Kumanthong: Dispelling Superstitions and Falsehood


In our previous article “Kumanthong”, we tried to introduce a rational approach towards Thai Buddhism through dispelling misinformed falsehood, an over-emphasis on mysticism, and indulgence in superstitions. Coincidentally, on July 20, 2018, a conversation with a couple of Taiwanese customers prompted us to explore the subject matter in more depth. What prompted our decision is…perchance, our market ignorance. We had been in this trade for more than two decades but we have not heard that Kumanthongs have a big brother or a chieftain known as big brother Jook. Our bewilderment was probably ludicrous. We did some information search over the Internet and, as usual, there is an abundance of unverified information available. However, a search with the Thai language “พี่จุก” fortunately led us directly to the Website of Wat Suan Luang  and an article titled “Prawat PeeJook Kumanthep Kaithip” written by Ms Vongphong Eiamlao pertaining to the origin of “PeeJook”.  We have republished the said article with full credit to Ms Vongphong Eiamlao and Wat Suan Luang. The translation of “พี่จุก” into “大哥族” in Chinese has probably also resulted in misrepresentation. If anyone needs a literal translation, here is it. “พี่” is brother and “พี่จุก” is pacifier and, therefore, “พี่จุก” means brother “pacifier”. Anyway, we will provide an update in both English and Chinese versions soon. Nonetheless, in summary, the article neither support nor affirm any falsehood postulated by other writers. PeeJook is the name of the Kumanthep of Wat Suan Luang and not the “Big Brother” of “Chieftain” of Kumanthongs as speculated. The only correct information is that PeeJook appeared before Luang Phor Mai and offered to help raise fund for him to repair the temple. Other than that, PeeJook is like any other Kumantheps and helps to enhance believers’ luck, business, career and protection. Furthermore, it is specifically stated in the temple’s website that PeeJook is not a ghost or spirit and has to be honoured on the same altar table as “Guan Yim, Lord Ganesh, Rama V, Brahma or other gods” if an altar table already exists.

Many aspects of Thai Buddhism, especially those pertaining to the obscure, are an interesting subject which has left many people nonplus, bewildered and even paranoid. Kumanthong tops the list of mysticism in connection thereto. We are not going to sell you any “plaster” but to share with readers our conceptualization of the association between Thai Buddhism and the obscure. It is about the possibility of life associated with the law of karma, interplay of the two sciences where things begins from physical existence and impacts on continuation into the obscure and vice versa. Kumanthong exists within this wavelength.But it has to be reiterated at this instant that the existence of Kumanthong is equivalent to devas as mentioned in our earlier article and whose existence may be calculated according to the Lifespan of Celestial Devas. Unfortunately, the term “Kumanthong” has been used in the catastrophe of human rebirth to illustrate karmic retribution in many stories with Buddhist underpinnings, the cyclical process of pre-birth as a ghost to birth as human being and ultimately back as ghost again upon death. The cycle restarts with rebirth and repeats itself until one reaches nirvana that is enlightenment. In these stories, albeit the objective is usually novel, the delineation between Kumanthong and Pee Dek is unfortunately obliterated leading to terrible misinformation and the evolution of certain evil by-products. What is usually depicted in these stories stemming from abortion is a baby ghost (Pee Dek) and not Kumanthong (golden boy). If readers are observant, scriptwriters prefer a girl ghost to a boy ghost which they also call Kumanthong. Let us provide readers with a side-dish here. In Thai culture, there is a female counterpart of Kumanthong known as Kumarithong. This is something not known to many people, especially foreigners, and probably Kumari is not as popular as Kumanthong that scriptwriters gave her a pass. Moreover, what is missing in these occult stories is a ritual necessary to bring about a baby ghost that is controlled by a mantra. A baby ghost is not a natural consequent of abortion otherwise in this contemporary world we will have too many baby ghosts running amok! The preconditions of Pee Dek are, among other things, a fully developed fetus which died together with its mother that needs to be removed from its mother’s womb through black magic and its spirit summoned back into the fetus. So far, only the Story of Khunpaen has introduced these procedures to the audience.

Khunpaen (2)

Khunpaen: Legend of the Warlord

The process is complex and the product is naturally rare and expensive. Frankly, it is an offense in Thailand and, probably, in most other countries. If you think you can get a baby ghost for a couple of hundreds or thousands, we advise that you might as well buy yourself a Chucky collectible.There is more value for the amount spent.


Chucky Collectible

Despite these fallacies more and more ludicrous additions were subsequently added by scriptwriters. If you are aware, in these stories, karmic retribution usually set in within the next ten years and the baby ghost has grown up with time to be a little boy or girl. Probably, scriptwriters find a baby or even a toddler is incapable of inflicting much terror so the baby ghost needs to grow up. This line of story is picked up by people purportedly “selling” baby ghosts. This, however, in itself raises many questions and, among others, is a very intrinsic question that, assuming the truth of the said propagation, then would the baby ghost ultimately grows up to be an adult ghost, an old ghost, and a dying ghost? Funny, isn’t it? Or, no, it’s scary…to be shallowly fooled! These are all loopholes and adversities unforeseen by storytellers but still many people got duped.

Kumanthong in reality is neither about a ghost story nor a literary story as seen in the story of Khun Phaen. It is about the law of universe pivoting on the cycle of life which are depicted in these stories. This law of the universe is explained through Buddhist philosophy about Karma. It is perplexing to those who do not understand the concepts of Buddhism, especially Theravada Buddhism, and consequently deciphering surface value thereof inevitably leads to wrong understanding about Thai Buddhism and Kumanthong. This may sound hurting to the unlearned souls, but unfortunately, truth is never pleasant especially when it contradicts one’s make-belief. As a believer and practitioner of Thai Buddhism with a little academic foundation, allow me to posit that this world cannot exist on pure-science alone. Despite the advancement in both science and technology there is something lingering in the obscure which has not disappear with these advancements. Science can neither explain nor cover this subject matter. However, denial also does not serve any beneficial purpose save to conceal ignorance and dejection. Similarly, superstitions have no positive contribution both physically or spiritually. Moderate academics began toying with the theory of dual-existence which I view as an attempt to compliment spirituality whist simultaneously provides a gloss over science and nothing more. It still does not explain the scientifically obscure. In lieu of the dual-existence theory, I am more inclined to view the world as well as Thai Buddhism through the lens of dual-sciences, which is a co-existence of two sciences, pure science and mental science.

I do not deny the existence of mystique falling within the realm of obscurity which I classify as mental science but I reject superstitions which are primarily based on falsehood and ignorance. As a Thai Buddhist, you have to know a basic tenet of Thai Buddhism and that is “punna”, a Pali term which literally means wisdom. You may not be equipped with a library of knowledge but you must have, or at least cultivate, the ability to identify and reject falsehood. Stories may be entertaining but they must not be confused with facts and become a part of or a way of life. Take another example. The Buddhist tenet of rebirth states explicitly that all spirits shall return to the wheel of reincarnation after death and who then, within the Buddhist community, has the authority to disregard this tenet? A simple analysis like this will tell you that tampering with the spirits of deceased beings is un-Buddhist and cannot have any relation to Thai Buddhism. Therefore, do not let yourself be misled into a un-Buddhist way of life.