Buddhism, Investment, Thai Tradition, Thailand

The Jatukarm Ramathep Fever

7505-93142.jpgWhen I saw a photo of this man on Thairath news, 9/4/07, a 39 year old man who was wearing over 1000 amulets of Jatukarm Ramathep lucky charm at the ceremony of the making of the new edition, this is what they called a number one fan, but I’m sure he is not the only one, the majority of Thai citizens are head over heals for these amulets.

Since I wrote a post on “Laser Art of the Jatukarm Ramathep Lucky Charm,” I do have to say that this has been one of my top ten posts since July 2007 and it has been very consistent. I posted a history on “The Legend of Jatukarm Ramathep” and hoping that it gave you some idea as to who this famous Jatukarm Ramathep talisman.

Not too long ago, my dad received a Buddha statue from a local temple where he keeps on his Buddha Mantle, I remember that he didn’t use the term purchase, more like ‘Bu Sar’ or donation, and in return received a Buddha statue as a gift.

Formerly in Thailand, Buddhist amulets were not traded, but were gifts offered by monks to the donors, and meditation masters to their disciples. It’s not as that anymore, when did this all changed. It was the crisis of the Indochina War between Thailand and France in 1941 that gave birth to the amulet market, as many soldiers and volunteer recruits sought the power of protection and invulnerability in battle. After the war, the demand for amulets (boosted by stories of their miraculous powers of protection) persisted and even extended to include all kinds of portable sacred objects. Over the past 50 years, the market has grown hand-in-hand with capitalism in Thailand. [1]

The Jatukarm Ramathep is, however, a special case as it is not directly related to the sacred Triple Gems. From its very name, it is a pair of twin gods, the guardians of the Phra Dhaat(u) of Nagor Sri Dharma Raj, the largest and most sacred pagoda of Nakhon Si Thammarat province in southern Thailand. The first generation of the amulet of this god(s) was produced for the first time three decades ago. But for some unknown reason, the twin gods were caste in the shape of one god with a demonic appearance. It was not a god in Buddhism, but rather a demon with many arms surrounded by eight other demons or Rahu (Asura).

Two years ago, almost no one in Thailand has heard anything about this, not that it didn’t exist because it was produced awhile back. This is not your average Buddhist talisman which is small and worn concealed from view, I have one but don’t wear it mainly because I work with mostly Christian people, and one has been trying to convert me to Christianity and often times would look at me as if I’m a sinner and will definitely go to hell, but I do have to say my mind and heart are a lot purer than hers’. But, the images of the Jatukarm Ramathep talismans are huge and worn as jewelery more akin to a rapper’s medallion than a discreet nod to religion. I think it’s more of a fashion statement than anything, Id, lead singer of the band Pong Lang Sa-on wore a huge one at a concert rehearsal at Wat Lao Buddhavong, and the pirates CD/VCD vendor that I purchased fake music CD from back in July, the owner also wore one, you can’t tell me that he has pure heart, and bottom line, most people are not wearing and/or purchasing it because of their Buddhist belief because this is definitely not according to the teaching of the Lord Buddha.

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The Buddha has clearly stated that external objects are not strong enough to protect those whose minds are weak and confused. Our only security is to take refuge in our knowledge of the truth and in our realization of the true nature of the self and other phenomena. Once we understand that, there is no reality in a self that can be harmed, we become secure and confident, and we don’t need an amulet such as Jatukarm Ramathep talisman.

For educated Buddhists, the rise in popularity of this talisman is a bad omen for the religion. It is clear that the Lord Buddha never taught his followers to take refuge in any material object, portable or stationary alike. Buddhism was for self-empowerment and spiritual development through the cultivation of morality, meditation, and wisdom. The icon of the gods is a clear paradigm shift from the Buddha as the ultimate refuge, to the local twin-god guardians of a pagoda. Apparently, Buddhists in Thailand have forgotten the true message of the Lord Buddha and they have taken refuge in things the Buddha told them not to. [1]

I can’t help but to think that the soaring in demand of Jatukarm Ramathep talisman in Thailand is due to the instability of their economy and also the recent transformation of their government, people began to loose confident because it seems as if a huge wave of ‘bad luck’ has swept the whole country, they are suffering from fear, suspicion and insecurity. The popular belief is that the amulets are wealth spinners which explains by the launch of Jatukarm Ramathep collections with extreme and odd labels such as Kote Ruay Maha Sarn (Enormously Super Rich) and Kum Sap Thep Prathan (Divine-Given Treasure), and many, many more; by having these talismans, then high expectation that things will turn up for the better, just as the name suggested. This spiritual placebo shows another nature of the amulet market in Thailand, which is highly flexible and adaptive, ready to comply with any new emerging demand in Thai society.

Soaring demand has driven prices through the roof and spawned a speculative bubble so big that some share traders have turned their attentions to the market. So desperate were some to get their hands on a fresh issue of the Jatukarm Ramathep lucky charm that when a new edition went on sale, a woman was trampled to death in the stampede. [2]

jatukram300-1.jpgThis might seem good for the Thai economy at the moment, but really, if you’d look at it closely, the amulet economy is also part of Thailand’s shadow economy because it is tax-free and beyond the reach of government, unlike other investment markets, neither Wat (temple) tax nor income tax is collected. Some investors that used to trade on the stock market now turned to the Jatukarm Ramathep talisman and not for divine intervention, but for making easy profit, almost a return of 100%, plus tax free, what more can you ask for? This is what I call a divine invention.

I spoke to my dad recently and he said that many Thai citizens are now fearing to buy the Jatukarm Ramathep talisman because there are so many out there, you can’t tell the real from the fake ones, unless if you’ve trained eyes, its buyers beware market. The question of, “what if people suddenly lose confidence in the value of the amulets, that they are trading in so enthusiastically nowadays?” that was once asked is beginning to have an answer of its own, what will happen to the Thai economy?

Sources:
[1] An unprecedented phenomena, the booming business of Buddhist spiritual placebos. By Mettanando Bhikkhu, Bangkok Post, May 5, 2007

[2] Thais hang hopes of good fortune around necks, By Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok Friday June 29, 2007

Related Posts:

Buddhist belief in Images, Holy Water, Holy Thread, Talismans and Amulets

The Legend of Jatukam Ramathep

Laser Art of The Jatukarm Ramathep lucky charm

5 thoughts on “The Jatukarm Ramathep Fever”

  1. Hi Joy, I guess it’s a cultural belief, nothing wrong with that but if do it to the point that every decision has to be made based on this, then I think it’s gone too far, instead of living their lives to the fullest, there’s so much fear and uncertainty, and they can’t decide things for themselves.

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