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  1. #1
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    Chittychangchang's Avatar
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    Horrific images of hell reminder to Thais to toe line on teachings

    The dead wander for eternity in hell with their heads transformed into the heads of animals they killed while they were alive. This image appears at Wat Saen Suk temple in Thailand's central province of Chonburi. (Masatomo Norikyo)

    BANGKOK--Gruesome depictions in Buddhist temples of hell's torments are no laughing matter in this country dubbed the "Land of Smiles" for its gentle ways.
    Numerous temples in predominantly Buddhist Thailand are adorned with images of the eternal damnation promised for those who transgress the religion's teachings.
    With its elegant prayer hall, sweeping roofs and magnificent murals, Wat Suthat is regarded as one of the most popular temples in Bangkok. A pillar tucked behind its renowned golden Buddha bears an image of 17 hapless individuals being consigned to hellish eternity in a caldron of boiling water.
    The image also shows another person about to face the same fate in the writhing mass of screams. On closer inspection, it is human limbs, not firewood, that are stoking the flames.
    In bygone days, people in Thailand risked being immersed in a caldron of boiling water as punishment for striking Buddhist monks and animals.
    Thailand is home to at least 83 Buddhist temples with depictions of the horrors of hell, according to Ayaka Kurahashi, a graduate student on a Ph.D. program at Waseda University in Tokyo.
    In 2018, she published “Tai no Jigokudera” (Thailand’s hell temples), which takes a scholarly approach to such images from the viewpoint of art history.
    Wat Suthat also provides glimpses into the punishment that awaits those guilty of sexual misconduct: a man and two women are forced to scale a tree of thorns by a guard of hell brandishing a pike, while a ferocious dog snaps at their heels. They climb the tree to flee the torment only to be confronted by birds waiting to attack them.
    These images of hell are intended to teach the public what they should expect in the afterlife based on what they did in their lifetimes.
    Another depiction at Wat Suthat is of a corpse whose lower body is transformed into a fish snared on a fishhook as retribution for killing fish. In the case, say, of a dead bird or a pig, the individual who committed the deed will face the same type of transformation with regard to the animal in question before being cut into pieces as a reckoning.
    The notion of hell derives from "Traiphum," or “Three Worlds,” a 14th century Thai Buddhist sacred text written when the country was called Siam, which details specific punishments for people's sins.
    For example, taking a person's life or stealing somebody’s property is absolutely unpardonable.
    But mundane acts such as drinking to excess or speaking ill of people are also tickets to hell, according to the text.
    Scholars believe the teachings of the sacred text spread in Thai society as successive rulers employed them as a means to maintain a tight grip on the population.
    More than 90 percent of Thailand's nearly 70 million people are practitioners of Theravada Buddhism, a school of Buddhism that is also widely embraced in other Southeast Asian countries such as Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Followers of Theravada Buddhism are said to adhere most closely to Buddha’s original doctrines and practices.
    In an effort to reach out to children, one temple enlisted Doraemon, the globally popular anime character from Japan, to teach them about punitive justice.
    At Wat Sampa Siw in Suphanburi province, central Thailand, Doraemon, a cat robot from the 22nd century, is among the numerous characters tormented in the afterlife in a boiling cauldron in hell.
    The image was drawn more than 10 years ago by a painter with a playful spirit.
    Doraemon’s debut at the temple created quite a buzz, not least among the character's legions of fans.
    Samnao, who like many Thais goes by one name, is a custodian of the temple. He said the novel approach proved to be a major draw in luring visitors to the temple to learn about the Buddhist view of the world.
    “Many visitors are looking for Doraemon, but it is not easy to find as it is drawn in a less conspicuous section,” Samnao said. “In the course of their search, they will find themselves running through all manner of depictions of hell.”
    Samnao said he guides more than 50 visitors daily, including Japanese, adding that many parents bring their young children to teach them the notion of karmic payback.
    Some temples turned to adorning their structures with numerous sculptures to drive home that point, in addition to paintings of hell.
    Wat Phai Rong Wua, located in the same province, is renowned for its hundreds of statues in an outdoor space the size of a soccer field that were created more than 30 years ago to depict a hell zone.
    There, muscular guards of hell resembling red ogres, seize dead, skinny individuals to gouge out their eyes or pound a nail into their heads for the journey in eternity.
    Phra Maha Bancha, a 51-year-old monk who came to the temple more than three decades ago, said the hell zone was the brainchild of a senior master back then.
    “It was initially intended to send a message to people not to do things against Buddhist teachings,” he said.
    The hell zone initially had only several handcrafted statues, but as more people visited and donations flowed in, funds became available to add more sculptures to the vision of the living dead.
    Today, young monks create sculptures that cost around 1,000 baht (3,300 yen, or $30.85) to make.
    “If you come here, it is palpable that mistakes you made will come back to haunt you,” Phra Maha Bancha said. “People come and return home with our teachings. The hell zone serves an extremely useful purpose for the temple.”
    It also features another zone illustrating problems that permeate Thai society, such as a woman with pole in her hand attacking her adulterous husband. Other statues depict a husband abusing his wife and parents giving their child a thrashing.
    Kurahashi of Waseda University said temples depicting visions of hell cropped up in succession in the 1970s, an era when popular demonstrations and student movements raged. It also coincided with Thailand’s rapid economic expansion and social reforms.
    One of the figures painted at Wat Sampa Siw appears to pray for reconciliation between two camps that have long divided Thai society.
    One is the camp known as the red-shirts, supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup. The other is the yellow-shirts camp that staged repeated street protests in opposition to Thaksin, which led to the coup.
    There also are paintings that scorn corrupt politicians, while some illustrate the suffering of people addicted to alcohol or drugs.
    After the outbreak of the new coronavirus, many temples in Bangkok suspended religious ceremonies or closed entirely in March.
    But visitors began to trickle back in April as new daily cases of infection remained below double digits.

  2. #2
    The Dentist English Noodles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chittychangchang View Post
    Numerous temples in predominantly Buddhist Thailand are adorned with images of the eternal damnation promised for those who transgress the religion's teachings.
    We're going to need a bigger hell.

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat tomcat's Avatar
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    ...akin to Christians depicting after-life tortures for sinners (see Dante et al.)...without such nonsense, only the hopelessly deluded would bother to follow any particular set of scriptures...

  4. #4
    ความรู้ลึกลับ HuangLao's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by English Noodles View Post
    We're going to need a bigger hell.

    Just for your kind alone.

  5. #5
    En route
    Cujo's Avatar
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    Jesus, you wouldn't want to stumble on that having eaten a mushroom pizza.

  6. #6
    Thailand Expat
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    Today @ 03:01 PM
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    Yeah saw one of those temple scenes in Isaan and thought 'hmmm .... imaginary friends above, imaginary enemies below - what's the attraction ? What's those gruesome paintings doing in a house of (supposedly) peace and love ?'.
    Don't need 'em. Especially with stomach butterflies.

  7. #7
    Hansum Man! panama hat's Avatar
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    Today @ 12:20 PM
    Way, Way South of the border now - thank God!
    Very similar, but not as vivid as Haw Par Villa in Singapore . . . previously known as Tiger Balm Gardens

    Haw Par Villa is a theme park located along Pasir Panjang Road in Singapore. The park contains over 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese mythology, folklore, legends, history, and illustrations of various aspects of Confucianism
    Looking at the world, however, it's quite clear most buddhists aren't real believers

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