The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets

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The central actors in this book are some reclusive forest-dwelling ascetic meditation masters who have been acclaimed as 'saints' in contemporary Thailand. These saints originally pursued their salvation quest among the isolated villages of the country's periphery, but once recognized as holy men endowed with charisma, they became the radiating centres of a country-wide cult of amulets. The amulets, blessed by the saints, are avidly sought by royalty, ruling generals, intelligentsia and common folk alike for their alleged powers to influence the success of worldly transactions, whether political, economic, martial or romantic.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; Part I. The arahant and the Path of Meditation: 2. The Buddhist conception of the arahant; 3. The Path of Purification: the ascetic practices; 4. The stages and rewards of Buddhist meditation; 5. The forest-monk tradition in Southeast Asia: a historical backdrop; Part II. The hagiography of a Buddhist saint: text and context; the politics of sectarianism: 6. The biography of a modern saint; 7. The Buddha's life as paradigm; 8. The ordering principles behind Buddhist saintly biography; 9. The disciples of the Master; 10. The biographer as exemplary forest-monk, meditator, and teacher; 11. Sectarianism and the sponsorship of meditation; 12. The Mandnikdi sect's propagation of lay meditation; 13. The center-periphery dialectic: the Mahathat and Bovonniwet sponsorship of meditation compared; Part III. The cult of amulets: the objectification and transmission of charisma: 14. The cult of images and amulets; 15. An enumeration of historic and popular amulets; 16. The 'likeness' of the image to the original Buddha: the case of the Shillala Buddha; 17. The process of sacralizing images and amulets: the transfer of power by monks; 18. Amulets blessed by contemporary forest saints; 19. Saints on cosmic mountains; Part IV. Conceptual and theoretical clarifications: 20. A commentary on millennial Buddhism in Thailand and Burma; 21. The sources of charismatic leadership: Max Weber revisited; 22. The objectification of charisma and the fetishism of objects

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