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Dhammacakkappavattanasutta

Āsālha Pūja is the commemoration of Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dhamma. During this day, the Buddha gave what is considered the his first the speech known as Dhammacakkappavattanasutta. In this text we find the bases of Buddhist Teachings who the Buddha enunciated to his five disciples. Here below you can find the Pali and English version as they were transmitted by Yogi Somananda, Reusi Bhalacandra’s Teacher.

evaṁ me sutaṁ
ekaṁ samayaṁ bhagavā vārāṇasiyaṁ viharati isipatane migadāye
tatra kho bhagavā pañcavaggiye bhikkhū āmantesi

dve me bhikkhave antā pabbajitena na sevitabbā yo cāyaṁ kāmesu
kāmasukhallikānuyogo hīno gammo pothujjaniko anariyo
anatthasañhito yo cāyaṁ attakilam athānuyogo dukkho anariyo
anatthasañhito
ete te bhikkhave ubho ante anupagamma majjhimā paṭipadā
tathāgatena abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇī upasamāya
abhiññāya sambodhāya nibbānāya saṁvattati

katamā ca sā bhikkhave majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena
abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇi upasamāya abhiññāya
sambodhāya nibbānāya saṁvattati
ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo
seyyathīdaṁ
sammā diṭṭhi sammā saṅkappo sammā vācā sammā kammanto
sammā ājīvo sammā vāyāmo sammā sati sammā samādhi
ayaṁ kho sā bhikkhave majjhimā paṭipadā tathāgatena
abhisambuddhā cakkhukaraṇī ñāṇakaraṇi upasamāya abhiññāya
sambodhāya nibbānāya saṁvattati

idaṁ kho pana bhikkhave dukkhaṁ ariyasaccaṁ
jātipi dukkhā jarāpi dukkhā maraṇampi dukkhaṁ soka parideva
dukkha domanassupāyāsāpi dukkhā appiyehi sampayogo dukkho
piyehi vippayogo dukkho yampicchaṁ na labhati tampi dukkhaṁ
saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandā dukkhā
idaṁ kho pana bhikkhave dukkhasamudayo ariyasaccaṁ yāyaṁ
taṇhā ponobbhavikā nandirāgasahagatā tatra tatrābhinandinī
seyyathīdaṁ
kāmataṇhā bhavataṇhā vibhavataṇhā
idaṁ kho pana bhikkhave dukkhanirodho ariyasaccaṁ
yo tassā yeva taṇhāya asesavirāganirodho cāgo paṭinissaggo mutti
anālayo
idaṁ kho pana bhikkhave dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā
ariyasaccaṁ ayameva ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo
seyyathīdam
sammā diṭṭhi sammā saṅkappo sammā vācā sammā kammanto
sammā ājīvo sammā vāyāmo sammā sati sammā samādhi

idaṁ dukkhaṁ ariyasaccanti me bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu
dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā
udapādi āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhaṁ ariyasaccaṁ pariññeyyanti me
bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi
ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhaṁ ariyasaccaṁ pariññātanti me
bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi
ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi

idaṁ dukkhasamudayo ariyasaccanti me bhikkhave pubbe
ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā
udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhasamudayo ariyasaccaṁ pahātabbanti me
bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi
ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhasamudayo ariyasaccaṁ pahīnanti me
bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi
ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi

idaṁ dukkhanirodho ariyasaccanti me bhikkhave pubbe
ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā
udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhanirodho ariyasaccaṁ sacchikātabbanti me
bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi
ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhanirodho ariyasaccaṁ sacchikatanti me
bhikkhave pubbe anussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi ñāṇaṁ
udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi

idaṁ dukkhanirodhagāminī patipadā ariyasaccanti me bhikkhave
pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ udapādi ñāṇaṁ udapādi
paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhanirodhagāminī patipadā ariyasaccaṁ
bhāvetabbanti me bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu
cakkhuṁ udapādi ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi
āloko udapādi
taṁ kho panidaṁ dukkhanirodhagāminī patipadā ariyasaccaṁ
bhāvitanti me bhikkhave pubbe ananussutesu dhammesu cakkhuṁ
udapādi ñāṇaṁ udapādi paññā udapādi vijjā udapādi āloko
udapādi

yāva kīvañca me bhikkhave imesu catūsu ariyasaccesu
evantiparivaṭṭaṁ dvādasākāraṁ yathābhūtaṁ ñāṇadassanaṁ na
suvisuddhaṁ ahosi
neva tāvāhaṁ bhikkhave sadevake loke samārake sabrahmake
sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya anuttaraṁ
sammāsambodhiṁ abhisambuddho paccaññāsiṁ
yato ca kho me bhikkhave imesu catūsu ariyasaccesu
evantiparivaṭṭaṁ dvādasākāraṁ yathābhūttaṁ ñāṇadassanaṁ
suvisuddham ahosi
athāham bhikkhave sadevake loke samārake sabrahmake
sassamaṇabrāhmaṇiyā pajāya sadevamanussāya anuttaraṁ
sammāsambodhiṁ abhisambuddho paccaññāsiṁ
ñāṇañca pana me dassanaṁ udapādi akuppā me vimutti
ayamantimā jāti natthidāni punabbhavo ti

idam avoca bhagavā
attamanā pañcavaggiyā bhikkhū bhāgavato bhāsitaṁ abhinanduṁ
imasmiñca pana veyyākaraṇasmiṁ bhaññamāne āyasmato
koṇḍaññassa virajaṁ vītamalaṁ dhammacakkhuṁ udapādi
yaṅkinci samudayadhammaṁ sabbantaṁ nirodhadhamman ti

pavattite ca bhagavatā dhammacakke bhummā devā
saddamanussāvesuṁ etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane
migadāye anuttaraṁ dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ
samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā
kenaci vā lokasmin ti

bhummānaṁ devānaṁ saddaṁ sutvā cātummahārājikā devā
saddamanussāvesuṁ etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane
migadāye anuttaraṁ dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ
samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā
kenaci vā lokasmin ti

cātummahārājikānaṁ devānaṁ saddaṁ sutvā tāvatiṁsā devā
saddamanussāvesuṁ etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane
migadāye anuttaraṁ dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ
samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā
kenaci vā lokasmin ti

tāvatiṁsānaṁ devānaṁ saddaṁ sutvā yāmā devā
saddamanussāvesuṁ etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane
migadāye anuttaraṁ dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ
samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā
kenaci vā lokasmin ti

yāmānaṁ devānaṁ saddaṁ sutvā tusitā devā saddamanussāvesuṁ
etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane migadāye anuttaraṁ
dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ samaṇena vā
brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā kenaci vā
lokasmin ti

tusitānaṁ devānaṁ saddaṁ sutvā nimmānaratī devā
saddamanussāvesuṁ etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane
migadāye anuttaraṁ dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ
samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā
kenaci vā lokasmin ti

nimmānaratīnaṁ devānaṁ saddaṁ sutvā paranimmitavasavattī
devā saddamanussāvesuṁ etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane
migadāye anuttaraṁ dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ
samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā
kenaci vā lokasmin ti

paranimmitavasavattīnaṁ devānaṁ saddaṁ sutvā brahmakāyikā
devā saddamanussāvesuṁ etaṁ bhagavatā vārāṇasiyaṁ isipatane
migadāye anuttaraṁ dhammacakkaṁ pavattitaṁ appaṭivattiyaṁ
samaṇena vā brāhmaṇena vā devena vā mārena vā brahmunā vā
kenaci vā lokasmin ti

itiha tena khaṇena tena muhuttena yāva brahmalokā saddo
abbhuggacchi
ayañca dasasahassī lokadhātu saṅkampi sampakampi sampavedhi
appamāṇo ca oḷāro obhāso loke pāturahosi atikkammeva devānaṁ
devānubhāvaṁ

atha kho bhagavā udānaṁ udānesi aññāsi vata bho koṇḍañño
aññāsi vata bho koṇḍañño ti
itihidaṁ āyasmato koṇḍaññassa aññākoṇḍañño tveva nāmaṁ ahosī
ti

 


 

Thus have I heard: Once when the Blessed One was staying in the deer sanctuary at Isipatana, near Benares, he spoke to the group of five bhikkhus: 

These two extremes, bhikkhus, should not be followed by one who has gone forth: sensual indulgence, which is low, coarse, vulgar, ignoble, and unprofitable; and self torture, which is painful, ignoble, and unprofitable.

Bhikkhus, by avoiding these two extremes, the Tathāgata* has realized the Middle Way, which gives vision and understanding, which leads to calm, penetration, enlightenment, to Nibbāna.
* the one who has “thus gone”, an epithet of the Buddha used by him to talk about himself

And what, bhikkhus, is the Middle Way realized by the Tathāgata, which gives vision and understanding, which leads to calm, penetration, enlightenment, to Nibbāna?
It is just this Noble Eightfold Path, namely: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Samādhi*.
* concentration, fixing of the mind on a single object

Truly, bhikkhus, this Middle Way understood by the Tathāgata produces vision, produces knowledge, and leads to calm, penetration, enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

This, bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair are dukkha, association with the disliked is dukkha, separation from the liked is dukkha, not to get what one wants is dukkha. In brief, clinging to the five khandhas is dukkha.

This, bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the cause of dukkha*: the craving which causes rebirth and is bound up with pleasure and lust, ever seeking fresh delight, now here, now there, namely, craving for sense pleasure, craving for existence, and craving for annihilation.
*suffering, discomfort, both bodily and mental, unsatisfactory nature of everything 

This, bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the cessation of dukkha: the complete cessation, giving up, abandonment of that craving, complete release from that craving, and complete detachment from it.

This, bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the way leading to the cessation of dukkha: only this Noble Eightfold Path, namely, Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Samādhi.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of dukkha,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of dukkha, and this dukkha has to be understood,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of dukkha, and this dukkha has been understood,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of the cause of dukkha,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of the cause of dukkha, and this cause of dukkha has to be abandoned,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of the cause of dukkha, and this cause of dukkha has been abandoned,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of the cessation of dukkha, there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of the cessation of dukkha, and this cessation of dukkha has to be realized,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of the cessation of dukkha, and this cessation of dukkha has been realized,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This is the Noble Truth of the way leading to the cessation of dukkha,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This Noble Truth of the way leading to the cessation of dukkha has to be developed,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

With the thought, ‘This Noble Truth of the way leading to the cessation of dukkha has been developed,’ there arose in me, bhikkhus, vision, knowledge, insight, wisdom, light concerning things unknown before.

So long, bhikkhus, as my knowledge and vision of reality regarding these Four Noble Truths, in their three phases and twelve aspects, was not fully clear to me, I did not declare to the world of spirits, demons, and devas, with its seekers and sages, celestial and human beings, the realization of incomparable, perfect enlightenment.

But when, bhikkhus, my knowledge and vision of reality regarding these Four Noble Truths, in their three phases and twelve aspects, was fully clear to me, I declared to the world of spirits, demons, and devas, with its seekers and sages, celestial and human beings, that I understood incomparable, perfect enlightenment.

Knowledge and vision arose: ‘Unshakeable is my deliverance; this is the last birth, there will be no more renewal of being.” 

Thus spoke the Blessed One. Glad at heart, the group of five bhikkhus approved of the words of the Blessed One.

As this exposition was proceeding, the spotless, immaculate vision of the Dhamma appeared to the Venerable Koṇḍañña and he knew: Everything that has the nature to arise has the nature to cease.” 

When the Blessed One had set in motion the Wheel of Dhamma, the Earthbound devas proclaimed with one voice, “The incomparable Wheel of Dhamma has been set in motion by the Blessed One in the deer sanctuary at Isipatana, near Benares, and no seeker, brahmin, celestial being, demon, god, or any other being in the world can stop it.”

Having heard what the Earthbound devas said, the devas of the Four Great Kings proclaimed . . .

Having heard what the devas of the Four Great Kings said, the devas of the Thirty-three proclaimed . . .

Having heard what the devas of the Thirty-three said, the Yāma devas proclaimed . . .

Having heard what the Yāma devas said, the Devas of Delight proclaimed . . .

Having heard what the Devas of Delight said, the Devas Who Delight in Creating proclaimed . . .

Having heard what the Devas Who Delight in Creating said, the Devas Who Delight in the Creations of Others proclaimed . . .

Having heard what the Devas Who Delight in the Creations of Others said, the Brahma gods proclaimed in one voice, “The incomparable Wheel of Dhamma has been set in motion by the Blessed One in the deer sanctuary at Isipatana, near Benares, and no seeker, brahmin, celestial being, demon, god, or any other being in the world can stop it.”

Thus in a moment, an instant, a flash, word of the Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dhamma went forth up to the Brahma world, and the tenthousandfold universal system trembled and quaked and shook, and a boundless, sublime radiance surpassing the power of devas appeared on earth.

Then the Blessed One made the utterance, “Truly, Koṇḍañña has understood, Koṇḍañña has understood!”

Thus it was that the Venerable Koṇḍañña got the name Aññākoṇḍañña:”Koṇḍañña Who Understands.”

Thus ends the Discourse on Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dhamma.

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F.A.Q. about Sak Yan

Recently Sak Yan have become very popular in the West that many tattoo artists, untrained in this science, are trying to reproduce them making sloppy mistakes.
In order to clarify the fundamental aspects of this practice, we replied to the main questions we received about this topic, thanks to the help of Reusi Bhalacandra.

 

What are Sak Yan?
Sak Yan are the traditional Thai magical tattoos. They usually contain spells which gain power by recalling Buddha’s word and deed.
However, the Sak Yan practice has its own roots not in the buddhism, but in the pre-buddhist era. As we all know, both in Thailand and in the majority of South-est Asia, the practice of magic and tattoos is very ancient, therefore it would be wrong to refer to Sak Yan as Buddhist tattoos.

Who could get a Sak Yan?
Everyone can get a Sak Yan independently from their religion and believes. You don’t need to get converted but you are required to respect the Triple Gem of Buddhism (The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha), the respect towards parents, Masters and lineage, through thinking, deed and speech.

Which type of Sak Yan does exist?
Apart from several sub-cathegories, there are mainly two types of Sak Yan: protection tattoos and attraction tattoos.

Who can tattoo Sak Yan?
In order to be able to tattoo Sak Yan, you must be initiated into the tradition by qualified Masters. The initiation process consists of a very long and extensive training with daily personal practice which involves reiterations of Buddhist salms and magical spells. This will ensure that the pratictioner word is efficient and his relation with the lineage consistent.

The only people who can practice Sak Yan are Reusis, monks and initiated laymen.

Would it be possible to get Sak Yan tattoos from Internet drawings, by European tattoo artists?
Sak Yan must be tattooed by an initiated pratictioner to be effective. Usually the pratictioner is able to determine the most appropriate Yan for each person, sometimes through his personal intuition, sometimes with the support of oracles, divination or calculations. Each pratictioner has a personal grimoire, result of his relationship with the Masters, which definitely cannot be found in the Sak Yan we can get on Internet. Each lineage has several Yan, sometimes very similar in shape, but linked to different spells.

I got tattooed a Sak Yan in a standard Tattoo Studio.Can I get it blessed afterwords?
Getting tattooed a Sak Yan by a non-initiated tattoo artist is never a good idea. They don’t have a personal grimoire nor required training, and get the Sak Yan tattoos from internet drawings with no understanding of the correct spells. Masters, infact, post on internet Sak Yan drawings just to divulge their aesthetic shape, preserving the authenticity of the spells.
It is anyway possible to get the tattoo blessed afterwords, preferably by qualified pratictioners.

Can I get a Sak Yan to protect my family?
Sak Yan protect the person who carries them, therefore we can definitely say that in a way they give us the strenght and protection to look after our loved one. Pha Yan or Takrut are more indicated for the family protection. Pha Yan are imprinted on a fabric, Takrut are applied on a metal foil which gets rolled up. Both can be displayed in the house and the Takrut can also be worn as an amulet.

I got tattooed a Sak Yan by a non-initiated tattoo artist and the drawing has some mistakes. Can I get it sorted?
Unfortunately things like this happen very often. Some Masters advise against this sort of mistakes because they tend to offend the tradition and for this reason are considered bad luck.
However, it is possible to clean up the bad luck from a Sak Yan by tattooing the right spell on top of it with oil. By doing that it is possible to instill the magical power without messing up with the tattoo shape.

 

Reusi Bhalacandra: “The informations above are the result of my experience as pratictioner of this tradition and are linked to the lineage I belong to. For this reasons they, by no means, want to represent an absolute truth. Sak Yan are part of a magical ritual and they are not a matter of fashion.This can sound a bit odd to us European, but we need to be aware of the fact that when we get a Sak Yan we embrace a tradition which is very far from our customs and believes.”

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Practitioners of Sak Yan, not only monks.

Few people believe that Thais have the lock on Sak Yans, others that monks have the prerogative of this practice. The facts are actually quite different.

First of all we should distinguish between the place where a tradition was born from the tradition itself. If we look at the current situation in Thailand, for example, we can see an increase of interest towards esoteric sciences that in many cases goes along with a decrease of the traditional Buddhist practice. Many people, indeed, approach the Reusi tradition, the lay practice and the monk practie in order to study these sciences and to get access to the wide Thai magic market which includes the application of Sak Yan and the manufacturing of amulets and rituals of any kind.

 

Monks at amulet market in Chiang Mai

 

The market demand comes from Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean which have large amounts of money and from many Thais which rely on esoteric sciences to escape from dukkhā (unsatisfactory human condition ) instead of nurtuting the Dhamma
Unfortunately behind this interest is hidden the danger of ignoring the personal practice in favour of high remunaration. By saying that we don’t want to condemn money, which after all are necessary to our sustenance, but the attachment to it and the intention to gain fame and fortune.
We would like to remind you that a good practitioner should be lead by the Eightfold Path (right understanding, right thought, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration) regardless of the Eightworldy concerns (happiness-suffering, fame-insignificance, praise-blame, gain-loss). Moreover, we should keep in mind that the practice is fundamental to empower our magical actions. It’s important to follow Buddha’s Teachings if we want to help others throught our magical conduct and not only enrich our ego and our pockets.

Even though there are many monks tattooing Sak Yans, it’s not correct to say that this practice is a prerogative of these figures. On the contrary, several times Buddha invited his monks to stay away from magical sciences since they were considered a distraction from their practice (see Kevatta Sutta, Samaññaphala Sutta ecc).
Nowadays, the application of Sak Yan and the creation of amulets is an important part of many Thai temples and many Thai monks’s daily life. These activities often contribute to create a link between the lay population and the Dhamma, representing also a source of livelihood for the Sangha.

 

Monks at Wat Bang Phra


Samnaks (places where lay Ajahn and Reusis practice and offer their services) and temples still play a social key role in rural areas of Thailand. Here the practice of Sak Yan represents an occasion to bring people together and involve individuals, that could represent a potencial danger for society, to approach Buddha’s Teachings. In particular, a good lay Teacher is able to provide a practical transmission of the Dhamma. In fact, unlike monks, he must face daily common situations and problems with food, money, family affairs etc.

 

 Reusi Bhalacandra assisting Reusi Sompit in his samnak during blessing

 

In the wide net of information circulating on the internet it’s often difficult to discern between the reliable ones and the incorrect ones. Getting in touch with a person who has a direct connection with these traditions should be the best approach to get the right understanding of specific topics.
For us in the West, linguistic, geographical and cultural barriers represents a limiting factor which precludes the access to some information. Obviously these complications lead many people to rely only on the information found on blogs and websites.
It is often this superficial way to connect with the unknown that compromises the understanding of tradition.

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An Introduction to the Yan of Thailand

Yantras have become increasingly common in the West among those interested in the occult and religious practices of India and Southeast Asia. Yantra is a Sanskrit (Sk) word meaning, “A tool used to control.” In Southeast Asia Yantras are referred to by their Pali (P) equivalent Yanta or in Thai (Th) as Yan. From the Western perspective, a Yan might be considered a “magic charm.” However, it is far more complex. A Yan incorporates the use of holy words, sacred geometry and the magical use of various mediums to make an object of power. The practice of Yan is mutually dependent upon a working knowledge of Mantra (Sk), Tantra (Sk) and astrology. So much so in fact that Yan are sometimes dubbed the physical manifestation of Mantra.

Gayatri Yantra IndianoIndian Gayatri Yantra This Yantra illustrates the similarities and differences between the Indian and Thai Yan

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Interview with a Ruesi

In this past year I have been graced with the friendship and guidance of Somananda Yogi and was recently invited to interview him about the Reusi of Thailand. Somananda Yogi wears long cotton robes, long hair, and a long beard; external evidence of his recent commitment to the life of a Thai Reusi. A Reusi, Somananda Yogi explains to me, is an ascetic seer. Somananda Yogi has spent most of his life in the quiet pursuit of ancient knowledge. He began his studies with Theravada Buddhism and Traditional Thai Medicine at a very early age, moving into a Buddhist monastery when he was just fifteen years old. I am blessed and thankful for Somananda Yogi for taking the time to talk to me about this path such that we all may better understand what is a largely unknown practice.

 

Trevijjo Yogi

 

What is a Ruesi? What does the term mean?
The Thai term Reusi originates from the Sanskrit word Rishi, meaning seer. In the Vedic tradition the Rishi are the sons of Brahma. They are credited with discovering/receiving many of the mantras found in the Vedas and other Indian texts. Every mantra has a seer who received this mantra from a higher being or from his or her own insight. This is the meaning of the term Rishi on the linguistic level. In India, this word generally refers to a group of ascetics associated with or descended from Brahma. This title is not given out easily and some might say that one must be of the Brahmin caste in order to use this term. Others use the term to refer to a highly accomplished practitioner of the Vedic sciences. In Thailand the term Reusi is a blanket term used to refer to various types of practitioners who are practicing esoteric sciences and have the appearance of an ascetic. In actuality, the practices of many of the people called or calling themselves Ruesi are often very different from one another. Some people are practicing as ascetics, some as householders, some in the city, some in the wilderness, some practice mantra, tantra, yoga and others practice meditation or medicine. To summarize, the Reusi are the holders of the natural laws and sciences, which have been passed down over the millennia.

 

What are these sciences you speak about?
I use the term ‘sciences’ to describe the different types of knowledge which many ancient cultures and religions have based most of their practice and theory on. These include both esoteric sciences like astrology, alchemy, palmistry, demonology, etc. as well as the exoteric sciences such as mathematics, medicine, music, etc. There are two Sanskrit terms that are often used to refer to these methods, Vidya and Sastra. Vidya means knowledge and Sastra means science. Both of these terms are used to refer to the ‘sciences’ which I speak of above. The Reusi, in my tradition, are known as those who are the protectors of these sciences.

 

How long ago did this tradition begin?
This tradition is very old and can be found all over the world. We know from the Buddhist texts that there were Reusi during the time of the Gotama Buddha. In fact, the Buddha himself practiced as a Reusi before his enlightenment and spent many past lives as a Reusi. Putting a date on the origins of the practice is very difficult. If we look at Reusi outside of the Buddhist tradition, we can find ascetics as far back as the Indus Valley period (circa 2600–1900 BCE).

 

How is the Thai tradition similar to traditions from other countries?
Of course each country and religion has its own characteristics but at their heart all ascetic traditions are very similar. The Ruesi of Thailand are just like the Vijjadharas of Burma, the Reusi of Cambodia, the Yogis of Tibet, the Siddhas of India, the Immortals of China, the Sufis of Islam, the Hermits of Europe, the mystics of Christianity and the Shamans of the Americas and Africa. It is about living with nature, relying on nature and rediscovering ourselves in nature. Nature includes both wilderness and universal truth.

 

In the beginning was the practice Animistic and later adopted Buddhist principles?
Well, the Reusi tradition had been around for many thousands of years before the birth of Gotama Buddha. When we look at Buddhist texts, we find that even the Gotama Buddha was a Reusi in many of his past lives. In fact, he was a Reusi during the time of Dipamkara Buddha, one of the Buddhas of the past that lived many eons ago. It was during this life time as Sumedha Rishi that Gotama Buddha gave up his chance at enlightenment in that life time and vowed to become a fully enlightened Buddha. Being a Reusi is not about what religion you believe in. It’s the way in which you approach your practice. Reusi are experiential in their practice. They prefer a solitary path, which brings them close to nature. Overall, I’d say that we mostly see a naturalistic approach that deals with the elements, nature, deities, spirits and ghosts. Some may consider this to lean towards Animism but it’s really not about the worship of nature it’s more about the living as a part of nature. During the time of Gotama Buddha there were many Reusi that became disciples of the Buddha but never ordained as monks. Instead, they chose to continue their practice as Reusi. These were the first Buddhist Reusi of our time and it is where my lineage originates. Prior to being followers of the Buddha we might say that they held Brahministic beliefs. But this is only speaking of the Reusi in India. Whether one is a Reusi, a monk or a layperson is not really specific to any religion. Someone can be a Catholic monk, a Hindu monk, etc. It’s the level of practice you take on. So being a Reusi in the Buddhist religion is just about the way in which I practice the Dhamma. Those we would call a Reusi in other religions are practicing their religion on the same level that I am practicing Buddhism. While we have different beliefs and culture perhaps, we are still working with the same methods and have a similar approach.

 

What is the goal of your practice as a Reusi?
The goal of a Reusi is to understand nature and natural law. This includes learning and practicing the various sciences such as astrology, medicine, meditation, etc. We must preserve these so that they will be around for future generations.

 

Can anyone become a Reusi?
Technically, yes. In actuality, the training period required before one becomes a Reusi coupled with the commitment to daily practice is rather difficult and often prohibitive for most. Additionally, it is absolutely necessary to have a competent teacher, who is already a practitioner, in order to be initiated into the tradition. Due to the gravity of this commitment, it is necessary for the teacher to put the student through a probationary period to test his/her dedication to the tradition. Many who ordain as Reusi vow to keep their precepts for life. Becoming a Reusi is not for everyone and is a decision that should not be made lightly.

 

What are the rules you must follow?
The most fundamental guidelines are simple. These have been laid out by the Buddha for all of his followers. They are separated into Body, Speech and Mind. Under bodily action we have, to refrain from killing, not to steal and not to commit sexual misconduct. Speech includes, not to lie, not to speak poorly of others in order to create discord, not to use harsh language and not to indulge in gossip
or idle chatter. Mentally we avoid coveting other’s possessions and excessive desire, thoughts of ill will towards others and false views. These are the most basic. There are many others, which govern things like how we eat and when. These help us to maintain mindfulness throughout our day.

 

What does a daily practice consist of?
It really depends on the person and what they have set out to accomplish. The whole purpose of the Reusi is to study and practice the sciences, control one’s mind, develop loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity and most importantly to help others find and tread the path to enlightenment. It is very similar to the Bodhisattva path in Mahayana Buddhism. To answer your question, we do a lot of meditation, chanting, protecting nature as well as maintaining balance between the spirit world and the human world.

 

As a Buddhist Reusi, is your goal to reach enlightenment?
Yes, though we willingly postpone our enlightenment in order to continue existing in this world for the benefit of others. It’s similar to the Bodhisattva vows in Mahayana Buddhism but it differs in that our vow is to remain until the birth of the next Buddha. We vow to be his/her disciple. The Bodhisattva’s vow is to stay in this world system until the last being has attained enlightenment. So, their commitment is much longer.

 

Can you further explain how the sciences and the spiritual are connected? To me they seem to go hand in hand and one cannot fully be practiced without the other..
Yes, this is true. Many of the sciences themselves are interdependent and they all have a connection with the spiritual. In reality, there isn’t much distinction between the two. The sciences are a way of practicing the spiritual and they lead to the spiritual. It’s much like the connection between the physical form and the energetic form. They coexist and are co-dependent.

 

Can you describe the clothes and physical appearance of Reusi?
There are three types of clothing we can wear, white robes, a brownish colored robe or animal skin. Many years ago the Reusi lived in the forest and had no contact with people. Sometimes they would have to make clothes from things they found, often the carcass of a dead animal. Traditionally wearing animal skin as clothing was a sign of an advanced practitioner. This is because he would have spent a long time in the forest to come across such materials. However, in this modern age we substitute animal skin with animal print cloth in remembrance of the old tradition. In the past, the Reusi never killed anything for their comfort and this ideal continues today. Usually, for myself, I only wear white and brown colored robes. As for other aspects of the appearance, we don’t cut our hair or beard for the first three years. This is because every Reusi is empowered with the spirit of the past Reusi and teachers. Cutting the hair would be cutting the connection to this power.

 

Can you further explain the significance of not cutting the hair for three years?
The focus is not on the hair itself. It’s more about the commitment one makes and keeping that commitment. Keeping one’s word and practicing various types of tapas, or austerities, are a major part of the life of the Reusi. We do this as a commitment and offering to personal deities, our teachers and ourselves. Keeping the commitment means success and that we are ready to move on. Breaking it means that it’s not time yet and we must start again. One’s word is one’s source of power when it comes to incantations. Breaking one’s commitment is a defeat not only mentally but spiritually as well.

 

Do Reusi draw strength or power from the animal skin? It reminds me of Native Americans wearing bear, wolf or deer skin.
Yes and no. The skin of certain animals is sacred but in general the skin serves two purposes. One is to prevent our energy from descending while in meditation. It acts as a barrier to cut off our negative, downward flowing energy. The second is more symbolic and represents our mastery over the “animal mind.” In practical terms, animal skin is warm and proves to be a good source of clothing. Of course a Reusi would never kill anything for his own use, these skins must be ‘found.’ This means it comes from an animal which has already expired from natural causes.


Is this lineage predominately male?
Currently there are very few women in this tradition. I have only heard of one or two female Reusi in the Thai tradition. There are, however, many women still practicing in the Tibetan tradition so it is not completely male but the majority seems to be.

 

Are there any rules which pertain to your interaction with the opposite sex?
Of course there are rules on how we relate to the opposite sex but ours aren’t as strict as those a monk undertakes. Some Reusi marry and have partners. There are, however, rules on when sexual relations are permitted. In addition to this, we generally have more interaction with the opposite sex than monks. For example, being a practitioner of medicine, I treat men and women alike.

 

Is everything taught orally or are written texts utilized?
This is definitely an oral tradition. However, many of the sciences, which we learn, use and preserve, are written down for others to study as well. Also there have been many texts which were discovered by the Reusi and have been written down. The Vedas are the most famous example of this.

 

I have heard that information is sometimes left out of text purposely, is this true?
One reason certain information might be left out is to protect the reader from practicing something which is beyond their understanding. Information is also left out because it might be considered ‘common knowledge’ and not necessary to include. This would be something that is learned with one’s teacher. The texts are not there for us to learn from. The texts are study aides and references to be used in conjunction with a competent teacher.

 

Is it the goal of a Ruesi to know and practice all the sciences? Why learn some and not others?
It would take many hundreds of years to learn all of the sciences completely. Of course one might have a working knowledge of more than one science but to have mastery of a science takes a lifetime or more. Often the philosophy and theory used within a particular science may overlap with those of another. For example numerology, palmistry and astrology have very similar theory. A person might work with a few sciences which have overlapping theory in order to improve his/her understanding as well. As for which ones we learn, it’s a matter of disposition and choice, the choice of either the practitioner or the teacher. Sometimes we don’t get to choose though and our teacher picks for us.

 

Have any of the teachings been lost or forgotten?
Yes, absolutely. Many sciences have been lost, are missing information or are on their last generation of teachers. This information is one of the greatest treasures of humankind and I encourage people to go out and find authentic information from legitimate sources in order to preserve true knowledge and not just commercial information.

 

Are there different lineages and traditions practiced within Thailand? Which do you follow?
Yes, I am part of two major lineages. One is the Northern tradition, which has its roots in areas like Tibet and Burma. I refer to it as the Tibetan-Burmese-Northern Thai tradition. The other tradition is a Thai-Cambodian tradition, which has its roots in central and Eastern Thailand as well as Cambodia. The two traditions may appear different but the central teachings are very much the same. The major differences are the language used in chanting and texts.


Why did you decide to take this pth?
The Reusi are the protectors and teachers of the sciences. Of course by this I mean the natural sciences such as astrology, medicine, alchemy, etc. Having been studying these sciences from a young age, finding this path was natural. In addition, the path of a Reusi, while there are certain precepts and practices to follow, did not limit me in my interaction with others. In this way, I am able to pursue my knowledge of medicine, for example, and use it to help others. If I were to become a monk, however, I could not practice and study to such a degree while still maintaining the precepts.

 

 


Did you choose this path or did it choose you?
Probably a little bit of both. It sort of happened as a natural progression from one thing to the next. Looking back, my path has always been leading me this way but it took the right teacher to show me just how to get here and go about it.

 

Was it hard to find a teacher?
Not really. I was lucky to have found a very open and caring teacher who was able to see that I was ready to make this step even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it. After meeting this teacher, I met my third teacher who has further helped me to understand the practice of the Reusi.

 

Were there any requirements before your teacher would accept you?
Of course. Any time one studies in a traditional teacher-student setting there are many tests the student must pass before the teacher is willing to accept you as a student. As for the requirements for becoming a Reusi, there are even more and they take longer to fulfill.

 

Would you take on an apprentice to continue the tradition/lineage?
I am not at the point where I could even think about that but I feel that it would be my responsibility to pass on whatever little knowledge I have to someone if it could help.

 

What sciences have you chosen to practice?
Well, my primary path is that of a healer. To be a healer one must study not only medical theory but also astrology, herbs, exercises, physical therapies, incantations and all sorts of other practices.

 

Why is this tradition important?
The Reusi tradition, whether in Thailand or anywhere else, is important because the Reusi are those who keep the knowledge of the world. They are the ones who discover and teach many of the most basic sciences we have. They learned through experience and through trial and error. They are the real teachers and scientists. If we want to preserve these methods and maintain an understanding of living in balance with nature, it is important to protect the Reusi tradition. As you might have guessed, this tradition is a dying one. There are very few authentic practitioners these days. There are more and more people claiming to be Reusi for economic and/or ego driven reasons. In these modern times it has become a source of material gain instead of a practice of true renunciation. One reason that this practice has faded so much is because of the huge increase in the population and the lack of respect for nature. Another reason is the worldliness that most people are caught up in. In Thailand in particular this practice died out when monks started doing the jobs of the Reusi. A monk’s job is to be a student of the Dhamma and practice the Buddha’s teachings to his best ability. He is to strive for enlightenment and teach others to do so as well. Nowadays, however, many monks are more interested in learning the sciences and not focused on the Buddha’s path. They would rather obtain magical incantations and make amulets in order to gain status and fame. With monks doing this, there isn’t a place for the Reusi so the tradition began to die.

 

Is the status of a Reusi similar to that of a monk?
Since the tradition has died out considerably in Thailand, their status is dependant upon the area where they reside. In rural Thailand, especially the Northeast, the Reusi still hold a place in the community. In the cities most people don’t know the tradition and respect the Ruesi less. This is of course a generalization. Everywhere one goes there are people who both recognize and respect the tradition and those that do not.

 

Does the Thai government recognize the Reusi and what they represent?
Maybe on an individual basis but in general no. We do not get support or recognition from the government.

 

Do you feel you have the responsibility to educate the public about the Reusi and their role in society?
The Reusi have always been there and will always be there. Whether it’s the Thai tradition, the Indian tradition, Chinese tradition, European tradition, etc. they have all been around for centuries. It is not necessary to tell the public about them, or how they work. The Ruesi are hermits after all and like to keep a low profile. It’s only recently with the over population of the world and the deforestation that the Reusi have come out to speak up for nature. Like many endangered species of animals, we have fewer places to go to find solitude to study and practice in the first laboratory, nature.

 

Thank you for your time, Somananda Yogi. I know those reading, as well as myself, appreciate your willingness to share with us.

 

Interview by Laura Covington.