Tantric Theravada?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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gavesako
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by gavesako » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:16 pm

Mediums, Monks, & Amulets: The world of worship, wealth and wonders
A new guide to the cut-and-paste postmodern reality of popular religious practice in Thailand

This book is about everyday belief and practice in contemporary Thailand. It begins with a telling image. At the top of the spirit altar is always a small figure of the Buddha. On the next level down may be statues of famous monks from the past, such as Somdet To, along with Siamese kings, particularly King Chulalongkorn.
Below these will probably be some Chinese and Indian deities, long established figures like Guan Yin and Brahma, but also more recently popular ones like Lakshmi and Ganesha.

On the lowest level are local spirits, perhaps an ancestor, or figures from local history such as Ya Mo in Korat or Chammathewi in Lamphun.

Pattana Kitiarsa is here describing the altars in spirit medium shrines. But much the same collection of figures can be seen in homes, shops and the halls of temples. Every scholar of Thai Buddhism in the past has noticed the readiness to incorporate gods, goddesses and spirits from all over.

Textual Buddhism, with its promise of self-annihilation, is an extraordinary philosophical product, but most people seek simpler rewards for their devotion _ and need powerful figures to deliver them. Religious practice in Thailand and other Buddhist societies has always been open to innovation. But the variety seems to be ever growing.

The inclusion of historical figures, monks and monarchs on these altars is relatively new.

Older scholars liked to describe this jumble as syncretism, literally a blending of different beliefs. But Pattana and other scholars today argue that devotees do not identify this bit of their practice as Buddhist, that bit as related to a Chinese or Indian deity, and others as connected to animism. For them, anything goes.

This book is the best guide to the "fast-track, cut-and-paste, postmodernising reality" of popular religious practice in Thailand today. Pattana Kitiarsa hails from Nong Khai in the Thai-Lao northeast, was educated in the US and Australia, and now teaches the anthropology of Southeast Asia and popular Buddhism at the National University of Singapore.

Most of the chapters have appeared earlier as articles, but the sum is much greater than the parts.

Though the subject is Buddhism, the book's index does not cite a single religious text, but has entries for markets, magic, talk shows, spirit mediums, amulets, fraud cases, newspapers and even the "tom yum kung disease".

Pattana argues that Thailand's popular religion is so vibrant and creative because ordinary people have the space to shape the religious services that they need without much constraint from the authorities or the weight of history.

His three main chapters are case studies of three massively popular religious movements from recent years. The first is that of Luang Pho Khun, a forest-dwelling monk from the Northeast who easily became the most well-known and popular monk at the national level. While retaining an earthiness which seems to repudiate Thailand's desperate quest for modernity, he sells amulets by the truckload, raises enormous amounts for charitable works and is sought by tycoons and politicians.

Phumphuang Duangjan was an illiterate child labourer who became a country singer with a following that defied class barriers. After she died tragically at the age of 31, she was transformed into a goddess, and the wat where she was cremated became the focus of a cult, principally orientated to winning fortunes in the lottery. The cult still thrives after two decades.

Finally, the Chatukham-Rammathep amulet was invented to finance a temple restoration in the South, but was then franchised nationwide and briefly became the focus of a "tulip craze" with monks competing to create product differentiation by pressing the amulets in aircraft and other such stunts. All three cases are about the desperate quest for luck, and also about how the three differ.

Pattana argues that the variety of deities on the spirit altars and the variety of new cults and crazes are the result of several recent changes. The shift of people from village to city has brought many traditional and once largely rural practices, such as spirit mediums, into contact with the technology, scale and pace of globalised urban society.

Thailand's open economy, and the role of long-settled communities of Chinese and Indian origin, has broadened the catchment area for gods, goddesses and other religious paraphernalia. Today's media and markets quickly inflate any new religious trend into a national phenomenon. Disadvantaged groups, especially the poor and women, turn to religion for personal help and end up moulding the way that religious practices develop _ hence the prominent role of earthy figures like Luang Pho Khun and Phumphuang.

Of course, some on the sidelines are shouting that "all this is not Buddhism" or "not religion but commerce". Pattana sees no sign that these voices are having any impact. Some academics wish to relate these new phenomena to some "crisis" of the Thai economy, or the national mentality. Pattana responds that "rather than evidence of crisis, fragmentation, or decline, in fact these new practices display the health and wealth of popular Buddhism in Thailand today".

Just prior to finishing this book, Pattana was ordained and became a monk for three weeks at a forest temple on the banks of the Mekong to make merit for his late mother. The preface relating this experience is best read, as it was written, right at the end. After the frenzy of spirit cults, magic monks, lottery goddesses and amulet crazes, it's good to be reminded that Thai Buddhism still has room for self-awareness and the search for peace.

Pattana is one of Thailand's leading anthropologists. Here he writes at one and the same time as an academic contributing to contemporary debates, a Buddhist reflecting on his own cultural environment, and a Thai wondering about the country's extraordinary kaleidoscope of changes. The result informs, entertains and amazes.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/arts-and-cul ... nd-wonders" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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gavesako
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by gavesako » Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:12 pm

Pranke's article about "Saints and Wizards" in Burma is very interesting historically and I can see many parallels with Thailand where people respect various rishis with special powers and supposed to be hundreds of years old, as well as charismatic monks believed to be arahants and endowed with psychic powers, thus acting as a "field or merit" for the wealthy classes as well as ordinary villagers.


Patrick Pranke : "Nibbāna Now or Never?" Vipassanā and the Weikza-lam: Two Competing Soteriologies in Contemporary Burmese Buddhism

Vipassana “insight meditation” and the weikza-lam “path of esoteric knowledge” are two competing soteriologies in contemporary Burmese Buddhism. As is well known, vipassana holds out the promise of freedom from samsara, the cycle of birth and death, in nibbana as an arahant. In sharp contrast the weikza-lam promises not the termination of samsaric life in nibbana but rather its indefinite prolongation through the attainment of virtual immortality as a weikza-do or Buddhist wizard. In this presentation I will compare these two paths to Buddhist salvation in contemporary Burmese Buddhism and discuss the contested religious claims they make. As part of this discussion I will review what is known of the modern evolution of these traditions in Burma noting their possible historical antecedents.


Here is another good article about the wizards (weikza):

Kawanami: Charisma, Power(s), and the Arahant Ideal in Burmese-Myanmar Buddhism (2009)
http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/829" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
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gavesako
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by gavesako » Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:43 am

Ven. Kruba Boonchum has just come out of a 3-year silent retreat (nirodha-kamma) at Rajagrha Cave in Lampang province, northern Thailand.

ภาพครูบาบุญชุ่ม ญาณสังวโร ออกจากนิโรธกรรม ครบ ๓ ปี ออกจากถ้ำราชคฤห์ เมืองงาว ลำปาง เมื่อ ๑๘ เมษายน ๒๕๕๖
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Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
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gavesako
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by gavesako » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:44 am

In fact he stayed in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days living on fruit and cakes and apparently not shaving his hair either. Lots of people gather to welcome him again and probably hear some teachings, which is considered very meritorious.

ครูบาบุญชุ่ม วันอธิษฐาน ออกจากถ้ำวันนี้ 20 กค 2556 ซึ่งท่านได้ตั้ง สัจจะถือศีลที่ถ้ำราชคฤห์ เมืองงาว จ.ลำปาง เป็นเวลา 3 ปี 3 เดือน 3 วัน
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Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Dan74
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Dan74 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:50 am

I am not knowledgeable about these things, but there seems to be confusion about various things in this thread. Tantra, at least as it is practiced in Tibetan Buddhism, is not magic, is not concerned with immortality or special powers, as far as I can tell. Its sole purpose is attaining enlightenment.
_/|\_

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Kim OHara
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Kim OHara » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:11 am

gavesako wrote:... In sharp contrast the weikza-lam promises not the termination of samsaric life in nibbana but rather its indefinite prolongation through the attainment of virtual immortality as a weikza-do or Buddhist wizard ...
Hello, bhante,
Reading this, I wondered whether there are any connections between this tradition and the esoteric Taoist traditions, on the other side of the Chinese border, which likewise aim for immortality. Have you come across any links?

:namaste:
Kim

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gavesako
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by gavesako » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:25 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
gavesako wrote:... In sharp contrast the weikza-lam promises not the termination of samsaric life in nibbana but rather its indefinite prolongation through the attainment of virtual immortality as a weikza-do or Buddhist wizard ...
Hello, bhante,
Reading this, I wondered whether there are any connections between this tradition and the esoteric Taoist traditions, on the other side of the Chinese border, which likewise aim for immortality. Have you come across any links?

:namaste:
Kim
I am not really sure but I would not be surprised if there were some connections between them.
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
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Shunyata Vajra
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Shunyata Vajra » Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:07 pm

Dan74 wrote:I am not knowledgeable about these things, but there seems to be confusion about various things in this thread. Tantra, at least as it is practiced in Tibetan Buddhism, is not magic, is not concerned with immortality or special powers, as far as I can tell. Its sole purpose is attaining enlightenment.
dear dan,

in many sadhanas you can find lower activities, which usually include magic rites of different kinds. And the main purpose of yidam deity is to obtain siddhis, wordly and ultimate both. And of course we can find many long life sadhanas, for at least prolonging our lives, if not immortality. But one of the stages in vajrayana is called "rigdzin/vidyadhara of immortality".

best regards!

:namaste:

Justsit
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Justsit » Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:32 pm

Shunyata Vajra wrote:in many sadhanas you can find lower activities, which usually include magic rites of different kinds. And the main purpose of yidam deity is to obtain siddhis, wordly and ultimate both. And of course we can find many long life sadhanas, for at least prolonging our lives, if not immortality. But one of the stages in vajrayana is called "rigdzin/vidyadhara of immortality".
May I ask, in which lineage do you practice?

Shunyata Vajra
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Shunyata Vajra » Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:55 am

Justsit wrote:
Shunyata Vajra wrote:in many sadhanas you can find lower activities, which usually include magic rites of different kinds. And the main purpose of yidam deity is to obtain siddhis, wordly and ultimate both. And of course we can find many long life sadhanas, for at least prolonging our lives, if not immortality. But one of the stages in vajrayana is called "rigdzin/vidyadhara of immortality".
May I ask, in which lineage do you practice?
Nyingma

Justsit
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Justsit » Wed Sep 18, 2013 12:33 pm

Shunyata Vajra wrote:
Justsit wrote:
Shunyata Vajra wrote:in many sadhanas you can find lower activities, which usually include magic rites of different kinds. And the main purpose of yidam deity is to obtain siddhis, wordly and ultimate both. And of course we can find many long life sadhanas, for at least prolonging our lives, if not immortality. But one of the stages in vajrayana is called "rigdzin/vidyadhara of immortality".
May I ask, in which lineage do you practice?
Nyingma
Ah, OK. The qualities mentioned above may not be applicable to the practices of some of the other lineages.
But that is a discussion for our sister Mahayana/Vajrayana site at Dharmawheel.net.

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gavesako
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by gavesako » Thu Sep 19, 2013 2:20 pm

Supernatural powers are cited as the factors behind recent high-profile accidents in Thailand, namely the botched landing of a Thai Airways plane at Bangkok′s main airport earlier this week.
The newspaper has also quoted Mr. Chotisak Asapaviriya, a former director of Airports Authority of Thailand (AOT), as saying that he had organised a regular prayer session to placate the vengeful spirits which reside in the airport vicinity.
Thai Rath helpfully points out that 8 major shrines have been built around Suvarnabhumi Airport by the staff in order to ward off evil spirits, such as a shrine dedicated to the Naga (holy big snake in Buddhist myths) which is presumably angered by construction of the airport on what was once a swamp inhabited by snakes.
Dr. Smith Thammasaroj, former director of Suvarnnabhumi Airport, told Thai Rath he was convinced of the existence of supernatural entities around the airport even though, he admitted, he had never encountered any particular case personally.
The scientist who once headed Thailand′s Meteorological Department said he had invited so many psychics to conduct ceremonies and constructed so many shrines "that I can′t keep count".
"We even had to build a condominium for the ghosts to reside," Dr. Smith said, "Because the spirits are so many individual spirit houses won′t be enough".
"There have been more deaths than usual. Many have suggested that the Ministry of Transport needs a large-scale merit-making ceremony" Mr. Chatchart said.

Recent Transport Disasters Blamed On Spirits
http://www.khaosod.co.th/en/view_newson ... =&catid=03

The spirits will be happy... :woohoo:
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Kim OHara
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Sep 19, 2013 9:38 pm

Thank you for that, bhante, although I don't know whether the appropriate response is
:rolleye: or :alien: or :jawdrop: or just
:rofl:

:namaste:
Kim

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tiltbillings
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by tiltbillings » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:06 pm

Kim OHara wrote:Thank you for that, bhante, although I don't know whether the appropriate response is
:rolleye: or :alien: or :jawdrop: or just
:rofl:

:namaste:
Kim
I would not be so judgmental. That is simply Thailand/Southeast Asia. The older beliefs still have their say, even if clothed in Brahmanical/Buddhist trappings.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Kim OHara
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Re: Tantric Theravada?

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:55 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:Thank you for that, bhante, although I don't know whether the appropriate response is
:rolleye: or :alien: or :jawdrop: or just
:rofl:

:namaste:
Kim
I would not be so judgmental. That is simply Thailand/Southeast Asia. The older beliefs still have their say, even if clothed in Brahmanical/Buddhist trappings.
Judgemental? Me??
I suppose so, but not in a totally negative, "These guys must be nuts!" way.
I have no problem with acknowledging both spiritual realities and technological realities but failing to distinguish between them strikes me as odd and potentially dangerous. In the West we have made that distinction (and made it work for us) since the days of Cromwell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_in_G ... powder_dry) and Ben Franklin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_helps_ ... themselves) - if not all the way back to JC and his "render unto Caesar" rule.
As a purely practical matter I really want the guys on the ground at the airport, next time I fly in, to have followed their maintenance manuals whether or not they have also made offerings to the nagas.

:namaste:
Kim

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