The death of a Northern Thai hermit: a case study of religious transition and schism in a Buddhist community

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Abstract

This article examines the life and death of Phra Pho Pan, a charismatic hermit of northern Thailand whose Buddhist beliefs and utopian philosophy reflect the dissident holy man (ton bun) tradition of Lanna Buddhism and, in particular, that of the renowned forest monks Khruba Siwichai and Khruba Khao Pi. Phra Pho Pan's death in 2016 has led to a radical shift in the religious affiliation of his hermitage. I argue that a major agent of this transformation has been a female hermit and spirit medium whose own religious quest reflects the more independent and assertive role of women in the Thai religious domain, but one which is conservative and aligned with Thai nationalism. I also consider the dissension that has arisen between key supporters and opponents of this realignment and dramatically made visible in ceremonies commemorating Phra Pho Pan's death.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-178
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Southeast Asian Studies
Volume50
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

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