Literary Works on Meditation Practices of the Thammayut Sect in 1824-1895
Keywords:Meditation; Thammayut Sect; Vajirañāṇa Bhikkhu; Boran Kammathan
Background and objective (s): Meditation is a mission of Siamese monks that has become a tradition known as “Boran Kammathan.” However, traditional meditation was regarded as incorrect by the modern Buddhist sect called “Thammayut”, which later attempted to present new thoughts through literary works and with printing technology brought by Westerners. The works are the reflection of an ideal practice proposed by the sect and help understand the crossroad of transforming the traditional into new practices in the nineteenth century. Therefore, this article aims to analyze ideas and methods on the meditation practice developed by the Thammayut Sect and the impact on traditional meditation practice in Siam from literary works written between 1824-1895 by (1) Vajirañāṇa Bhikkhu, later, King Mongkut, (2) Prince-Patriarch Pavaresvariyalongkorn, (3) Somdet Phra Vanarat (Tap Buddhasiri) and (4) Phra Thammatrailokācarya (Dej Ṭhānacāro).
Methodology: The article is based on documentary research by analyzing the ideas and methods from written works and the relevance to Thai society from research concerning the Thammayut sect.
Main result: It is found that meditation practice was intended to reach spiritual attainment, to develop and enhance concentration and Buddhist wisdom according to the Buddha, but the ideas and the methods were interpreted based on the principles from Pali texts. At first, the authors mentioned Caturārakkha, “the Four Retaining Meditations,” i.e., Buddhānussati (contemplation on the virtues of the Buddha), Mettā (contemplation on compassion),Maraṇānussati (contemplation on death), and Asubhasañña (contemplation on corpses), as the methods to develop concentration, but later they added other methods mentioned in the Visuddhimagga. In developing wisdom, mindfulness of the Five Aggregates is recommended. Regarded as one meditating method, reading was applied to develop concentration and wisdom, as well as to grasp the necessary ideas and methods for the practice. In this way, meditation can be practiced without a teacher. The ideas and methods were more accepted after the status of the Thammayut Sect had become more secure. This also resulted to the disappearance of Boran Kammathan, especially when one of the works became a textbook for the curriculum of Dhamma study for the Siamese Sangha.
Relevance to Thai Studies: The study offers Thammayut concept and methods of meditation in the reformation of Buddhist meditation practice that later became a fundamental part of the conceptual and educational development of Buddhism under King Rama V. This study also illustrates the turning point in the history of Siamese Buddhism in modern times. Based on the canonical texts of Theravada tradition and rationality in the interpretation, the literary works affected the awareness of some elite Buddhists at that time in textual doctrine based on their own discretion. This has set up standardized meditation in Thai Buddhism until today.
Conclusion: The meditation method proposed in Thammayut works is not complicated in comparison to the traditional practice and can be studied and followed by individuals through reading. The idea is based on the doctrine in Pali texts focusing on the development of concentration and wisdom. It has gained wider acceptance that it has become standardized meditation in Thai Buddhism until today.
Aphornsuvan, T. (2006). Sayam Phimphakan: Prawattisat Kann Phim nai Prathet Thai. [Siam Printing: A History of Printing in Thailand]. Bangkok: Matichon.
Banditprommachat, S. (1985). Inter-relations between Kingship and Sangha : The case of King Mongkut. (Master's thesis). Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Boonnoon, C. (2017). Critique : The Criticism on humanism and rationalism on the Thammayut Sect. In workshop of the book “Khrat khwinin Rue Sang Pakkai lae Bairuea ”by Aeusriwongse, N. Bangkok : Faculty of Liberal Arts, Thammasat University.
Central Dharma Testing Service Headquarters of Thailand. (2018). History of Dhamma Scholars. [webblog]. Retrieved from https://www.gongtham.net/docs/2561/ecclesiastical001.html
Chitsanga, T. (2009). Vajirayana and the pursuit of knowledge of Siamese elites, 1884-1905. (Master's thesis). Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Choompolpaisal, P. (2019). Nimitta and visual methods in Siamese and Lao meditation traditions from the 17th century to the present day. Contemporary Buddhism, (20),152-183.
Choungsakul, S. (1986). Change within the Sangha: a case study of Dhammayuttikanikaya (1825-1921). (Master's thesis). Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Chulalongkorn (Rama V), H.M.K. (1908). Phraratchaniphon Rueang Wat Samorai an mi nam wa Rajathiwas. [Royal Book on Wat Samorai, namely Wat Rajathiwas]. Bangkok:Bamrungnukoonkit Printing Press.
Crosby, K. (2020). Esoteric Theravada: the story of forgotten meditation tradition of Southeast Asia. (first edition). Boulder: Shambhala.
Damrong Rajanubhab, P. (1918). Rueang Prawat Watmahathat . [The History of Wat Mahathat]. Bangkok: Sophon phiphat thana kon Printing Press.
Damrong Rajanubhab, P. (1962). Khwamsongcham. [Memoirs]. Bangkok: Printing Press of Social Science Organization of Thailand.
Kanchanathiti S. (1964). The role of the missionaries in Thailand from the reign of King Rama III to the reign of King Rama V. (Master's thesis). Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Kanchanomai, A. (1980). The revival of Buddhism during the early Bangkok period 1782-1851. (Master's thesis). Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
Mahamakut Buddhist University. (1929). Thamma Sombat muatthi nueng Phra Pathomsomphot baep Thammayut. [The First collection book of Dhamma-treasure: History of the Buddha in Thammayut version]. Bangkok: Phrachan Printing Press.
Mahamakut Buddhist University. (1995). Thamma Sombat muatthi sip Samatha- kammatthan Vipassana-kammatthan. [The Tenth collection book of Dhamma-treasure: Samatha and Vipassanā Meditations]. Bangkok: Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya Printing Press.
Mahamakut Buddhist University. (2005). Vissuddhimaggassa nāma pakaraṇavisesassa paṭhamodutiyo bhāgo [The Path of Purification]. Part 1, 2. Nakhon Pathom: Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya Printing Press.
Mahamakut Buddhist University. (2017). Syāmaraṭṭhassa Tepitakaṁ [Pali Tripitaka: The editions of the Siam State] Volume 13, 19, 22. Bangkok: Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya Printing Press.
Mahamakut Buddhist University. (2022). Abhidhammatthasaṅgahapāliyā saha Abhidhammatthavibhāvinīnāma Abhidhammatthasaṅgahaṭīkā. Nakhon Pathom: Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya Printing Press.
Panitchayapong, S. (2019). An Edition and Study of the Buddhānussati the Pāli Caturārakkhā aṭṭhakathā. Dhammadhara Journal of Buddhist Studies, 5(2), 39-98.
Pavaresvariyalongkorn, Prince-Patriarch. (1924). Sang khit to wat. [The Abridged Doctrine]. Bangkok: Sophon phiphat thana kon Printing Press.
Ploychum, S. (1998). Phrakiatikhun Somdet Phra Ariyavangsayan (suk Ñāṇasaṃvara) somdetphrasangkharat Wat Mahathat. [Virtues of Somdet Ariyavangsayan Supreme Patriarch (Suk Ñāṇasaṃvara) of Wat Mahathat]. Bangkok: Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya
Rajapariyatkavi, P. (2019). The education of the Sangha in the period of the living Buddha.(Independent Study). Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Ayutthaya, Thailand.
Sekhamphan S. (2021). The Religion Movement of King Rama IV. In Journal of Social Science for Local Rajabhat Mahasarakham University, 5 (3), 239-248.
Skilton, A. & Choompolpaisal, P. (2014). The Old Meditation (Boran Kammaṭṭhan), a Pre-Reform Theravāda Meditation System from Wat Ratchasittharam. The pīti section of the Kammatthan Matchima Baep Lamdap. Aséanie, 33, 83-116.
Skilton, A. & Choompolpaisal, P. (2017). How to Deal with Wind Illnesses: Two Short Meditation Texts from Buddhist Southeast Asia. In Buddhism and Medicine: An Anthology of Premodern Sources (425-430). New York : Columbia University Press.
Skilton, A. (2019). Meditation and its subjects: Tracing Kammatthāna from the early canon to the Boran Kammathan traditions of Southeast Asia. Contemporary Buddhism, (20), 36-72.
Sutthisongkhram, N. (1982). Phraprawat lae Ngan samkhan khong Somdet Phra Maha Samana Chao Krom Phraya Pavaresvariyalongkorn phu prathan kamnoet phra kring khong thai. [Background and Works of Prince-Patriarch Pavaresvariyalongkorn, the Developer of Phra Kring]. Bangkok: Rungrueang san Printing Press.
Teerawat, N. (1982). The political thought of King Mongkut. (Master's thesis). Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.
The Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand . (2004). Prachum Phraratchaniphon Bhasa-pali nai Phrabat Somdet Phra Chomklao Chaoyuhua. [The collection of Pali works by King Mongkut]. Bangkok: The Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand.
The Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand . (2004). Prachum Phraratchaniphon Bhasa-Thai nai Phrabat Somdet Phra Chomklao Chaoyuhua. [The collection of Thai works by King Mongkut] Bangkok: The Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand.
Visalo Paisal, P. (2003). Phutthasatsana Thai nai Anakhot Naeo Nom lae Thang-ok chak Wikrit. [Future of Thai Buddhism: trends and solutions]. Bangkok: Sot si-Srit wong Foundation.
Wat Sommanat Viharn. (1987). Prawat phonngan lae ruam Thamowat khong Somdet Phra Vanarat (Tap Buddhasiri). [Background, Works and Teachings of Somdet Phra Vanarat (Tap Buddhasiri). Bangkok: Sutthisan Kanphim Printing Press.
Yasothararat, J., (Phramahachotipañño). (1936). Nangsue Phuttarangsi Tritsadiyan Waduay Samatha lae Vipassanakammatthan si yuk. [Book of Buddharangsī Dhriśadīñāṇa relating to Samatha and Vippassanā Meditation during the Four Reigns]. n.p.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Journal of Thai Studies
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Journal of Thai studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives4.0 Intenational (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence, unless otherwise stated. Plese read our Policies page for more information on Open Access, copyright and permissions.