Thai Amulets: The Power Play Between Buddhism, Materialism And Sensationalism

2070 words - 8 pages

Project Title:Rise in demand of Thai Amulets: the power play between Buddhism, materialism and sensationalism.Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, painting the impression of vibrant smiles on the faces of every Thai. Another notable epithet is the Land of Yellow Robes, which characterizes Thailand as a predominantly Buddhist country along with the ubiquitous sight of monks in their eye-catching yellow robes in Thailand. Other than smiles and monks being closely associated with Thailand, Thai amulets have made their way into the lives of nearly every Thai, establishing a cult of amulets. The cult of amulets is permeated throughout Thais from all walks of life and should not be dismissed as a simplistic "superstition" thought to appeal to the impoverished or illiterate (Tambiah 197), thereby establishing the relevance of the rise in the popularity of amulets to factors which are of a far-reaching nature.This paper will examine the role of Buddhism, materialism and sensationalism with respect to their influence on Thailand's roaring amulet trade. This paper argues that despite the influence of materialism and sensationalism on the demand of amulets, the nucleus of the demand stems from Buddhist beliefs.Firstly, amulets are inextricably linked to Buddhism in their production from the materials used, the selective images stamped on the amulets, the sacralizing process, the monks involved as well as the place of sacralization. It can be argued that the underlying reason behind the rising demand of amulets is based on the amulets' alleged powers, which are derived from the process of sacralization, which incorporates fully the elements of Buddhism. Besides that, there is heavy involvement of esteemed and reputable monks in the sacralization of amulets as well. In the making of amulets at the shrine of the "pillar of the city" in Bangkok, a hundred and eight revered monks consecrated the metal sheets used to make the amulets by writing sacred letters on them and reciting sacred words at the same time. (Tambiah 244). During the proceeedings of the sacralization, there will be the continuous incantations of the paritta chant, which denotes protection and are references to some parts of Buddha's teachings (Cook 40). It can be observed that Buddhism plays an important part in all steps of production, thus establishing a close association with the amulets. By virtue of this association, it was believed that power was concentrated and transferred to the amulets. (Cook 41). Therefore, the laity's belief in the power held by the amulets then materializes itself into the high demand of amulets, especially the amulets blessed by highly esteemed monks.However, in light of Buddhist teachings, there is conflict between the concept of amulets and their compatibility with Buddhism, which casts doubt on Buddhism as the main factor behind the rise in demand of amulets. According to Cook, there is a general agreement in a mediation monastery in Northern Thailand that...

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