Monday, July 30, 2012

Thai Medium & Receiving Bowl Ritual



Spirit mediums are everywhere, in every culture and in every corners of the world. Basically as I see it, the medium in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are quite similar. The main difference is that the Datuk worship is unique to Malaysia and Singapore.



Although there are efforts to suppress the activities of spirit medium activities by Thai government and Buddhist groups, but spirit mediumship is still very hard to curb till present days.



There are two types of mediums:



1.      Natural

a.       Illness

                                                              i.      Many people became mediums after recovering long or life threatening illness.

b.      Visions/Dreams

                                                              i.      Spirits come to a specific person expressing the intention of using his/her body to service mankind.

c.       Hereditary

                                                              i.      Mediumship is inherited from mother or father to their children.

2.      Trained

a.       Formal training

                                                              i.      Receive a teacher spirit through “receiving bowl” during the yearly Wai Kru ritual.





Let us explore the Receiving Bowl Ritual “Rub Khan” in more detail:



In order to be formally become a spirit medium, the individual must participate in “Rub Khan” or “Receiving bowl Ritual”. The individual must prepare a bowl or “Khan” in the Thai Language.



Khan Ha, is the sign of the five moral precepts in Buddhism.



To continue to spirit medium status, the individual must pledge to follow the five moral commandments of Buddha strictly as follows;



1.      Abstaining from killing

2.      Abstaining from stealing

3.      Abstaining from sexual misconduct

4.      Abstaining from telling lies or dalsehoods

5.      Abstaining from taking intoxicants



The commandments specified in the above must be followed for the purity of body and mind of spirit media. So, they must follow strictly the moral standards of Buddhism. Furthermore, to maintain purity is the only way to create miraculous power, such as walking on hot charcoal and climbing the knife ladder etc.



A bowl for offering is composed of rice grains, sesame, beans and popped rice, embellished with flowers, candles, joss sticks, areca nuts, betel leaves, cigarettes and three colored fabrics. 



To begin the receiving bowl ritual, the spirit medium who is the teacher and the new spirit medium enter into possession and then the teacher bestows a bowl on the recipient. After the ritual, the new spirit medium brings “Khan Ha” to put on the altar in his living room or “Tam Nak”.  This bowl or Khan symbolizes the formal identity as a spirit medium.



(Just a side note on the Khan/bowl: I have noticed that the Taoist Mao Shan stream, especially the Miao ethnics also use bowl extensively. And a bowl is an important ritual item in Mao Shan practice. As to whether there is a connection of bowl here, that would take further research.)



Thai mediums can then be categorized into 3 types:



1.      Thai style

a.       Mediums of Thai heros/gods such as King Rama V, King Naresuen etc.

2.      Chinese style

a.       Mediums of Chinese/Taoist gods: Kuan Yim, Sam Poh Kong, Monkey God etc.

3.      Indian style

a.       Mediums of Indian heros/gods: Narai, Shiva, Phra Phorm, Kali, Umadevi



A new medium must observe the below taboo:



1.      To consume vegetarian food on Buddhist holy day.

2.      To observe the 5 commandments of Buddhism.

3.      No spirit possession on the Buddhist holy day because the medium must make merit by offering food to monks and by meditating.

4.      To have ablution to purify the body before spirit possession.

5.      For female medium, straightly no possession during menstruation.

6.      Forbid to eat shellfish, fish, eggs, chickens and ducks. Some spirit medias also cannot eat any foods at a funeral house.

7.      Forbid to attend funeral services or the power would be reduced.




With this, we have reviewed a major part of spiritual practice in Thailand.
 
 

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