Monday, April 22, 2013

HK celebrities popularize Thai Amulet culture

Recently there was an article in Malaysia's New Life Post paper regarding the practice of many famous Hong Kong celebrities wearing Thai amulets to help them in their show biz career. For example, Cecilia Chung is said to wear a Somdej Wat Rakang (more likely to be Somdej Kaiser) and known to keep many Kumantongs at home. She is probably heavily influenced by ex-husband Nicholas Tse and mother in law Deborah, who are both Thai Buddhists and Phra Prom Erawan devotees. It also mentioned Jackie Chan, who was said to be wearing Somdej Than Saem 2517 from LP Pae when he survived falling from a great height during a movie shooting accident in 1986. Later this Somdej was named "Pim Jackie Chan" after him and became extremely popular in HK and Taiwan. Finally it talked about martial arts and action star Donny Yan, who always wear his Khun Paen while shooting dangerous action sequences.
These HK celebrities and their belief in Thai amulets have helped to spread Thai Buddhist culture not only in HK, but Taiwan and today China, covering a large part of East Asia. Especially in China, where waves of Thai amulet shops have mushroomed in many major cities, against an officially atheistic communist culture. We can say the zeal of persecuting organised religion since the days of the Cultural Revolution has not only been totally eaten away by commercialism, but ironically a commercial part of religion at that. In a vast China market, the demand for Thai amulets very often exceeds the supply that those dealers could provide. Which is why we can now see many China citizens prowling Tha Pachan and Pantip Ngam Wong Wan in Bangkok, buying amulets and casings in large numbers. But although the varieties of Thai amulets number into thousands, these guys are only interested in a few types, most notably: Butterfly, 9-tail Fox, KMTs, LP Pae and maybe LP Koon. So much so that the prices for these amulets have shot up many times. A good example mentioned in the article is China rich girl Guo Meimei, who gained some celebrity status flaunting her wealth on the Internet. Having gained some good fortune in the casino after chowing 2 KMTs, she eventually opened a shop in Beijing selling mostly KMTs and other popular amulets. Above we can see her chowing many KMT buchas from AJ Nikom (aka AJ Kom) in Suphanburi. She said that the cheapest KMT in her shop cost 3800 RMB, or more than 18000 Thai baht. This is at least 9x the original price at AJ Kom's Samnak, which is a huge profit for our already rich Ms Guo. The expensive ones cost more than 20000 RMB. She claims that the business at her shop is excellent and so we can only imagine the rich getting richer.

Although it is not a bad thing for China people to soak up Thai amulet culture, I'm afraid they do not know why they work or what is their purpose. And by this I mean the real amulets and not those fake or commercial ones. Like many from other countries who are captivated by them, they only see the superficial aspect of amulets and not its spirit - which is to make merit in the Triple Gems, to keep the 5 precepts, to refrain from all evil and to cultivate all that is good. Without the basic tenets of Buddhism in place, amulets are only empty gadgets, no different from toys. If one day their amulets fail to bring them good luck or protect them from danger, they will only have themselves to blame for being ignorant. I hope that they can slowly be inspired by Thai amulets to learn more about Buddhism and improve their lives spiritually. Only then would the purpose of those guru monks who created them be fulfilled, sadhu.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Melon in exchange for Corpse

"There also came from different lands in other worlds and from the Saha world deities such as those of the seas, of the rivers, of the forests, of the mountains, of the earth, of the streams and lakes, of the crops, of the day, of the night, of space, of the sky, of food and of vegetation; all assembled there." - Ksitigarbha Sutra

Last week there was a Wanbao article regarding how the missing corpse of one of the local victims in a fishing trip mishap in Pulau Layak, Malaysia was found. Apparently the body of Mr Chen Wan Seng was found soon after one of the search boat owners threw a water melon offering with Mr Chen's name and particulars written on it into the sea. The family of the victim was surprised as prior to that, the search and rescue boats had searched the sea in that area for 2 days without finding his body.

How is it that a melon can help to find corpses lost at sea? I think not many people know that this is actually an ancient Chinese ritual with its roots in Taoism and Buddhism. Because the pronunciation of water melon in dialect sounds like "water ghost", thus it is offered as a replacement to the Naga King (which some call the god of the sea) in exchange for the bodies of those who drown at sea. Why is it that such an offering need to be done? Simply due to fact that all creatures dead or alive in the sea comes under the jurisdiction of the Naga Kings. Which is why the boat owner prayed to the "god of the sea" before setting off and made the water melon offering to appease him once they reach those waters. Sure enough, the corpse mysteriously appears floating on the surface less than half an hour after the offering was done. This incident tells us that those deities and Devadas that have dominion over the forces of nature do exist, even though they are invisible to ordinary humans. Whether it is the water, wind, fire, lightning, thunder, earth, mountains, big trees etc, there are always higher beings who control them or live in them. As they are frequently mentioned in the Buddhist scriptures, we should always respect these nature deities who are in many cases, Dharma protectors. Very often they will help humans who are righteous in the Dharma and humble towards them.

AJ Tee Lek of Samnak Khao Sunamo

AJ Tee Lek of Samnak Khao Sunamo, Petchaboon province is known in the whole of Thailand as the "Bulletproof monk of Petchaboon". He became somewhat of a legend due to the TV programs that show his takruts and amulets being tested regularly against guns. He lives on a remote hill without a temple, yet devotees from Thailand and overseas, both near and as far as thousands of miles away come to pay respect to him. Above we see the main Sala.

The kutis on the hilltop where AJ and his followers live.
Chatting with AJ abt his new takruts coming out next month.
AJ reblessing the stuff that I chowed.
His famous Maha Ut Kongkapan takruts.
Equally famous Rian Chanachai.