Holy Men of Another Kind

A Comparative Study of Millennialism in Northern Thailand and the Lower Mekong Region

  • Paul T. Cohen Macquarie University, Sydney

Abstract

Of studies of Buddhist millennialism in mainland Southeast Asia, those concerned with the millennial “holy men” rebellions of northeastern Thailand and southern Laos have attracted most attention. The literature on millennialism in northern Thailand is meagre by comparison and has been largely restricted to the work of three prominent anthropologists—Charles Keyes, Stanley Tambiah and Katherine Bowie—and focused on the famous ton bun (holy man) of this region, Khruba Siwichai. My argument in this article is that a common Buddhist cosmological imaginary and similar holy man terminology have encouraged these scholars to conflate the millennial movements of the two regions in a way that obscures fundamental differences in millennial thinking and the absence in the north of millennial rebellions that were common in the lower Mekong region.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References

Baird, I.G. (2013). “Millenarian Movements in Southern Laos and Northeastern Siam (Thailand) at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: Reconsidering the Involvement of the Champassak Royal House.” South East Asia Research 21(2): 257–279.
Bowie, K. (2014a). “Buddhism and Militarism in Northern Thailand: Solving the Puzzle of the Saint Khruubaa Sriwichai.” Journal of Asian Studies 73(3): 711–732.
______. (2014b). “The Saint with Indra’s Sword: Khruubaa Sriwichai and Buddhist Millenarianism in Northern Thailand.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 56(3): 681–713.
______. (2017). “Khruba Siwichai: The Charismatic Saint and the Northern Sangha.” In Paul T. Cohen (ed.) Charismatic Monks of Lanna Buddhism. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, pp. 27–58.
Chatthip Nartsupha and Pranut Sapsarn. (1980). The “Holy Men” of Nong Makkaeo. Seminar paper. Thai-European Seminar, University of Amsterdam.
Chatthip Nartsupha. (1984). “The Ideology of Holy Men Revolts in Northeast Thailand.” In Andrew Turton and Shigeharu Tanabe (Eds.) History and Peasant Consciousness in South East Asia. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology.
Cohen, P.T. (2001) “Buddhism Unshackled: The Yuan ‘Holy Man’ Tradition and the Nation-State in the Tai World.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 32(2): 227-247.
Cohn, N. (1961). The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements. New York: Harper.
Collins, S. (1998). Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gay, B. (2002). “Millenarian Movements in Laos, 1895–1936: Depictions of Modern Lao Historians.” In Mayoury Ngaosrivathana and Kennon Breazeale (Eds.) Breaking New Ground in Lao History: Essays on the Seventh to Twentieth Centuries. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
Hinton, P. (1979). “The Karen, Millennialism, and the Politics of Accommodation to Lowland States.” In Charles F. Keyes (Ed.) Ethnic Adaption and Identity: The Karen and the Thai Frontier with Burma. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, pp. 81–98.
Iijima, A. (2018). “The Invention of ‘Isan History’.” Journal of the Siam Society 106: 171–200.
Keyes, C.F. (1971). “Buddhism and National Integration in Thailand.” Journal of Asian Studies 30(3): 551–568.
______. (1977). “Millennialism, Theravada Buddhism, and Thai Society.” Journal of Asian Studies 36(2): 283–302.
______. (1981). “Death of Two Buddhist Saints in Thailand.” In Michael A. Williams (Ed.) Charisma and Sacred Biography. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, pp. 149-80.
______. (2014). Finding Their Voice: Northeastern Villagers and the Thai State. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Press.
Koret, P. (2007). “Past, Present and Future in Buddhist Prophetic Literature of the Lao.” In Ian Harris (Ed.) Buddhism, Power and Political Order. London & New York: Routledge, pp. 143–167.
Kwanchewan Buadaeng. (2003). “Khuba Movements and the Karen in Northern Thailand: Negotiating Sacred Space and Identity.” In Hayashi Yukio and Thongsa Sayavongkhamdy (Eds.) Cultural Diversity and Conservation in the Making of Mainland Southeast Asia and Southwestern China Regional Dynamics in the Past and Present. Bangkok: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, pp. 262–293.
Kwanchewan Srisawat. (1988). The Karen and the Khruba Khao Pi Movement: A Historical Study of the Response to Transformation in Northern Thailand. MA thesis, Ateneo de Manila University.
Ladwig, P. (2014) “Millennialism, Charisma and Utopia: Revolutionary Potentialities in Pre-Modern Lao and Thai Theravada Buddhism.” Politics, Religion & Ideology 15(2): 308–329.
Lagirarde, F. (2012). “Narratives as Ritual Histories: The Case of the Northern-Thai Buddhist Chronicles.” In Peter Skilling and Justin McDaniel (Eds.) Buddhist Narratives in Asia and Beyond. Bangkok: Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University, pp. 83–89.
Landes, R. (2006). “Millenarianism and the Dynamics of Apocalyptic Time.” In Kenneth G.C. Newport and Crawford Gribben (Eds.) Expecting the End: Millennialism in Social and Historical Context, Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, pp. 1–24.
McDaniel, J. (2008). Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words: Histories of Buddhist Monastic Education in Laos and Thailand. Washington: University of Washington Press.
Murdoch, J.A. (1974). “The 1901–1902 ‘Holy Men’s’ Rebellion.” Journal of the Siam Society 62(1): 47–65.
Malagoda, K. (1970). “Millennialism in Relation to Buddhism.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 12(4): 424–441.
Nguyen, B. (2014). Calamity Cosmologies: Buddhist Ethics and the Creation of a Moral Community. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Nattier, J. (1988). “The Meanings of the Maitreya Myth: A Typological Analysis.” In Alan Sponberg and Helen Hardacre (Eds.) Maitreya, the Future Buddha, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 23–50.
———. (1991). Once Upon a Future Time: Studies in a Buddhist Prophecy of Decline. Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press.
Sarassawadee Ongsakul. (2005). History of Lanna. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
Swearer, D.K. (1974). “Myth, Legend and History in the Northern Thai Chronicles.” Journal of the Siam Society 62(1): 67–88.
______. (1988). “The Monk as Prophet and Priest.” In Peter Gaeffke and David A. Utz (Eds.) Countries of South Asia: Boundaries, Extensions, and Interrelations. Philadelphia: Department of South Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania, pp. 72–90.
Swearer, D.K. and Sommai Premchit (1978). “The Relationship Between the Religious and Political Orders in Northern Thailand (14th–16th Centuries).” In Bardwell L. Smith (Ed.) Religion and Legitimation of Power in Thailand, Laos, and Burma. Chambersburg, PA: Anima Books, pp. 20–33.
Talmon, Y. (1966). “Millennial Movements.” Archiv. Europ. Social. 7: 159-200.
Tambiah, S.J. (1976). World Conqueror and World Renouncer: An Anthropological and Historical Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand against a Historical Background. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
______. (1984). The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tanabe, S. (1984). “Ideological Practice in Peasant Rebellions: Siam at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.” In Andrew Turton and Shigeharu Tanabe (Eds.) History and Peasant Consciousness in Southeast Asia. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, pp. 75–110.
Thrupp, S.L. (1962). “Millennial Dreams in Action.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. Supplement 11.
Walker, A. (2014). “Seditious State-Making in the Mekong Borderlands: The Shan Rebellion of 1902–1904.” Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 29(3): 554–590.
Veidlinger, D.M. (2006). Spreading the Dhamma: Writing, Orality, and Textual Transmission in Buddhist Northern Thailand. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.
Worsley, P. (1957). The Trumpet Shall Sound. London: MacGibbon and Kee.
Published
2021-05-14
Section
Articles