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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In Search of the History of Buddhism in Northeast Thailand, Isaan 21.02.12

Earlier posts tell the story of my quest for the temples founded in the Ajahn Man lineage.  My more recent posts speak to the mural temples in Isaan, about Pairot Samosorn who wrote a paper about those wats, about the "Culture Art Center at Khon Kaen University" and my search for the history of Buddhism and Buddhist places in the region. All of this has brought me smack dab face to face with the writings of academics, researchers, historians and last but certainly not least State Buddhism in Thailand.
I always tended to try to believe that State Buddhism in Thailand was making some effort to promote and defend Buddhism in the country, but the more I read, see and hear I find the opposite.
Arguably there are 3 works involved in the discussion, the first "Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets by Stanley Tambiah, a copy of which was illegally copied for me by a member of the Thai Sangha. The second "Forest Monks and the Nation State" by James Taylor a book I have only seen referenced elsewhere. And the third "Forest Recollections" by Kamala Tiayavanich, which I bought legally and have been using as a reference for years.
For the sake of this post I will address what I quickly learned about Tambiah's scholarship.
On page 134 of his book he writes "...Nong Phue, set in a valley surrounded by mountains and forest, where he finally died, was fitting in accord with his tastes."
Now Tambiah speaks of ajahn Man, and immediately proves either he had not read the biography of Ajahn Man written by Maha Boowa and/or his (Tambiah)book is fiction. Boowa relates the story of a dying ajahn Mun\Man and the final trip to Sakon Nakhon, with great clarity. Venerable Acariya Mun Bhuridatta Thera - A Spiritual Biography Ajahn Mun died in 1949 at Wat Suddhavasa in Sakhon Nakhon Province.
Now in this section Tambiah is centering his writing on Maha Boowa/Bua and and Ajahn Man/Mun. and certainly has led the reader to assume that he has read the book.
Enough for now, but there is much to come in this search.