Patriarch ends role in amulets
His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch will no longer provide materials from his temple, such as ash from incense or powder from bricks, to make the amulets that have sparked a crime wave in Nakhon Si Thammarat, it was announced yesterday.
Jatukham Rammathep amulets, which are believed to have magical powers and cost up to Bt600,000 apiece, can only be made with the permission of the southern province's Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawiharn.
The Supreme Patriarch has provided materials to produce amulets to all temples and individuals that request them but will now stop doing so, the office of his secretary announced yesterday. It did not say why.
However, a source said the announcement was made after revered monk Luang Ta Bua of Wat Pa Ban Tad blessed the Supreme Patriarch to mark his 18th anniversary as head of the country's Buddhists, at Chulalongkorn Hospital yesterday.
Interest in the amulets began in the middle of last year and hit fever pitch this year. Earlier this month a woman was crushed to death when thousands of people rushed into a school in Nakhon Si Thammarat to buy coupons they could exchange for the amulets.
The amulets have become the main target of thieves in Nakhon Si Thammarat, said Colonel Yanaphat Norasing, superintendent of the police in the province's Muang district.
Amulet robberies occur daily, local residents say. Yesterday, 30 amulets worth Bt15,000 were stolen from the residence of Phra Palad Nikom Kamalo, abbot of Wat Nam Song in Muang district.
Recently, a thief broke through the ceiling of an amulet stall in the province and made off with more than Bt200,000 worth of Jatukham Ramathep amulets.
Monks from the province welcomed the Supreme Patriarch's announcement. They said they were concerned the materials he provided were being used to boost the prices of the amulets.
As demand for the amulets sparked surging prices, many Buddhists became concerned that Buddhism was being turned into a commodity. The Supreme Patriarch's announcement was welcomed as it would protect him from being sullied by those seeking to trade on his position for financial gain, said a monk involved in the incantation rites for Jatukham Rammathep amulets.
"Some amulet sellers used photos of the Supreme Patriarch giving them materials [for amulets] to boost sales," he said.
Incantation rites for the amulets can only be performed at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawiharn. Its abbot has said incantations for more than 30 editions of the amulets have been performed at the temple so far this year. Amulet makers from across the country have set up shop at the temple.
Although welcome, the Supreme patriarch's announcement would not lessen demand for Jatukham Rammathep amulets, a monk said.
Amulet makers have been competing to come up with new and strange materials, he said.
On Saturday night, thousands of people gathered at Wat Muang Talord and Wat Ta Chang because they heard rumours that the temples were being used to store the popular Ngern Lai Ma edition of the amulets.