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THAI BUDDHIST AMULETS AND THE OCCULT


In Singapore and parts of Asia and the Southeast Asia other than Thailand, one will occasionally encounter someone wearing a Thai Buddhist amulet. A lot of people appreciate these holy items, not just the Thais, but also Chinese, Cambodians, Burmese and Indians.

Thai Buddhist amulets originate from ancient votive images of the Buddha, holy and sacred items stored in various caches centuries back and later discovered from ancient Buddhist sites. They are objects of good will and intentions, made with reverance to the Buddha, by true religious men dedicated to seeking enlightenment and benefits to the suffering world. However, because of wrong information and misleaded impression, Thai Buddhist amulets are sometimes being associated with the occult and black magic.

There are many misconcepted myths about Thai amulets caused by small talks among the ignorant. Common misconceptions by persons new to Thai Buddhism is that all chantings are magic spells, and assumed that every chanting have different purposes. Most of these are untrue. While different chanting does have different meanings, these chantings are not magical spells or associated with the occult. Oftenly they are merely religious texts of Theravada Buddhism being recited, the language is often Pali, an ancient religious language spoken during Sakyamuni Buddha's time, similar to the Sanskrit language of Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism. Not understanding Thai Buddhism and the Pali language, and not understanding the context of the words, the majority of uninformed people mistook them as magic spells of occult nature.

These misconceptions are not caused without reasons. In the 1980s, horror films and thrillers are big hits in Hollywood, movies featuring vampires and devils were in trend and in the late 1980s, adventurous Indiana Jones went treasure hunting in exotic lands such as Epygt. In Asia, the film industry mirrored the trend by sending Asian Jones to exotic lands in Asia, coupled with Asian vampires and evil spirits. The movie industry had projected Thailand as an exotic country, and had given Thai culture a image of black mysticism. Majority of the uninformed do not know that Thai Buddhism is Theravada Buddhism, the national religion of Thailand. If one does a bit of homework before associating Thai Buddhism with the occult, Theravada Buddhism means the Teachings of the Elders, it refers to the practise of the teachings taught by Sakyamuni Buddha to his direct disciples, twenty-five centuries back in India, Buddhism is a religion who rejects rituals, supersitions and the occult. The goal of Buddhist is to achieve enlightenment and liberation from sufferings through practising the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha. Due to the success in the movie industry, the image of Thailand suffered. Another victim of the movie films is Tibet, the land of snow, whom the people's main religion is Tantrayana Buddhism, which originates from Mahayana Buddhism.

Back to current time and take a look at the advertisments put up by some dealers of Thai amulets in Singapore, they promise solutions to all these problems by visiting their shops and buying some amulets. Some had packaged themselves as fortune tellers, geomancist, occultist cum religious men, and oftenly mixing the beliefs of Chinese mediums with Thai Buddhism to cater to the superstitions of the Chinese people in Singapore, since most collectors in Singapore are Chinese. They even listed all a long list of these problems. It is because of these dealers that Thai Buddhism and Thai amulets are so widely misconcepted in Singapore and Malaysia. The mess that they had created had polluted Singaporeans' impression of Thai Buddhism and Thai amulets for the past two decades, and perhaps even longer.

Thinking logically, these dealers are doing it to earn cash from the gullible and uninformed. I recall a recent case happened in Singapore where a particular dealer in Thai Amulets operating in Hougang Town area was arrested in 1998 for cases of cheating, outraging modesty of woman and rape, he had claimed himself to be an "Archarn" or "religous man" capable of solving his victims' problems with magical means. In another case happened in 1999 in a motel in Geylang Lorong 18, a "religous man" claiming to be a priest in Tantrayana Buddhism used the good name of Buddhism to commit cheating and rape. In the 1980s, in a case which shook the whole of Singapore and Southeast Asia, a Singaporean "Archarn" or "religous man" claiming to be a practioner of Hinduism Tantrik, Thai magic and chinese medium practises was earning easy cash from superstitious women. Operating his "shrine" in his HDB unit in Toa Payoh Town area, he was sentenced to death for kidnapping and the murder of two children, investigations also reveals similar methods used to commit cheating and rape. There are countless such cases, reported and unreported, published and unpublished.

The method of fraud are always similar, oftenly the victim is already a superstitious person, curious about the supernatural and often fears the unknown. And more importantly the victim is facing personal problems of either financial debts or unhappiness in marriage or poor health. By inducing fear into the victim's already supersititous mind the ideas of evil spiritual influences and possession, the con men promised help and assurance of exorcising the evil spirits, subletly breaking the victim's mind and influencing the victim for monetary or sexual favours.

The intention of writing this article is to clarify a bit of wrong conceptions, however a person interested in the occult might not accept this short article easily, simply because it is human nature to reject what is not pleasing to the ears. The Buddha did discouraged the belief and practise of rituals and occult, however superstitions collectors choose to believe in con men rather than believing in the Buddha. Truth is often not pleasing to the ears. The Buddha did not taught the Dhamma to please human ears, the Buddha taught the Dhamma to save humans.


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