In the following clip by Zhongtian News, Taiwan, it was reported that Hong Kong movie star Cecilia Cheung rented an antique Phra Somdej amulet for NT600, 000 and which had brought Cecilia Cheung tremendous career luck. However, according to the news anchor, an expert in Thai amulets pronounced that an antique Phra Somdej amulet does not command that kind of value Cecilia Cheung had paid for. Master Tan provided a thorough response and exposed the shoddy culture behind Taiwan’s news reporting…
Generally, an informed critic is a person who possesses profound knowledge in a specific field albeit not necessarily having to be a specialist in the said field but suffice that he is able to assess, evaluate, and communicate an objectively informed opinion or critique about a subject matter, for example, social or government policy. Do take note that I stipulated “profound knowledge” and not “specialized knowledge” although the latter may be preferable otherwise any opinion delivered stands the risk of being ill-informed and stupid if not misleading. These minimum criterions for criticism are necessary to invoke a judicious application of the mental faculty through examination of sensation by deliberation which in turn allow for a distinction to be drawn between a critique and a rant.
Pursuant to the afore-mentioned, there are inevitably many “critics” who adopt title inflation in order to justify their criticism as informed opinions. For example, here in Taiwan, there is a profuse and loose use of the term “師” which literally means a “master”, “teacher’, or “expert” and it is not surprising to hear plumbers, tilers, cooks, and et cetera being addressed as “師”. With as much looseness as the use of the term “師” there is also a liberal use of the term “評論家” or critic which is why we are seeing abundant commentary programs and commentary news (評論節目) here that is of entertaining quality more than knowledgeable deliberation. Inevitably, we too are seeing such title inflation and ill-informed commentary taking a toll on Thai Buddhism here.
The above is a Taiwan news clip by Zhongtian News on a Phra Buddha Somdej amulet rented for NT600, 000 by Hong Kong movie star Cecilia Cheung. It was reported that that Somdej amulet had brought Cecilia Cheung tremendous career luck. In the course of the broadcasting, an expert in Thai Buddhism was also introduced.
It was claimed therein that the particular Somdej amulet rented by Cecilia Cheung is 140 over years of age thereby implying it is possibly the last batch of Phra Buddha Somdej amulet made and consecrated by His Venerable Somdej Phra Buddhachantoh Promarangsi. However, the news reader Liu Yingxiu made a closing statement with a claim that according to expert an antique Somdej amulet does not worth that much of money.
What is the relevance of us sharing this piece of “news” here? Well, it is a general knowledge of Thai Buddhists and Thai amulet collectors that a genuine Somdej amulet made by Somdej Phra Buddhachantoh Promaragsi easily fetch a market price of more than a million baht which is equivalent to more than NT920, 000 and amulets with a price tag of NT500, 000 are just too common. Therefore, that piece of “news” not only highlights the abuse of title inflation, it also underscores the essence of fake news.
The above are photographs taken by our Mr David Tan on 5th June 2013 in Wat Kiat Chayeo which he immediately uploaded to our Facebook and shared them with our valued customers. The asking prices of those Somdej amulets were explicitly shown in the photograph and it was 1.5 million Baht each which is approximately equivalent to NT1.4 million. It was a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of a genuine antique Somdej amulet of that category and above.
To-date, we have rented out numerous high-ends Somdej amulets from prominent temples including but not limiting to Wat Rahkang, Wat Mai Amatarot, Wat Kiat Chayeo, Wat Pitkulthong, Wat Natangnok, and et cetera with prices costing more than NT300, 000 – NT500, 000. The piece of news from Zhongtian News and their expert’s opinion is so funny that we took the liberty to share it here just for a laugh! So what do you think? Feel free to express your opinion here.
In our previous article “Phra Jaktukam Ramathep: A Frenzy Culture Within and Beyond Thailand” we categorically helped our readers to correlate facts to their beliefs in identifying who Phra Jakukam Ramathep really is by first distinguishing between facts and falsehoods amongst the numerous stories surrounding the Deity. Consequently, we all came to a firm conclusion by virtue of archaeological evidence, puranic records, and historical verifications that Phra Jaktukam Ramathep is in fact one of Hindu’s supreme God Lord Vishnu. Therefore, in this article, we are going to cross reference the godly abilities of Phra Jaktukam Ramathep with that of Lord Vishnu to enable believers to have a better understanding of their belief.
The Iconic Images of Phra Jaktukam Ramathep
As evidenced in the market, amulets, pendants, and images of Phra Jaktukam Ramathep are made with different materials and come in numerous styles that can prove really confusing to those who do not possess an in-depth understanding about the Deity. However, if believers are observant enough, traditional amulets, pendants, and images of Phra Jaktukam Ramathep contains either an image of the Deity Himself or together with one or more of the following emblematic images such as nagas, sun and moon, and Phra Rahu. More flexibility is accorded only to the rear side of amulets and pendants which may include talismans, images of chedi, Luang Phors, Phra Pidta and et cetera.
However, it has to be emphasised from the outset that these emblematic images are not designs out of whims and fancy but are rooted in puranic records. Each emblematic image that appears with Phra Jaktukam Ramathep is representational of a specific or a series of specific purposes of which can be explained and traced back to puranic records. Therefore, if any emblemtic design accompanying Phra Jaktukam Ramathep that is not traceable and explained in the Puranas, then the origin of those amulets, pendants, and images become fundamentally questionable.
Pursuant to the aforementioned, Phra Jaktukam Ramathep and His abilities is the principal effect of His amulets, pendants, and images whilst other emblematic figures possess secondary effects. Therefore, it is the responsibility of amulet dealers to educate their customers and carefully match the latter’s needs with both the principal and secondary effects of amulets and pendants.
For the rest of this article, besides elucidating the capabilities of Phra Jaktukam Ramathep, we are also going to explain how associations between Phra Jaktukam Ramathep and those emblematic images such as nagas, sun and moon, and Phra Rahu occur and what their secondary effects thereof are.
The above amulet originated from one of Thailand’s historical temple Wat Phutthaisawan in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district and has once rose to the market value of 100,000 baht during the Jaktukam fever. Today, it remains one of the highly sought after amulets which resulted in many imitations.
Price of the amulet aside, the unique feature here is Phra Jaktukam Ramathep has a five-headed naga acting as His sunshade. The five-headed naga is called Adishesha, the King of all nagas. We will not be delving into the story of Adishesha in this article but suffice to state herein that its five heads represent the five pillars or directions of the universe which it supports and that Adishesha is Lord Visnu’s companion. Adishesha is the protector of life and continuity. Therefore, when Phra Jaktukam Ramathep appears with his naga companion, it is actually Lord Vishnu with his companion Adishesha and it means offering protection to His believers.
Amulets and pendants featuring Phra Jaktukam Ramathep with the sun, moon, and Phra Rahu may be traced back to the Hindu mythology pertaining to the Churning of the Ocean of Milk as per the Vishnu Purana. This is yet another long and complicated story which is beyond the scope of this article. However, to help our readers correlate the significance of the various emblematic figures we shall provide a brief summary on the Churning of the Ocean of Milk.
Churning of the Ocean of Milk
The Devas, under the curse of sage Durvasas, were losing their powers and needed the amrita in the deep ocean to recover. However, the Devas were already too weak to churn the ocean of milk by themselves and, hence, they tricked the Asuras into helping them by promising the latter a share of the amrita. Nonetheless, after retrieving the amrita, Lord Vishnu transformed into an attractive and captivating damsel to distract and trick the Asuras of their share of the amrita whilst the Devas drank theirs. Only one Asura, that is Rahu, saw through Lord Vishnu’s trick and disguised himself as a Deva to drink the amrita. Nevertheless, Rahu was discovered by Sun God Surya and the Moon God Chandra who exposed Rahu to Lord Vishnu. Just before the amrita took full effect, Lord Vishnu cut Rahu into half but, because of the effect of the amrita, Rahu’s upper body remained immortal. Consequently, Rahu vowed revenge against the Sun and Moon Gods and attempted to swallow them whenever he has the opportunity (the Hindu’s rationale behind eclipse). Nevertheless, the Sun and Moon pass through his belly and end the eclipse. Therefore, when Phra Jaktukam Ramathep amulets and pendants come with the Sun, Moon, and Rahu, it signifies that Phra Jaktukam Ramathep will help His believers to remain unharmed.
With this explanation and association amongst the various emblematic figures, we believe readers are now in an even better position to understand the actual relationship between Phra Jaktukam Ramathep and Lord Vishnu. If we are to believe any of those flawed speculations such as the four guardians of the city, or King Chandra Banu or Lord Sri Srinagarang, also known as “Black King of the South Sea” and the second of the Srivijaya Throne or Avalokiteshvara Bodisattva or anything along this line of propagation then we will equally not be able to explain and categorically elucidate the association and relationship amongst each of those emblematic figures as we have done above.
As regards how an Asuras like Rahu from the nether world is able to gain His own worshippers and help dispel “small people” like backstabbers, gossipers, and et cetera will be fully elaborated and explained in one of our upcoming articles on Phra Rahu.
Where does Phra Jaktukam Ramathep Gets Money to Give Believers?
Remember in our previous article “Phra Jaktukam Ramathep: A Frenzy Culture Within and Beyond Thailand” under the sub-header “The Connection between Sacred Objects and Believers” we postulated that “Faith in Thai Buddhism far transcend the primary prerequisite of mere believe and necessitate a clear description connecting past, present, and future. The same theory applies to the faith connecting believers and sacred objects. Believers need to know the origin (past) of the sacred object, its ability to intervene in a situation (present), and bringing about a desire outcome (future)”? As we all know, Phra Jaktukam Ramathep is known to bestow wealth and fortune on His believers and, consequential thereof, we need to know where lays the means to that end.
To answer this question, we would actually have to return to the Hindu mythology on the Churning of the Ocean of Milk again. Amongst the various Treasures that were churned out from the Ocean of Milk was the Goddess of Wealth and Fortune, Lakshmi, who chose Lord Vishnu as Her consort. The unlimited wealth and fortune is logically from Goddess Lashmi and bestowed on believers in the name of Phra Jaktukam Ramathep.
As we have promised in our earlier article we will not be joining the crowd to just plug information from the thin air when we come to describe Phra Jaktukam Ramathep’s devine abilities and we will provide readers with a cross reference pertaining to each of the afore-stated abilities of Phra Jaktukam Ramathep with that of Lord Vishnu’s to help our readers make senses out of their belief, we believe we had done nothing short of our promises in this article and we earnestly hope you enjoyed it.
Phra Jaktukam Ramathep, a God of Wealth in Thailand and Southeast Asia, has driven billions of dollars in transactions within Thai amulet market, and so many legends have emerged in pertinence thereto. Some people say that He is the two Siamese princes respectively named Jaktukam and Ramathep. Some people claim that He is the four guardian Gods of the city of Nakhon Si Thammarat, whilst some people speculate that He is either King Chandrabunu Lord Sri Srinagarang, also known as “Black King of the South Sea” and second to the Srivijaya Throne. Yet there are alsopeople who think He is the manifestation of Avalokiteshvara Bodisattva and so on. In these many legends, which is true or who exactly is Phra Jaktukam Ramathep?
The Thai Theravada ordination ceremony is not only an intriguing event but also a complex tradition that was created by Lord Buddha which constitute original Buddhism today. For two-thousand-five-hundred and sixty over years, the meanings of each and every ritual involved in the ceremony have been zealously guarded and preserved. The Thai Theravada ordination ceremony not only forms the crux of Thai society but also serve as the essence of recognition for Thai Buddhist amulet dealers throughout the world.
When it comes to the Four-Faced Buddha, we can hear all kinds of rumours that make inevitably make many people sceptical about Thai Buddhism. There are also many unlearned fools who are fond of fabricating many unfounded stories to describe the Four-Faced Buddha, depicting the deity close to the characteristics of demons.
Who actually is Four-Faced Buddha? Do we make vegetarian or non-vegetarian offerings to Him? Do you really need to strip dance or perform an erotic dance in making thanksgiving? The source of the The Origin of Phra Prom (“Four-Face Buddha”)…