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The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical MonkPracticing Buddhism in Modern Thailand$
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Justin McDaniel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231153775

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231153775.001.0001

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Monks and Kings

Monks and Kings

(p.23) 1. Monks and Kings
The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk

Justin Thomas McDaniel

Columbia University Press

This chapter critiques some assumptions in Buddhism through a close examination of the life of Somdet To. First, scholars, especially political scientists and historians, have often overemphasize the power of the royal family’s propaganda, and have consistently lamented the tendency of the Thai people to display unwavering loyalty to their kings. However, a story of Somdet To’s life, in which he publicly insulted two kings, can disprove this claim. Second, Lao Buddhism is often seen by scholars as undeveloped, unscholarly, oppressed, and disorganized, but a great part of Somdet To’s life—his training under a powerful Lao magician, and his use of Lao and northern Thai recipes and incantations—reveals the opposite of this claim. Third, Buddhism is promoted as a peaceful religion that promotes meditation, world peace, and social harmony. Likewise, this claim is wrong since Somdet To used defensive and offensive magic to save his nation.

Keywords:   Somdet To, royal family, Lao Buddhism, Buddhism, Thai recipes

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