Believe it or not! Some Thai Beliefs

After feeling rather stressed out of late running around like a beheaded chicken helping me fiancee to sort out precarious wedding arrangements, I thought that I’d brighten me heart up a bit and go back to write about perhaps my fave subject and that is ‘the people of the provinces’.

Well, our webmaster friend here Mr Richard has certainly put a lot of effort into giving yous all an indepth low-down on Thai superstitions and beliefs over the past few months. So, I felt that I ought to get into the act meself with some related stuff along the same lines – stevesuphan style. From what i see, Thailand is a boiling pot for a whole lot of hocus-pocus quack-wack beliefs which have nothing whatsoever to do with Buddhism. Then, as the 21st century kicks in and capitalism has reached every corner of the country it has left all the folk desiring a new Video Phone Nokia, a flashy new Honda Jazz or the latest Lap-top. To appease this suffering due to lack of consumer products the nation has been bent on ‘winning the lottery’ to relieve them of their awful existance.

Now, since most folks believe in predicting the lucky number in the thrice monthly Governemnt lottery a whole shab of sceething money making opportunities have arisen in regards to forecasting the number. One very well-known place for making-merit and so finding out the lucky lottery number of the week is here in my province of Suphanburi. Know it or not, Suphanburi is country-famous for two things to say the least one is politicians but most of all ‘Singers’. At the end of the day, I would have to say that the most famous person ever to come out of Suphanburi has to be ‘Phuangphuang Duangchan’, even more so than Carabao or a former PM as ‘Phumphuang’ (Pheung) holds ‘legendary’ stautus’. If you are a foreigner wondering to the likes of ‘Who the heck is she? Then let me say that she is the ‘Queen of Lukthung’, the girl that gave birth to sexy naughty Thai country music which you can watch 24 hours a day on Thai TV. She died about 15 years ago but the temple in which her ashes are found in Song Phi Nong district is a Mecca for folks to come pay respects on the hope of finding out the lucky lottery number of the week. Praying is done in front of this quite cheesy statue of her that is taken care of by the resident monks.

What on earth her dead body has to do with forecasting the lottery number is a complete mystery to me. Then, just a few months ago it was that time of the year again, ‘Ms Phuangphuang’s b-day’ and the media and thousands of folk arrived at the temple on the day of the lottery, to pay their respects to her statue and to pray that the lucky two-digit nuber of that week would once again fall on her actual birthdate. Sure, did I enjoy having a right laugh, ridiculing a few of the locals here “What kind of crocko-belief is that?, you gotta be pulling me leg!” and was absolutely flabbergasted the next day to read the newspaper headlines of ‘Phumphuang has done it again!’ and we see literally thousands of followers and monks dancing up and down in front of the camera celebrating their lucky win and praying to Phumphuang as if she were some Hindu Queen. Shiver-me-timbers! As for me, i’ll have to be a bit more careful with some of me words from now on.

This is just one example of forecasting the lucky lottery number but there are thousands of others. Even my previous next-door neighbours claimed that their pet fish would often swiffle its tail around in the bottom of its tank and lay marks similar to a two digit number. Each time I asked him to why he hadn’t won that time around, would reply “Ooooh, my fish was right but I myself was at fault as I was unable to make out the fish’s handwriting properly.

Just last week, the nations ‘Sangha’ (if you know readers pls help me trans this to English, I forget) like Buddhism Body of Thailand declared for the umpteenth time that monks producing Buddhist Amulets for financial gain are be stopped! Oh yeah, a lot of folks just love having a belief in a whole variety of Buddhist amulets even though, again, its not actually part of the religion. Now, some of these amulets are worth an absolute fortune with the most sought after ‘Somdet Wat Rakrang’ fetching mind-boggling prices, I mean up to 30 million baht. Of course these are an absolute hit with a lot of the country’s politicians as it is believed that, if worn, you will be protected from getting shot. ie. if shot, the amulet with its amazing powers will protect the wearer and the bullet will just miraculously vanish into thin air. Well, even if I were given a loan of one I doubt I’d try it out see if it actually works.

Then, for any single men lacking lowly on the ‘charming ladies’ scale there are naughty shaped amulets that when hung from the waist, of course under yer shirt, will soon be the cause for a whole string of lusty girls fighting to get their arms round you.

Then, just how many Buddha footprints are there in Thailand? Don’t get me wrong but my history book says that The Buddha was born in present-day India. If any of you readers should care to enlighten me on just how Thailand got to be the source of so many of these footprints I’ll more than happy to listen. Having resided at temples from time to time practicing meditation I’ve heard a lot of folklore tales which I never read about in any Buddhist book. One nun I knew once gave me the ins and outs of loads-a upcountry beliefs. Here is one for example “All you Farang and non-practioners of Buddhism are doomed for an after life of starvation as you never give food to the monks”. Well, according to her, it was Buddhist belief that giving food to the monks is like an investment policy ie. we well get back all the food we have given to the monks back in the afterlife. Now, I definetly never read about that in any Dhamma book. But I guess it’s a good story on getting people to give alms in the morning.

Then, for us men who feel that we’re are a little on the physically weak side, get yerself a sacred ‘animal tattoo’ from some well known upcountry monk, who, for just a few hundred baht will tattoo in a big fancy tiger or the what-not on yer body and you’ll soon be as powerful as the creature inbedded in yer skin. Just a few months ago, it was reported all over the press about the strange goings-on at one of the nation’s temples. It was reported that every one of the young lads who had recently got a ‘sacred animal tattoo’ from some monk there had terrifyingly started behaving like the tattoed animal itself. Golly-gosh! Some of the scenes almost had me in tears of laughter with all these fine lads, apparantly in some kind of hypnotic frenzy, running around the temples on all fours growling away at each other like intoxicated mad tigers. Up to your on belief but I for one will give that one a miss.

Then, we have the world-famous Nong Khai fireballs that amazingly just spring out of the Maekhong river on the last day of Buddhist Lent every year putting on a supposedly completely natural fireworks show. So incredible, that even a movie was made about this phenomenon just a couple of years back. Of course the locals have a lot of belief that it’s all true and darned sure its good for tourism but there have been quite a few sceptics too (as normal). Even one newspaper reporter who claimed that some of the fireballs were in fact gunshots from the Laotian side of the river was soon facing a lawsuit from the Nong Khai Authorities. In fact, it’s still a darned mystery and even most sceptics can’t work out ways on how to fake such a show. This was what the movie was about and perhaps some of it was true. As for me however, I’ll stay here and watch some fireworks show on Sanam Luang instead.

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19 responses to “Believe it or not! Some Thai Beliefs

  1. It looks scary for me to see how the monk is making the tattoo.

  2. Steve, its just this kind of lunacy that makes me love Thailand.
    I remember the ex-monk who used to tell your fortune and sell containers of a well known baby talcum powder in one of the Wats in Bangkok -and did a roaring trade in making them “magic” -the “magic” was affected by 2 minutes of mumbling and spitting into said talcum powder -cost was about £5 and he did a roaring trade.

  3. Sangha = community
    I’ve come across it in studies of yoga where it refers to the people who study at a particular studio/shala or the practioners of yoga in general.

    Here’s a wikipedia article…

  4. Once the Buddha became enlighten, he travel all over to this part of Asia to spread Buddhism. That’s why you his footprints exist in this part of the world.

    And, Steve, there are not that many footprints as you might think there are.

  5. Also, Buddhism is a very deep subject and you may have thought that you read many, many boosk. I doubt that you’ll understand much details from reading them, since most of these rarely scratch the surface.

    As for what the num told you about giving arms, etc, you’ll find that if you read from the right place.

    It’s one thing to read from books and another when you actually experience Buddhism from growing up. 😎

  6. Richard Smith

    Steve, your writing style is so full of energy and incite. You always seem to come up with these wild and crazy subjects and turn them into three dimensional images. Keep up the great work and by all means never stop writing.

  7. yes… Sangha is community… important to provide one the strength and togetherness to follow the path and have concenteration. Like the little book that lies on my table says:

    I take refuge in Buddha.
    I take refuge in Sangha.
    I take refuge in Dhamma.


  8. I know Phumphuang. Don’t doubt the dead, they’re not as unlucky as one may think (in Thailand perhaps).

  9. Bhuddist Forever

    Okay, with all due respect, I looked at the picture of
    Bhudda’s footprint. It looks big and square.
    It doesn’t look like that is a foot of normal human being. In other words, it doesn’t look real to me!

  10. Thanks for the comments as usual.

    For sure Buddhism is a very deep subject and you only have to pick up a book on say Mayana Buddhism and the life of the Buddha and his teachings are vividly different.

    Even the Venerable Ajarn Buddhadasa taught of the possible uncertainty of the actual existence of The Buddha.

    For sure, every Thai knows of the legend of Phumphuang and her lucky lottery number forecasting and after she managed to pull off the stunt again this year on her birthday even me for one may be going to to her temple next year to try and pull off a two digit fanfare too!

  11. Not a bad read Steve. As for amusing beliefs you only scratched the surface. You seem like you know a bit about Thailand. Don’t forget your parents probably played the lottery using your birthday as a way of choosing their numbers. A lot of luck you brought them. Maybe they should have asked the goldfish instead.

  12. Well, there you have it!

    Good bitta info there from SamSingha.

    Perhaps, i’ll have to go check out those footprints of The Buddha all for myself.

    I remember there was one Krabi but you had to hike up hundreds of these dodgy looking stairs to get to it. Didnt fancy having one of them cracking up on me and have me falling 50 foot down and breaking me neck.

  13. Bhuddist Forever,

    What they may do when they found Buddha’s footprints is that they try to preserve the footprint by cementing the surrounding area.

    Buddha’s footprints are often found only when you dig up the ground, so, in the picture above, they dig a regtangular area surrounding his footprint (from this picture, it looks like just one foot) and they preserve it with cement, etc.

    And I gues you’ve never seen one in person, the picture may look small but let me tell you that the footprint is probably a couple of feet long, not the size of a human’s foot !!! The one I saw two years ago were about 5 feet long each.

    The reason for it being so large is due to the fact that the Buddah possesses supernatural power and the footprints were intentionally made to be so huge so that people can discover them later.

  14. Great read Steve. Very entertaining.

    As for titantodd and Matt C, I take it your level of English is not at the point where you can recognise and appreciate light-hearted humour.

    Steve could have actually been a lot more critical than he was about some of these beliefs that absolutely defy science and the modern age and propagate the cycle of poverty in the provinces. When you have too many people waiting for the great reward in the next life, you have a lack of impetus for wanting to improve things in this one.

    Farangboy can go home but perhaps before he does you might want to learn something from his perspective.

  15. Let me guess Baz or sorry Barry Boy. My level of English probably isn’t up to your level. Atleast my comments were in reference to the story and not my own ego. It was a good read. Just a bit ……but thanks anyway. Go home Barry Boy.

  16. You could say the same for ANY religion. Simply because religion is based on belief not science. That is what i learn, as an American Farang in WI.

  17. This piece barely scratches the surface. The nature and number of nonsensical magical beliefs which are held by the locals is mind numbing. I lived in Issan for many years and one of my favorites was when the locals appeared at the site of a traffic fatality in order to get the license tag numbers for their lottery choice.

  18. superb

  19. It is brill!!!