,

    and pain are experienced. }

    ··

    and Wetsuwan.

    37

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    -

    - - - - ~ ~ ~ - - - - - = = = = = = = = = ~ ~ - -

    ..

    .

    t

    '

    o be formidable enemies when th eir wrath is aroused. They are associated r

    with rain

    and

    fertility. ·

    f:

    Buddhism and the spirit cults in North-east Thailand

    Beyond

    and

    higher

    than the

    second heaven of Indra are four other l

    heavens

    that

    fall within

    the

    definition

    of kama loka.

    Of these, only one

    l

    need be mentioned here, the fourth called Tusita in w i ~ resides thel

    all-compassionate

    bodhisatva

    (Buddha-to-be) Maitreya, awaiting

    the t i m e ~

    when

    he will come down into

    the

    world

    of men

    as

    the

    next Buddha and

    l

    saviour. The

    Tusita

    heaven is regarded as

    the

    most delightful

    of

    the

    l

    heavens,

    in

    which all desires are satisfied. n it grows

    the

    kal,pavriksha

    f

    tree (in Thai, Karaphruk or Kamaphruk), which produces fruits of gold, J

    silver, jewels, etc., that gratify all desires.

    The

    tree appears frequently

    f

    in

    Thai

    rituals and will greet us with its promises at many places in

    f

    this book.

    l

    The five worlds l

    The four lower worlds

    of

    men, animals,

    asuras

    (demons),

    and

    ghosts J

    preta)

    stand

    in

    contrast to

    the

    heavens. While life

    in the

    heavens

    is

    r

    unadulterated

    p l e a s u ~ e

    the lower worlds are increasingly painful. Human

    l

    beings and animals as forms of life are self-evident

    and

    require no com·

    mentary at this stage, but the others do. f

    The asuras

    are

    in

    Buddhist (and Hindu) mythology the arch opponents f

    and

    enemies of

    the

    gods. They are demi-gods themselves

    and

    are

    of

    the f

    underworld, living

    under Mt Meru.

    They have

    had

    repeated contests

    f

    with the

    gods

    of Indra s

    heaven,

    and the

    great representation

    of

    this

    {

    contest is

    the

    churning of

    the

    ocean for the nectar of life which

    the

    gods

    t

    successfully took away from them.

    This

    story is represented

    in

    both

    J,

    Hindu and Buddhist architecture, notably in Cambodia at Angkor. The

    p

    asuras were finally su bdued by

    Indra,

    and it is

    the

    task of the four guardians { _

    to conti nue to ward off their attacks. Rahu and

    Ketu

    are

    the

    much-feared

    i

    asuras

    which swallow the moon

    and

    cause eclipses.

    The asuras

    as

    t h e ~ -

    classical opponents

    of the

    deities have found other expressions

    in

    con-

    r

    temporary South-east Asian countries:

    devas

    versus y kk in Ceylon, t

    versus nats

    in

    Burma, versus phii in Thailand. [

    While the asuras are a permanent category of supernatural being, the}

    pretas

    are

    of

    a different status.

    They

    are ghosts of dead humans who had

    {

    recently inhabited the earth.

    They

    are condemned to live

    in

    a kind

    ofl

    b

    hell

    or

    may wander about on earth, haunting

    the

    places they formerly

    f

    lived in. Although in themselves not harmful to man, their appearance

    C

    and

    attributes are disgusting.

    They

    are of gigantic size, they have dried

    up

    limbs, loose skin, enormous bellies. They continually wander about,

    l

    consumed with hunger and thirst, yet are never able to eat

    or

    drink

    f

    k

    ~ : .

    Cosmology

    because of their small mouths, constricted throats

    and

    the scorching,

    boiling heat

    that

    emanates from thei r bodies.

    Some writers have seen

    in pretas the

    inversion of the Buddhist 1nonk

    (Yalman 1964).

    It

    is also apposite to point

    out that the preta

    condition

    of perpetual hunge r

    and thirst

    may possibly signify

    the

    extreme punishmen t

    for withholding food from monks

    and

    fot being stingy in merit-making.

    Despite their. sinful condition,

    it

    is felt

    that

    relatives can

    and

    should

    transfer to the

    pretas

    some

    of the

    merit accrl,ling from their merit-making

    acts (such as donating gifts of food

    and

    other items to the monks).

    Finally,

    the

    eight major hells of the fifth world are fiery places of

    intense misery

    and

    pain. One has only to see the murals

    on the

    walls of

    Buddhist temples in Thailand and Ceylon to understand that hell is no

    mere abstract concept hut is imagined

    in

    all its hon-or

    and

    sadism.

    n

    heaven handsome

    men and

    women embrace and walk around in a garden

    of wishing trees

    kal,pavriksha)studded

    with diamonds and other gems;

    in

    hell one

    burns

    in raging fire

    and

    one s sides are pie rced wi th ·weapons

    by

    demons. A Siamese law book

    Book of Indra)

    gives the following

    description

    of

    heaven (Alabaster 1871, p. 294):

    There is a celestial abode in the Dewa heavens, an aerial dwelling covered with

    gold and gems with roofs shining with gold and jewels, and roof points of

    crystal and pearl; and the whole gleams with wrought and unwrought gold

    more brilliant than all the gems. Around its eaves plays the soft sound of

    tinkling

    golden bells. There dwell a thousand lovely houris, virgins in gorgeous

    attire

    decked with the richest ornaments, singing sweet songs in concert, with

    a melody whose resounding strains are never still. This celestial abode is

    adorned with lotus lakes, and meandering rivers full of the

    five

    kinds of lotus,

    whose

    golden petals,

    as

    they

    fade fill

    all the air with sweet odours. And round

    the lakes are splendid lofty trees growing in regular order, their leaves, their

    boughs

    their branches, covered with sweet-scented blossoms, whose balmy

    odours fill

    the surrounding air with heart-delighting fragrance.

    THE RUPA LO.,KA

    1

    AND ARUPA LOKA

    1

    ( BRAHMA LOK.A )

    Whereas the six lower

    deva

    heavens belong to the domain of form

    and

    sensation

    kama loka),

    there are twen ty other, high er heavens.

    The

    next level upwards is

    that

    of

    the

    rupa loka, consisting of sixteen

    heavens where there is form but no sensual enjoyment. Beyond them

    are the four

    arupa

    heavens with no form

    at

    all. These last are

    of

    minimal

    significance

    in

    village

    myth and

    ritual.

    This brief outline

    of

    classical Buddhist mythology contains a

    number

    of significant ideas

    that

    are essential to

    the

    understanding of Buddhism

    '. O

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    Buddhism and the spirit cults in North-east Thailand

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    ,as a religion that is not only thought but also lived. One vital conception':'

    ;fayman

    (i.e., one who is not a monk) reaching

    nirvana.

    While normally

    it

    is that all the orders of being described are fundamentally homogeneous;

    f s·

    a monk alone who may reach the final state, should a layman be on the

    or of one ·kind. There are six forms of existence-god, demon, p i a p . ~

    2

    · threshold of nirvana he should either become a monk or immediately

    animal, ghost, soul in hell-whose distinctions are only of temporary· .. pass into

    the

    state

    of

    death pannibbana).

    Thus

    the whole cosmological

    duration and through which all human beings (except those who

    have• .•

    .· system focuses on man as

    the

    moral agent, and

    it

    holds

    the

    possibility

    entered the path leading to salvation) may at one time or other pass. The·. : r.>f a complementary relation between man and god on the one side, and

    god may be reborn as demon and an animal as man, etc.; a change

    of

    • between

    man

    and

    the

    dark agents

    on

    the other.

    Man

    can transfer

    the

    condition is a realistic possibility depending on one's karma and ethical.> fruits of his merit to them; in turn,

    he

    can be affected for good or evil

    status. At any one point of time, the stratification is a statement of

    a. i

    by them.

    The

    way is thus open

    in

    ritual action for manipulating

    the

    gradient of pur e bliss and tranquillity enjoyed by the gods to black torment· · .categories and achieving a change of moral state.

    suffered by those

    in

    hell. The gods, especially those

    in

    the six lower heavens;·: < While the total cosmological scheme is integrated

    in

    this manner, the

    exist in subtle corporeal forms. Although they are not omnipotent, they :(scheme also contains a tension or inconsistency or opposition of ideas.

    are capable of beneficial acts towards human beings. They, too,

    are

    {This tension derives basically from

    the

    philosophical and doctrinal fo rmu

    subject to the universal law of dissolution and rebirth. They appear ill. .: lations and can be simply put thus: if the doctrine of

    karma

    gives an

    the cosmology mainly as protectors of the faith, ready to help believers or, . explanation of present suffering and squarely puts the burden of release

    to testify to the true doctrine.

    In

    turn, the other orders

    of

    existence can on individual effort, then the doctrine that supernatural agents can cause

    descend

    or

    go upwards. The ghosts and demons are not perpetually . or relieve suffering and that relief can come through propitiating them

    condemned; they may

    harm

    men

    but

    they are also subject to

    the

    law

    of·.

    contradicts

    the

    karma

    postulate. Some writers,(e.g. Spiro 1967 concerning

    rebirth and can change their status for the better. .. : Burma) see this tension as a basic inconsistency between Buddhism and

    This is essential for grasping the Buddhist notions of 'this world'

    a n d ~ .

    supernaturalism (or animism). While I recognize that this categorical

    the 'other world',

    laukika

    and

    lokottara.

    All the levels and forms oU opposition is present n Thailand, I see it as one which operates within

    existence so far described belong to 'this world': the heavens, the earth; '\_iqotal field- that e x p r e s s e ~ other relations as well of complementarity and

    and the hells; gods, men, beasts, and demons. Canonical Buddhism's' ' hierarchical ordering bet\yeen Buddhism and the spirit cults. To emphasize

    conception of 'otherworldliness' is

    nirvana,

    the salvation of extinction one aspect at the cost of others seems to me to be a partial analysis; to

    from rebirth and existence. Otherworldliness does not simply mean· go further and assert that there are,

    in

    fact, two contradictory religions

    concerns which transcend the present existence, or rebirth, or existenee, in uneasy co-existence appears to me to be a misunderstanding.

    in

    the heavens of

    devas,

    but a liberation from sentient existence.

    Lokottara

    While we must await

    the

    presentation of the Thai data in later chapters

    means 'hypercosmical . I emphasize the point

    b ~ c u s e

    some anthropolo-· to see that another way of looking at the religious system is possible,

    gists have mistakenly assimilated 'rebirth' and the 'next' life to

    the

    I should like to make a point regarding analytical orientation which

    notion of 'otherworldliness'. ·

    /:; may

    have a bearing on the question.

    A second fundamental idea embodied in this cosmological scheme

    s

    Some analysts may take as their point of reference the postulates of

    that

    n

    the dynamic hierarchy o sentient existence it is man

    in

    h i ~ · ·

    ~ · . doctrin l

    Buddhism s the essence and re lity o Buddhism and tl1erefore

    human condition living on this earth who is the fundamental acting ',; also the base line for studying popular Buddhism. This orientation dictates

    agent. It is said that in order

    to

    attain nirvana any order

    of

    being, even: · itsmethodology and shapes the final conclusions, for the analyst accordingly

    a god, must be born of a woman in a human s tatus in his last life. Central, .. eeks to see how' non-doc trinal' facts are adapted, modified and rationalized

    to

    the

    Buddhist doctrine is that to be born as a human being is a privilege:

    ;; in

    relation to

    the

    'doctrinal' ideas. The question is thus prejudged.

    because it offers the only opportunit y for betterment and final liberation ' _Another method is possible and

    it

    is more open. While being mindful

    through one's decisive effort.

    It

    is

    in

    a human status that new

    karma and

    . ; Qf the doctrinal and mythological heritage, we can pay attention to the

    increment to it can be made. A god can merely enjoy the fruits of previous total ar.ray of religious ideas and rituals as they present themselves and

    karma

    and must be born a human to ascend higher.

    ;J see

    the internal relations and distinctions i n thi s total field.

    The

    doctrinal

    A

    ~ r a n s f m m a t i o n

    of his relatio:

    0

    is

    expr d

    again

    in

    respect

    of

    • .j

    .•pproach is especially

    m i s c h i e v o u s

    as in

    Spiro's study of Burmese

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    - - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- - -- ; ; ; ;; ;: :: :: ; : := -

    ........

    Buddhism and the spirit cults

    n

    North-east Thailand

    i.

    Cosmology

    supernaturalism,

    the

    Buddhism contrasted

    with the n t

    cults

    and

    exorcism) particular interest because they are reflected

    in

    one way or another

    in

    rituals (which are analysed in detail) is not that of the ideas and

    activities :;

    the religious life of Thai villagers:

    of the

    village Buddhist temple

    and

    its monks

    or

    the rituals performed by

    ; .

    the Buddha manifests

    the

    remarkable faculty of remembering past

    monks (which are conspicuous b " their virtual ~ b s e n c e his book), ?ut births, which is at? ibuted

    to h i ~

    clear discernment of

    truth

    through

    a

    set

    of tenet s drawn almost exclusively from doct rme stated m

    the

    Canorucal ;' personal effort

    and

    is also a revelation from the gods;

    texts. Furthermore, it is not

    at

    all clear whether the alleged inconsistencyl · a Buddha, before

    he

    makes his appearance in human form, exists as

    of

    the

    two religions is a product

    of the

    ai:throp?logist's

    w n . u n d e r s t a ? ~ g J

    a.bodhisatvain

    the

    h e ~ v e n

    of delight and

    at the

    proper

    time

    descends into

    of

    what

    true

    Buddhism really is, or is

    an

    irresolvable mcompatibih ty[ his mother's womb mmdful

    and

    self-possessed;

    reflected in the ideas

    and

    actions of the actors themselves. The Burmeset

    in

    the biography of Vipassi-which was later transferred to the Buddha

    evidence is unclear;

    at

    best it would appear

    that

    sophisticated Burmeser

    himself-it

    is stated

    thathe

    was

    born

    of royal status, endowed with

    the

    thirty

    are at one level aware of a con.tradiction, but

    it

    is startling to read t h ~ t · ; · ····two marks of the Great Man, and that there were two careers open to him:

    None of the villagers, however, showed any awareness of the basic ' f he live the life of the House, he becomes Lord of the Wheel, a righteous

    inconsistency (Spiro 1967, p. 46); However, one should not throw ,

    Lord

    of the Right, a ruler of the four quarters, conqueror, guardian of the

    out the

    baby with

    the

    bath water. Distinctions, oppositions, c.ompie:r:ien'.i

    people's good,

    owner of the Seven Treasures But if such a boy go forth

    tarities, linkages and hierarchy do exist in

    the

    arrangement of

    d e a ~ ,

    r1tuall from the Life of the

    H ~ u s e

    into the 1:omeless state, he

    ?e.comes

    an Arahant,

    idiom, techniques and roles of

    the

    practitioners,

    and

    the behaviour o f ~ ~ a Buddha Supreme, rolling

    back

    the veil from the world

    tbzd.

    p

    13).

    villagers according to context

    and

    situation'.

    an

    exploration

    of

    these isf Thus

    it

    is stated

    that

    a world conqueror

    and

    a world renouncer are two

    a

    m ~ j o r

    task of this book.

    The

    a n t ~ r o p o l o g i s t must

    find .a new way ofl] sides of

    the

    same coin;

    relatmg

    the past to the present, classical dogma to present ideas. the biographies also state, in terms of a time scale, the progressive

    f

    shortening of human life

    and by

    implication also its degradation. Thus

    THE BUDDHA

    BODHISATVA AND ARAHAT i; while the length of life at

    the

    epoch in which Vipassi was born was

    ' . . . t 8,ooo years, in this aeon

    the

    length of life diminishes successively from

    Those who have broken through

    the

    v a n o u ~ orders of sentient ex1Stencef 4,000 years at the time of Kakusandha to 100 at the time of Gotama.

    and have reached (or are about to reach) the liberated state are the u d d h a . n ~ This fateful decline, however, is counteracted

    by

    the idea

    that

    a Buddha

    and

    certain lesser others who have entered

    the path

    to

    nirvana. I

    appears from aeon

    to

    aeon under similar circumstances to preach a similar

    Three

    kinds of persons who have attained a supreme religious statel; faith, which hopeful message is represented most importantly for con

    appear significantly

    in

    ritual

    and

    worship. They are

    the

    Buddha, who hast: temporary villagers

    in the

    beliefs centring around l\/Iaitreya,

    the

    next

    reached nirvana, the bodhi satva who is an embryo Buddha or a B u d d h a - t o · f ~ Buddha to come.

    be, and the arahat,

    .

    an ascetic who has entered the path and is credited f The most important Buddha is, of course, the historical Gotama who

    with miraculous powers.

    l

    m b o d i e s the i d e ~

    of all Buddhas. And

    the o ~ i e n t a t i o n s

    to this Buddha

    if .m

    popular Buddhism are complex

    and

    paradoxical.

    The Buddha

    r One puzzle is

    the

    relation between

    the

    Buddha

    and

    the gods

    in the

    The a c h i e v e m e ~ t of B u d d ~ a - h o o ~ .was not unique

    to

    the

    historicalf Buddhist pantheon. The

    Pitaka

    (Pali Canon) characterize the Buddha

    ~ o t a m a . Accordmg to Buddhist tradition there a v ~ been severa:

    B u d d h a s £ ~

    as omniscient

    and pure

    but do

    not

    suggest

    that

    he is a god; however, they

    m t ~ e past,

    and

    some twenty-four have appeared m

    the

    precedmg

    cycles· '.

    d o represent

    him

    as instructing the devas

    and

    receiving their homage.

    of time.

    In the

    present aeon or

    kala,

    Gotama was

    the

    fourth

    to a p p e a r , } ~ .

    Two transformations took place

    in

    institutionalized Buddhism which

    He was preceded

    by

    Kakusandha, Konagamana and Kassapa. t can be expressed in terms of

    the

    pantheon.

    In the

    Mahapadana Suttanta (Rhys Davids, Vol.

    m, Part II, 1 9 1 0 , ~

    . . . . f h

    t

    H a Buddha cannot be called a Deva rather than a man, it is onlv because

    Ch.

    14) Gotama Buddha is said to have related the histories o t e asti·:.·.h . h' h th b th

    It

    · thi tr

    ·

    f th ht

    tl

    t

    l

    d

    [

    · ] 1 t B d II· t

    . . . . . . s

    f

    e

    s

    ig. er an .o . is s

    ain

    o

    o.ug la ea

    sic

    a

    er u (

    ii:i

    s

    seven Buddhas, startmg with Vipassi

    and

    takmg m the four Buddha

    0

    to call hlil Devatideva, or the Deva who is above all other Devas

    (Ehot

    this aeon including himself.

    In

    this account

    the

    following features are

    ol:

    1954

    ,

    p.

    J4.0).

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    Cosmology

    A parallel change took place in respect to

    the

    gods. The Canonical . The problem of

    the

    inconsistency of worshipping an extinct being

    and

    doctrine

    of the Dhamma had

    very little to

    do with the devas in the

    sense • of soliciting

    the

    aid of

    an

    external agent

    in

    a religion which doctrinally

    that the truths

    of religion

    did not

    depend

    on

    them although

    their

    existence :main tains

    that

    salvation is the

    product of

    a personal quest

    and

    striving

    was granted; for example,

    when the

    Buddha preached

    in

    Magadha

    the

    is

    a classical one. It was one

    of the

    dilemmas dealt with

    in The Questions

    local deities were

    not

    considered

    the

    personifications of cosmic forces

    of Ki ng

    Milinda written

    at the

    beginning

    of the

    Christian era.

    or the

    revealers of truth.

    (In the

    Kevaddha Sutta, for instance,

    the

    Buddha The quest ion posed

    by

    King Milinda to Nagasena was

    that if

    the

    belittles Brahma

    and the

    gods as being ignorant of the answers to certain Buddha accepts gifts he cannot have pas.sed entirely away, he

    must

    be

    basic metaphysical probl ems; the Digha Nikaya also contains

    the

    ironical>

    still

    in union with

    the >:Vorld. On

    the other hand,

    if

    he has escaped from

    account of the origin o f gods as being a progressive descent from superior

    .. all

    existence

    and

    is unattached to the world, then honours. could not be

    worlds, while

    the

    gods (especially Brahma) have illusions of being

    the

    ioffered to him.

    creators.) The critical change incorporated in the cosmological scheme is: Nagasena s answer, if.sophist ic, i s yet fascinating, for it invokes some

    the

    conversion of deities into protectors of

    the

    faith, who take their:·

    incisive

    analogues.

    The

    Blessed

    One

    is set entirely free and therefore

    place in the karmic scheme. In the Jatakas for instance, Indra (who, in accepts no gift. Nevertheless, acts done to him, notwithstanding his having

    the Hindu

    Vedas, is a demon slayer) is depicted as

    the

    heavenly counterpart/ passed away

    and

    not accepting them, are of value and bear fruit.

    f

    gods

    of a pious :Quddhist king, protector of

    the

    religion whose throne grows, or men put

    up

    a building to contain the jewel treasure of

    the Buddha s

    hot when a good man is in trouble. From being autonomous powers . relics, the devotee attains to one or another of the three glorious states

    by

    gods had now become mediators. · i virtue of the supreme good which resides in the jewel treasure of the

    Another

    puzzle-which

    is probably of more direct concern to us-is - Buddha s wisdom.

    the

    dual orientation to

    the

    Buddha.

    On the

    one hand,

    the

    Buddha, A great and glorious fire

    that

    has died

    out

    would

    not

    accept any supply

    human

    being, is dead and has reached mrvana. This being so he cannot

    of

    dried grass or sticks; but men

    by

    their own effort can produce fire.

    directly affect human beings or influence their future status,

    becausel,.-.•

    Agreat and mighty wind, were it to die away, cannot be p roduced again;

    salvation is a personal quest.

    On

    the other hand, the Buddha has been but men, oppressed

    by

    heat or

    tormented

    by fever, can produce wind

    credited with supernatural

    powers-when

    alive

    he had

    extraordinary( by means

    of

    fans

    and

    punkahs.

    The

    broad earth does not acquiesce in all

    markings and qualities,

    and

    after his death his relics,

    mahadhatu

    (whichf

    kinds

    of seeds being planted all over it; yet

    t

    acts as a site for these seeds

    significantly include jewels, ornaments and

    the

    holy texts) have spiritualn and as a means

    of

    their development.

    power; so do consecrated images. Thus these o_bjects a_re

    c o ~ c e i v e d . .

    The

    e ~ s a g e

    conveyed .by this argum ent is

    that

    the Buddha s

    t t ~ i n n ~ n t

    magical power stations

    and

    have been associated with r a m m a k m g ~ i S symbolized

    by

    the relics,

    that

    when

    men

    pay homage

    and

    give gtfts

    ceremonies

    in

    Ceylon (Geiger 1960) and Thai land (Wales r93r).

    · to

    the Buddha, goodness is caused to arise within them, that

    in

    fact

    the

    The following facts drawn from the literature on Buddhist traditionsf s ~ b o l s of the Buddha act as a field of merit and men by their own

    might help

    in the

    solution of this problem. A passage written

    by Hardy1··

    • ethical efforts can plough,

    plant and

    produce fruits

    in

    it.

    (1860) vividly describes the worshipper s relation to the Buddha; t h e ~ : What is lacking in Nagasena s argument is any statement of

    the

    spiritual

    description is as valid today as it was for

    the

    last century; it could apply {Power emanating per se from the sacred objects which commemorate the

    equally well to Ceylon, Burma,

    or

    Thailand.

    ·

    ;, Buddha. According to popular tradition,

    the

    Buddha told his disciple

    . . .

    Ananda

    that the objects that may be properly worshipped are relics of

    The people, on entering the wihara, prostrate themselves before the una · hi b d hin d . . . .

    of the Buddha, or bend the body, with the palms of the hands touching each s.

    0

    y,

    gs erecte m commemo ration of.

    him

    (e.g

    .

    mages),

    and

    other and the thumbs touching the forehead. They then repeat the

    threefold articles

    he possessed,

    such

    as

    the

    alms bowl, girdle, bathmg robe, etc.

    formulary of protection, called

    tun-sarana

    stating that they take refuge

    n

    .·The sacred ho tree

    under

    which

    he

    attained understanding has come to

    Buddha, in the Dharma, and

    in

    the Sangha, or they take upon themse be an object of reverence. So have

    the

    sacred books which contain

    the

    a certain number of the ten obligations, the words being first chanted in doctrines that the Buddha taught .

    by

    a priest, or in his absence by a novice. Some flowers and a little rice are . All these objects are called

    cetiya

    on account of

    the

    satisfaction they

    placed upon the altar, and a

    few

    coppers are thrown into a large vessel placed produce

    in

    the mind.

    to receive them (p.

    209).

    45

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    Buddhism and the spirit cults in North-east Thailand

    l

    Cosmology

    The

    religious monument that has attracted special comment by writers f arrive to bring salvation to the world. Maitreya is revered by all Buddhist

    (e.g. Leach 1958, 1962; Yalman 1964) is the

    dagoba (dhatu garba =

    relicl sects as the coming saviour, and his name signifies one who is full of love

    womb), which brings together and transcends the polarities of death and ( toward all beings,

    life, impurity and purity, dissolution and fertile creation. . · It is believed

    that the

    Buddha himself elected Maitreya as his successor

    Similarly, it could be argued that certain religious objects and persons . and that Maitreya now resides in the Tusita Heaven (Dusit in Thai), the

    bring together and synthesize the notitms of spiri tual and political heaven

    of

    contented beings, from where he watches over and promotes

    sovereignty. These notions are eminently symbolized in the person of

    ..

    the interests of Buddhism.

    He

    awaits the time when he will appear on

    the

    king as chakravartin (universal ruler) and as bodhisatva (Buddha-to-be). earth as Maitreya Buddha.

    1

    Tradition has it

    that

    the Buddha predicted

    The relation of the sacred tooth relic in Ceylon and the Emerald Buddha that his teachings will last for

    5 000

    years, at the end of which they will

    image in Thailand to the institution of kingship (and statehood) under .. no more be respected or even remembered because of the world s cor

    the umbrella of Buddhism is well known. Perhaps less well understood · ruption and degeneracy.

    is the symbolism of Buddha s footprint on the top of the mountain e.g. According to the

    Vinaya,

    the Buddha

    had

    fixed

    a

    time limit of

    500

    years

    Adam s Peak in Ceylon, Phrabat in Thailand, and

    Mt

    Popa in Burma), starting from his death during which the Law would last. The same period

    Just as the cult of the spirit of the mounta in was traditionally associatedf:

    is

    confirmed by Nagasena in his dialogues with King Milinda.

    t

    appears

    with political unification and centralization under a king, so does thef that Buddhagosa in the fifth century A.D. extended the duration

    of

    the

    footprint on the mountain top declare that the people and the territory[ message in this world to 5 000 years. He foresaw five successive steps of

    in question are the inheritance of the Buddha. These associations lead 1i retrogression, at intervals of one thousand years: first, the disappearance

    us back to the sacred mountain of Meru at the centre of the universe, I of the acquisition of the degrees of sanctity, then of the observance of the

    often artificially reproduced in

    the

    centre

    of the

    royal cities of South-east;( precepts,

    of the

    knowledge of the Scriptures,

    of the

    exterior signs of

    Asian kingdoms. . . . . . J religion, and lastly of the corporeal relics of the Master which would be

    So we return tQ the puzzle: What 1s

    the

    ordmary Buddhist s orientation[ gathered together and cremated at Bodhgaya (Coedes 1964). Apparently

    to the Buddha and his material embodiments and symbols? It is uncon-f

    this

    prophecy motivated,

    at

    various critical dates in the reigns of famous

    vincing to say that what has been described are aspects

    of

    m a g i c a l ~ kings, the holding

    of

    convocations, writing of Scriptures

    and

    revival of

    Buddhism which are meaning-rais ing devices (Ames 1964). This inter-f religious enthusiasm. The most recent manifestation in our time was the

    pretation is that of a theologian and not of an anthropologist. More f;

    2,5ooth

    year (Buddha Jayanthi). The Siamese cosmological treatise, the

    convincing are interpretations which see the resolution of the polarities r

    Traibhumikatha,

    was produced long ago under similar inspiration.

    of pure-impure, death-fertility in the relics of the Buddha. This is for l To this pessimistic prophecy, however, Buddhist tradition has joined

    me a start ing point for unravelling the problem of conversion and transfer. · an optimistic messianic one. Maitreya, the next Buddha, will descend at

    f by one criterion the pure entities are remote and inaccessible, and i

    y

    [

    the

    end of this decline. Religion will wax again, arahats will arise, men

    another, relics

    and

    texts (and jewels and gold) ar e invested with power,

    i t t

    will

    be freed from toil and care, hunger, old age, and sickness.

    vVe

    shall

    is the final bringing together of power plus purity, the inaccessible n d ~ see later that Buddhist ritual

    in

    the village dramatizes with great expecta

    the accessible, as constituting a primary problem in religious technologyJ:

    tions

    the coming of the next saviour.

    It

    is therefore relevant to compare

    that has to be explained. f; Maitreya with the Buddha. The Buddha belongs to the past; his teachings

    • exist but he is extinct; it is possible that he is not in direct contact with

    The bodhisatva

    f this world. Maitreya lives in heaven, is interested in the present order

    The traditions relating to

    bodhisatva,

    those who are on the threshold ofl of things

    as

    well as in the future, and his descent into the world from

    becoming Buddhas, are manifold. One destined to be a Buddha m u s t ~ heaven is imagined to bring collective salvation and benefits to those

    finally be born as a man, so the bodhisatva does not tarry for long in the I

    1

    The Tusita

    is the fourth heaven

    in

    the

    sensual deva lolw.

    Alabaster (1871) makes

    heavens o f delight. the interesting statement

    that

    when he asked the Siamese why the embryo Buddha

    Th b h · t h · h · · · d h Id h t t · occupies a low sensual heaven instead

    of

    the highest heaven of the

    brahmas, he

    was told

    e o isa v W

    0

    stirs t e imagmatton an ° s t e greates f that s i n ~ e

    the

    term of life allotted to one in

    the

    brnhma loka is vast beyond imagination,

    promises for the

    Thai

    villagers is

    :aitreya,

    the next Buddha who

    willf;

    the commg

    of the

    next Buddha would be

    delayed

    if

    he were

    to live there (p.

    177

    ).

    47

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    who will be fortunate enough to see him at that time in the status

    of

    : Ariyan path and has reached its end, and consequently possesses the

    human being. knowledge of emancipation. By the exercise of meditation (dhyana), the

    However, it is not in the countries of Theravada Buddhism

    but in h o s ~

    ~ p e r f o r m a n c e of certain ceremonies, and

    the

    observance of the prescribed

    in which the Mahayana form prevails

    that

    the concept

    and

    cult of

    the

    ~ . c o u r s e of moral action, the arahat has entered the path of salvation and

    bodhisatva

    has been greatly elaborated. There

    bodhisatvas

    abound-the ,

    his

    niind is therefore free of desire for, and cleaving to, sensuous objects,

    most glorious of whom are Manjusri, Avalokitesvara and Vajra-pani. ·and free of the accompaniments of sorrow and pain.

    At

    his death he

    They

    are imagined

    to

    be permanently

    in the

    celestial worlds

    in

    benevolent

    «

    reaches

    the

    state

    of

    nirvana.

    relationship with humanity. Mahayana Buddhism, it would seem,

    has

    Now the notion of iddhi (or siddhi) is ancient in India, and Buddhism

    systematically incorporated the existing gods into its pantheon and trans- ,accepted and confirmed its existence and reality.

    The

    mystic powers of

    formed them into benevolent mediators and future Buddhas who

    will not ~ i d d h i

    are not miraculous

    in

    the Wes tern sense of interference by m outside

    necessarily descend to earth as human Buddhas. , :,power to contravene known laws of nature,

    but

    are special powers in

    These Mahayanist developments are echoed in the so-called Hinayana , conformity with nature possessed by certain people who are able to

    countries, which have at various times been fertilized by Mahayana ·accomplish acts beyond the powers of ordinary men. Typically they are

    influences. We have already noted

    that

    Sinhalese, Burmese and

    Thai

    ; gained by ascetics. .

    kings were· elevated to the status of bodhisatva.

    In

    certain situations,· The Buddhist suttas enumerate the iddhi powers in several places. For

    messianic Maitreya status may be claimed by charismatic leaders .

    f

    ··instance in the Samanna-Phala Sutta the Buddha enumerates the five

    popular rebellions against established kingship (Mendelson 1963). In , .modes of mystical insight that an

    arahat

    possesses:

    Ceylon the protective guardian god Natha has been identified . withl the practice of

    iddhi- beiri.g

    one he becomes many, or having become

    Maitreya, and others like Saman and Skanda are regarded as

    bodhzsatvatmanybecomes

    one

    ~ g a i n

    he becomes visible or invisible; he goes, feeling

    whose r o ~ e is to guard and protect both ~ h e B u d d h i s ~ r.eligion a:id t h e ~ n? obstruction, to

    the

    u ~ e r side of a 7 all

    or

    rampart hill,

    as.

    if through

    secular kingdom. P a r ~ l l e l s C:a :1 found m

    o ~ h e r

    societies;

    but

    m s ? f ~ 1 . a 1 r . . .he walks on water :v1thout breaking through, as if on sohd ground;

    as

    we.

    are concerned with

    rel:g1.on

    m .the

    Thai

    village

    of h r a a n

    Muan

    isi

    he travels cross-legged

    m.

    the

    .sky . . .

    even

    the

    moon. and the sun, so

    sufficient to remember that it 1s Maitreya alone who enjoys the adulat1onf.potent . . . does he touch with his hand . . . (Rhys Davids, Vol. n, 1899,

    and the anticipations

    of

    a bodhisatva. f, .pp. 88-9);

    f the heavenly ear-the ability to hear sounds, both human and

    cele:.:;tial,

    The arahat and his

    mi raculous

    powers lwhether far or near·

    , r

    While the Buddha is a personage

    of

    the past who has reached nirvana,

    f

    knowledge of others thought s;

    and

    Maitreya is the coming Buddha, the arahat is a lesser personage

    off

    memory of his own previous bir ths;

    both

    the past and the present,1 who is inferior to the other two

    but

    ist

    the heavenly

    eye-the

    knowledge

    of

    other people s previous births.

    nevertheless on the

    path

    to salvation. The attributes of an

    arahat

    are ofr What is of special interest in respect of the concerns of this book is

    interest to us because they have relevance for understanding certainlthe relation between

    the

    achievement

    of

    arahatship and the possession

    village rituals, especially those connected with

    h e a ~ n g

    and exorcism.,;and employment of these mystic powers.

    In

    the Samanna-Phala Sutta

    Their

    bearing on these rituals nevertheless is not readily apparent. · ·:the Buddha has listed The Fruits of the Life of a Recluse and in this

    Buddhism poured new content into an old word.

    The

    term

    arahat

    :list the mystic powers of iddhi rank high, superseded only by the higher

    was previously applied to persons with honorary titles and of worldly ~ a c h i e v e m e n t of the destructionof ignorance, rebir th and the sure knowledge

    position who were entitled to receive gifts, and also to ascetics whofii.;..pf emancipation.

    subjected themselves to self-mortification (tapas).

    The

    Buddhist

    o n c e p t i o n , ~ · ,

    Thus a remarkable feature

    of

    the arahat is that in the course of his

    applied more narrowly to the ascetic man of religion who has entered the.

    ~ i n e n : a t

    and spiritual progress he naturally_ attains extraor.dinary povYers.

    1

    According to the post-Canonical Buddhist writers,

    arahats

    belonged to the past and ~ B u t m the Kevaddha Suttanta (Rhys Davids, Vol. II, 1899, Ch. I I) the

    the world has been bereft

    of

    them for over 2 0 0 0 years. But with the corning

    of thet::Buddha

    is said to have taken a definite stand regarding their exercise.

    Messiah Maitreya there will

    be arahats

    again. ·

    i:On

    being urged by Kevaddha, a young householder, to perform mystic

    48 JC

    4

    J.Q

    · •·n,

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    wonders so as to make the people of Nalanda more devoted to the Exalt : way is therefore open for someone to take to the ascetic and meditative

    One, the Buddha, while conceding that he has himself realized the powe · discipline in order to acquire them. An example that springs to mind is

    of

    iddhi

    (the 'mystic wonder' and the wonder of manifes tation') assert the Burmese

    weikza,

    who is regarded as possessed of supernatural powers,

    strongly that he loathed their practice, and that a greater and bett long-lived and on the path to nirvana (Mendelson 1963).

    The

    possibility

    wonder, which he had realized and recommended, was the wonder o

    s

    also there for someone to use the vehicles of inner

    transformation

    education, that is, the system of self-training which culminated in

    arahatshi

    chants and

    spells-

    without actually undergoing the mental transformation

    The

    doctrinal position

    thus

    is that while

    it

    is

    inevitable that,

    at

    n

    in

    the Buddhist meditative sense.

    Thus

    come about hierarchical distinctions

    advanced stage in his progress, the searcher attains mystic powe between ritual specialists and practitioners in respect of their ethical

    which are in fact a mark of his progress-the exercise of these powe ;. status and endowment with spiritual power

    rit

    in Siamese). The actual

    is dangerous both for the monk, who may

    be

    seduced into a vain magi i results of these possible developments we shall see later in Chapter 18,

    mastery

    of

    the world, and for the laymen, because

    it

    may cause confusion which deals wi th exorcism.

    in their minds and give opportunity for unbelievers

    to

    degrade the mystic{.. .

    powers of the recluse and equate them with the efficacy of base charms.f; .

    • • •

    THE

    BUDDHA AND MARA

    The Buddha therefore forbade the monk to exhibit his powers

    befor

    non-initiates,

    .111d

    the following

    s t r i c t u r ~

    is e m e d ~ e d in the Canon.i. - T ~ e

    p a r a d ~

    we have so far w i t : 1 1 e s ~ e d of the grand

    B ~ d d h i s t

    prot.agonists

    Law of the Vinaya:

    You

    are not, 0 Bhikkus, to display before the l a i t y ~ ·

    will

    be senously unrepresentative

    if

    we

    do

    not also give a place, if not of

    the

    wonders of

    iddhi,

    surpassing

    the

    power

    of

    ordinary men.

    W h o s o e v e r ~ .

    honour then of a conspicuous nature, to Buddha's great antagonist,

    does so shall be guilty

    of

    a wrong

    act

    dukkata).

    l

    Mara.

    This

    demon antagonist appears in village myth and ritual frequently,

    While Buddhist commentators and expositors state the above

    as

    t ~ j

    for

    he

    is to the Buddha as

    baab

    (demerit) is to

    bun

    (merit).

    Buddha's position on this issue, a measure of ambiguity and contradic ti]'. Mara is generally regarded as the personification of death; he is

    the

    is introduced in the Patika Suttanta (Rhys Davids, Vol.

    IV,

    Part

    III, I957ili:

    Buddhist counterpart

    of the

    principle of destruction.

    In

    1nore philosophical

    ~ h .

    24), w ~ c h

    ~ e l o n g s

    to the same

    h i ~ t o r i c a l

    period as the suttas

    alreadyf

    terms he can equated with the ;hole .world of .sensuou.s existence and

    cited. In this dialogue the Buddha claimed to have worked wonders of ant

    the realm of rebirth, as opposed to hberatrnn and

    nirvana:

    for such a world

    amusing and magical nature to vindicate his superiority over othe r s c e t i c s J ~ is under the sway of desire and death. And in the thought of the

    Pitakas

    I am not concerned here with sifting out. the true doctrine

    but

    tt there is a clear connection between desire and death.

    For

    the world built

    pinpoint a phenomenon dealt with in classical Buddhist doctrine ant, on desire waxes and wanes, flourishes and decays; hence the ruler of

    which serves as a point

    of

    reference for certain kinds

    of

    cults and practif

    worldly

    desire is also god of death. But Mara is not the ruler over hell.

    tioners one meets

    in

    the field today. The function of judgment and punishment is assigned in the Buddhist

    The

    powers of iddhi itthibat

    in

    Siamese) as set

    out

    above are

    notf

    pantheon

    to

    Yama,

    the

    god

    of

    the dead.

    peculiar to Buddhism alone; they are for the most part stereotyped

    a n ~

    The Buddhist texts refer extensively to the various encounters between

    occur in all the ascetic and mystical literatures of Indi a (Eliade 1958). [ the Buddha and Mara the tempter; Mara's temptations also extended to

    The supra-normal powers of the

    arahat

    thus have an indirect b e a r i n ~ monks, nuns and laymen in order to lure them from the path. n the

    on contemporary religion

    in

    so-called Buddhist countries. Strictly p e a k i n ~ [ Padhana Sutta Mara is represented as visiting Gotama on the banks of

    i1:

    t ~ e . Buddhist discussion. of the. problem, it is b virtue of mentall; the Neraiijara, where he was practising austerities, and tempting him to

    disc1plme

    and

    by undergomg an

    mner

    transformation

    that the ~

    abandon his endeavour.

    But the

    most important encounter-greatly

    gains the mystic powers, and it is because their indulgence and exercisef: elaborated in later books and chronicles, and constituting today a lively

    would stall his progress to the final goal

    that

    Buddha forbade their

    displaJt: part

    of village

    lore-is

    the attack on

    and

    temptation

    of the

    Buddha by

    as dukkata

    (evil deed). To make false profession of the attainment Mara, as the Buddha sat

    under

    the ho tree immediately before his enlighten

    arahatship

    one of the four crimes that result in permanent exclusio1.

    Ii···

    ment. This encounter not only is recalled in some village rituals but also

    from the pnesthood. gives mythological legitimacy to a ritual act performed widely

    and

    But

    the

    possibility

    of

    acquiring

    : :s tic

    powers is not denied. And ,

    habitually-yaadnam, the

    pouring

    of a t e r

    on the ground when transferring

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    merit. I shall relate the bare details

    of

    this great encounter between

    good

    and evil

    in

    Buddhist folklore:

    PRIM RY

    VILLAGE CONCEPTS

    The previous section on cosmology and Buddhist traditions was designed

    to

    serve a dialectical function

    in

    relation to the ethnographic data. The

    classical ideas will sometimes guide the ordering of the ethnography, just

    as

    much as the categories and relations that emerge from the ethnography

    will sometimes serve to clarify the classical formulations.

    n this chapter I deal with primary concepts that emerge from

    the

    observation of thought and deed

    in

    the village.

    When Gotama sat under the bo tree engaged in his final effort to attain 5

    Buddhahood, Mara, whose nature is sinful, determined that he must at ;

    once destroy the man who was about to pass beyond his power. He

    first ·•

    sent

    his

    three

    daughters Raka (raga

    =love),

    Aradi (arati discontent),[:

    and Tanha

    (trichna

    =

    desire); beautifully

    e d e c k ~ d ,

    t?

    ter:ipt. him. Gotama.f:

    drove away these women who wanted to cham hrm m the fetters off

    concupiscence.

    Then

    King Mara, in fury, assembled his generals and his.

    fearsome army and decided

    to

    make war on the bodhisatva so that he

    might flee in terror. At Mara's approach all

    the deva

    gods, the

    Nagas ·,

    and other spirits who had gathered round the bodhisatva to pay him homage [

    and sing his praises, took unceremonious flight, except the earth goddess. ·

    Mara employed all his miraculous powers to hurt the bodhisatva-from

    the

    brandishing of weapons by hideous forms, the causing of thunderstorms ;

    and violent gales, to ·the final hurling of his powerful thunderbolt, whicht Bun and baah (ethical norms) and their implications or merit-making

    however stood over the Buddha like a canopy of flowers. U n d a u n t ~ d t

    Bun

    (merit) and

    baab

    (demerit) are verbal categories frequently used by

    Mara challenged the Buddha to prove that the seat, the throne on which {

    the

    villagers. These concepts-especially the

    former-constitute

    the major

    the Buddha sat, was his by right. Mara proved his own claim to that

    f

    ethical notions by which villagers conceptualize, evaluate, and explain

    throne by

    calling on his generals to affirm his might. , \ behaviour. They derive, of course, from philosophical Buddhis1n, but

    H ·

    ere we

    ~ u s t

    let Alabaster

    (1871,

    pp.

    154-5)

    present to

    us

    his t r n s ~ · ~ · , • . : : .

    village

    formulation deviates from the strict doctrinal one and must be

    lat1on from Siamese sources: ·• , . understood in its own terms.

    The Grand Being reflected. Truly here is no man to bear me witness; bur: The words

    tham bun

    (to make merit) and

    aw bun

    (to take

    merit)-used

    I will call on the earth itself' Strikin.g forth his

    ~ a n d

    he thus in;oked the"f;.

    as equivalents-refer to

    the giving of gifts to

    the

    Buddhist monks

    and the

    earth: 'O holy earth I who have attamed the thirty powers of virtue, a n d ~ Buddhist wat.

    The

    second expression highlights the Buddhist attitude

    performed the five great

    alms,

    each time that I have performed a great act ; that meri t is made not

    by

    giving per se but is acquired

    by

    the willingness

    I have not failed to pour water upon thee. Now that I have

    no

    other witnes.s,

    of

    the monks to receive. (The sociologist may phrase the transaction

    I call upon thee to give the testimony.

    f this

    throne was created by my merits, F thus: the gift-taker in this context is superior

    and

    is capable of transferring

    let the earth quake and show it; and if not, let the earth be still ' ·

    t

    And the angel of the earth, unable to resist his invocation, sprang from thef some kind of spiritual grace to the giver.) The concepts make merit and

    earth in the shape of a lovely woman with long flowing hair, and standing,f-. 'take merit express a double relationship in which the transaction is

    before him, answered: f • given a particular ethical twist.

    O

    Being more excellent than angels or men it

    is

    true that when you

    e r f o r m e d ~ ·

    Performing acts of merit

    and

    avoiding acts of demerit are directed to

    your great works you ever poured water on my hair.' And with these

    w o r ~ the

    achievement of certain results.

    The

    value of merit-making is discussed

    she wrung her long hair, and a stream, a

    flood

    of waters gushed forth from it

    It

    by villagers under two aspects: first,

    it

    is said. that one's fund of merit

    Onward against the host of Mara the mighty torrent rushed'. ..

    a ).d

    his{'

    whole army

    fled

    in utter confusion, amid the roarings of a terrific earthquake, accumulated

    in

    this life will ensure a rebirth blessed with happiness,

    and peals of thunder crashing through the skies.

    i

    prosperity and wealth.

    (The

    achievement of salvation

    or

    final extinction

    The Thai villagers of today, whenever they have done an act of meritf nirvana) is not usually stated as a goal nor for that matter does

    it

    have

    · any personal relevance for them.) While merit-making is thus given

    which is rewarded

    by

    blessings chanted

    by

    monks, transfer some

    of

    thisX

    t ideological· direction in terms of somehow immunizing the consequences

    merit

    to the dead, to

    the

    gods, to other humans,

    by

    pouring water upon i

    .

    of

    death and ensuring a prosperous rebirth, villagers also say

    that

    it has

    the

    earth, thereby calling upon

    the

    goddess

    of the

    earth, Nang Thoranee,

    t

    certain consequences

    in

    this life:

    the

    giving

    of

    gifts to monks produces

    to witness

    the

    act.

    l

    5z t 53