The Uposatha hall is located at the center of the temple precincts of
Theravāda Buddhism. Upasampadā, Pātimokkha reciting ceremony and other
most important rites for monks are held there. In this report I would like to
present my views on what the Uposatha hall is, through the investigation of the
Uposatha hall in Wat Pho. The Chakri dynasty or the Bangkok dynasty became
the sponsor of this temple from the days of King Rama I. So the Uposatha hall
of Wat Pho was built with the clear intention of Chakri dynasty which may be
thought out with the research to follow.
King Rama I donated the art works of the epic of the Ramakian, Rāmāyana
in Thailand to Wat Pho. Because it is related to the Ramakian that Good defeats
Evil in the end of the battle and the story of it honors the king, in which the
king compares himself to the God Viṣṇu, who comes to earth in the story as the
good king Rama. King Rama I may have wished by virtue of his position as
the king to be the reincarnation of God Viṣṇu, coming to earth to solve all the
King Rama I brought many Buddha images from the temples destroyed by
the war in cities in the northern part of Thailand and then housed in the halls
or the cloisters in the site of the Uposatha hall of Wat Pho. The Lopburi style
stūpas at the four corners of the site of the Uposatha hall and the five pagodas behind the cloisters at each corner are built in the reign of King Rama I in
which the relics of Shakyamuni Buddha have been enshrined.
As for the mural paintings in the Uposatha hall of Wat Pho, King Rama
III started to draw them and King Rama IV has completed them. The lives of
disciples of the Buddha are depicted in the 29 bays between doors, or between
windows and doors there, though the biographical stories and the fixed ten
past stories of the Buddha surely appeared on the Uposatha hall in the days of
the late Ayutthaya and Tomburi. Here the biographical stories of the disciples
are depicted vividly how they entered into the Buddha’s saṅgha. Moreover the
daily lives of the lay people are shown clearly. Foreigners on the mural appear
friendly. The several scenes of the paintings of no one but Unmaggajātaka
telling on Bodhisatta Mahosadha as the Jataka stories, are shown on the upper
bays of windows and doors. In his childhood he was very clever. After he grew
up, he helped his king on many matters and he dug the tunnel in which he made
the palace having automatic doors and so on. Through the story, I have felt the
intention of King Rama IV who wanted to make Thai people know about the
importance of the wisdom and the modern industrial civilization.
The Chakri dynasty wanted to make the people know the importance of
Buddhism, Thai cultures, foreign cultures, European civilization and the
existence of foreign people are shown in the mural painting of the Uposatha
hall of Wat Pho.
Arguments regarding anthropological studies of religion in Myanmar have primarily focused on how to comprehend canonical Theravāda Buddhism and indigenous spiritual worship. In contrast with Spiro’s dualistic argument, which regards Burmese Buddhism and spiritual worship as comprising independent religious fields, Brac de la Perrière does “not consider the spirit cult a religion unto itself, but as part of Burmese religion” and views “Burma’s mainstream religion as a religious system that incorporates within the Buddhist framework practices of seemingly different horizons such as the spirit cult or the weikza cult” [Brac de la Perrière 2009]. Furthermore, Brac de la Perrière indicates that the “nat line” and “dat line”, which are distinguished by ritual specialists such as spiritual mediums, emerged as fluctuating domains in an overall fluid religious landscape [Brac de la Perrière 2014]. Although my study supports the argument of Brac de la Perrière, her study lacks not only non-specialists’ discourses or practices about spiritual beings or “non-human” agencies but
also an analysis of Pāli canons concerning spiritual beings, despite canonical knowledge being the main component of the framework of reference for “orthodox” Buddhism.
To further develop these arguments, I will focus on practices and discourses of spiritual beings called thaik, which are viewed as an adjunctive subordination of nat [Spiro 1967]. After considering basic configurations about thaik, such as differences between thaik and ouksasaun, the world of thaik, or the relationship between thaik and human beings, I will show how thaiks are written in Pāli canons. Through these arguments, I will indicate that discourses or practices about thaik have appeared through a process of re-rationalization of a group of spiritual beings within the framework of “orthodox” Buddhism based on the criticism of belief in indigenous, unseen spiritual beings. Further, it shall be Pāli canons that boosts the existence and agencies of thaik through the intermediary of rejoicing for transmitting merit (anumodana).
Buddhism spread worldwide and established its status. However, its diffusion was difficult because Buddhist teachings were hard to understand. To solely read Buddhist teachings were not to understand Buddhism. Therefore, monks used illustrative examples such as fable to explain the essence of Buddhism. Some of them were the Buddhist tales called jātaka. When Buddhist monks they deliver sermons they used these tales to make it easier for people to understand. These tales bridged the gap between teachings and people.
The synopsis of Kusa-jātaka is ‘The ugly prince married a beautiful princess from a neighboring country. The princess was frightened by the prince’s ugliness and run away to her father’s kingdom. He chased her for a long time, but she kept rejecting him. One day, 7 kingdoms challenged her father’s kingdom. The ugly prince fought against the 7 kingdoms and defeated the enemies with his lion’s roar. The prince noticed his own horrible ugliness for the first time and tried to commit suicide. The Sakka (帝釈天) knew this and gave a jewel that makes the ugly prince beautiful. When he put the jewel on his head, he became very beautiful. After that, the prince and the princess lived happily. Their kingdom prospered greatly.’
I compared 6 sutras which have the same stories. The Liu Du Ji Jing (『六度集経』) is different from other sutras. In The Liu Du Ji Jing, ‘the ugly prince became beautiful because of his right governance’.
I will make clear the reason why The Liu Du Ji Jing is different from other sutras. The Liu Du Ji Jing was made by Kang Seng Hui (康僧会). I think Kang Seng Hui tried to educate kings to become true kings using The Liu Du Ji Jing consisting 91 jātaka. In this paper I will solve this using the word ‘jin (仁, Benevolence)’.