Buddhism

Mahanipata Jataka Murals in Thai Temples

Posted on
temple mural painting of naga on anthill

The 547 Jataka tales (chah-dok in Thai) recount stories from some of the past lives of the being who would eventually become the Buddha. The final ten, called the Mahanipata Jataka in English and tot-sah-chat chah-dok in Thai, are morality tales in which the Bodhisatta (what a Buddha-to-be is called) develops the ten paramitas (“perfections of character”) that one needs to master in order to reach enlightenment. Mural paintings of… Read More

Folktales

King Culani-Brahmadatta’s Wise Mother

Posted on

This fantastic short story is taken from the Maha-Ummagga Jataka Tale (#546), but it’s not actually a part of it. It’s a footnote in the book The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births (E. B. Cowell ed., Cambridge University Press, 1895-1907) and is told by one of the ancient scholiasts to demonstrate the exceptional wisdom of Queen Talata, who is smarter than all ten of the royal advisers.… Read More

Culture

Boon Pha Wet Photo Essay

Posted on
people carrying Pha Wet banner through a rice field

These photos are from the Boon Pha Wet (บุญผะเหวด) festival in Ban Lan, Amphoe Ban Phai, Khon Kaen province taken on March 26-28, 2019. Thanks to everybody we met at the temple, especially Phra Tao, Paw Jan Sanit Khemla, and P’ Kruea for answering so many questions. For more information, there’s an explanation of Boon Pha Wet, a short version of the Vessantara Jataka (wetsandon chadok in Thai) folktale from… Read More

Buddhism

The Kacchapa Jataka (#273)

Posted on
scene from the Kacchapa Jataka, a turtle biting a monkey's penis as the Bodhisatta watches

In the late 19th century, the first team to translate the entire collection of Jataka tales into English felt this story was so indecent that they published it only in Latin so that only scholars could read it. After the Buddha ended a bitter feud between two of the king’s military officers by preaching about loving-kindness, he told some of his disciples about a past life that he had once… Read More

Buddhism

Vessantara Jataka Murals at Wat Nong Wang

Posted on
Vessantara Jataka mural of gods caring for Prince Vessantara's children while Jujaka sleeps in a tree

The third-floor murals inside Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon stupa at Wat Nong Wang temple in Khon Kaen city tell the story of Prince Vessantara (Phra Wetsandon in Thai). It’s the last of the 547 Jataka tales, a collection of birth stories from the Pali Canon (the Buddhist equivalent of the Bible) recounting some of the Buddha-to-be’s pre-enlightenment lives. The Jataka tales are, for the most part, morality stories in which… Read More

Culture

Boon Bang Fai

Posted on
mural of Boon Bang Fai rocket festival tradition

Boon Bang Fai (บุญบั้งไฟ) is Month #6 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. Known as the Rocket Festival in English, Boon Bang Fai (literally “fiery tube”) is one of the iconic elements of Isan culture. The largest rockets are four meters long (plus a longer tail section), hold 120 kilograms of gunpowder and climb several kilometers high (an airplane pilot once claimed to see one at six… Read More

Culture

Boon Pha Wet

Posted on
mural of Boon Pha Wet tradition

Boon Pha Wet (บุญผะเหวด) is Month #4 of Heet Sip-Song – The Twelve Isan Merit-Making Traditions. The being who would eventually become the Buddha lived, he tells us in the Pali Canon, over 100,000 lives before reaching enlightenment. As the Buddha he recounted many of his past lives (called “Jataka” in English; chadok in Thai) and 547 stories about them have been formalized into their own chapter in the Pali… Read More

Buddhism

The Nandivisala Jataka (#28)

Posted on
scene from the Nandivisala Jataka, the Bodhisatta as an ox pulling loaded carts

A clique of the Buddha’s monks taunted and insulted other monks when they disagreed with them on something. When the Buddha was told about their behavior he scolded them and then told them this story of one of his past lives so they would understand that speaking with kindness rather than hostility is beneficial. — — — The Buddha-to-be was born as an ox. His owner named him Nandivisala and… Read More

Buddhism

The Culla-Paduma Jataka

Posted on
mural painting of Bodhisatta's wife pushing him off the cliff from the Culla-Paduma Jataka in ubosot of Wat Thung Si Muang

One of the Buddha’s disciples, while out on a morning alms round, saw a woman so beautiful he fell in love at first sight. After returning to the monastery, his obsession with her made him depressed and ill and he could no longer concentrate on his studies or meditation. The Buddha told him he should stop thinking about her and then to remind the disciples that all women are ungrateful… Read More

Folktales

About the Legend of Nang Phom Hom, “The Fragrant-Haired Lady”

Posted on
Nang Phom Hom story painting at Wat Nong Wang

The Isan-Lao folktale of Nang Phom Hom (นางผมหอม) is about a girl whose father is the king of elephants and who is later turned into a monkey by a ghost before she and her family are finally able to live happily ever after. As with most ancient folktales there are many versions told across the region with the same overall plot, but different details. The story is well known. It… Read More