Somdet To is, according to Justin McDaniel "arguably the most famous monk in Thai history." His image, picture, chants, biographies, amulets, and pamphlets are everywhere. Yet you could read everything written on Thai Buddhism in English for scholars or tourists without noticing his existence, let alone his importance. In this superb book, McDaniel not only does justice to Somdet To but suggests a new way of thinking about "Thai Buddhism" and how it is studied.
THE LOVELORN GHOST AND THE MAGICAL MONK
Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand Written by Justin T. McDaniel Columbia University Press, New York ISBN 978-0-231-15376-8 | US$60 on Amazon
Somdet To was born around 1788. There are many biographies, films, and webpages on his life, but they conflict wildly and there is little documentary proof. He is known through many stories. According to one version, he was the son of King Rama I, sired on a Lao peasant girl during a military campaign in the North. This story gives him origins that range from the top to the bottom of society, from centre to periphery. He became a great Pali scholar, abbot of prestigious Wat Rakhang, and a preceptor of kings.
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