Postgraduate students

Phra Akbordin Rattana BA DipGrad (Buddhist Studies) PGDipArts MA, PhD candidate

On the Two Bodies of the Buddha in the Supreme Patriarch Pussadeva (Sa)’s Paṭhamasambodhi

The Paṭhamasambodhi is a biography of the Buddha that is well-known in mainland Southeast Asia, and an essential element in Southeast Asian art history. In Thailand, senior Thai Buddhist monks have considered it as an important text in Buddhist literary genre. In addition, several Thai Supreme Patriarchs, as well as other senior monks, compose and/or edit the Paṭhamasambodhi at the request of the kings, or on their own initiative, for using as a sermonic text in important Buddhist holy days and ceremonies such as Vesak ceremony. There are two well-known versions of Paṭhamasambodhi in Thailand: (1) the Paṭhamasambodhi-kathā that was edited by Supreme Patriarch HRH Prince Paramanuchitchinorot (1790-1853) in 1845 at the request of King Rama III (1788-1851); and (2) the royal sermonic text Paṭhamasambodhi that was composed by Supreme Patriarch Pussadeva (Sa) (1813-1900) during King Rama IV’s reign (1804-1868; reign 1851-1868). At the present time, the ten-chapter edition of Pussadeva’s Paṭhamasambodhi is used for teaching Buddhist laypeople who study at the elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels of Dhamma Study curriculum (T. หลักสูตรธรรมศึกษา) as well as Buddhist monks and novices who study at the elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels of Buddhist Scholar curriculum (T. หลักสูตรนักธรรม). One interesting aspect of both Paṭhamasambodhi editions is that Paramanuchit and Pussadeva include the teaching about the bodies of Buddha in their Paṭhamasambodhi. While Paramanuchit’s version of Paṭhamasambodhi mentions the bodies of Buddha in Chapter 28 The Binding of Mara Legend (Mārabandha-parivatta), Pussadeva’s one elucidates on this point in several places.

The proposed thesis will explore the Pussadeva’s roles in late 19th century Thai Buddhism, the doctrine of the Buddha’s twofold bodies embedded in Pussadeva’s Paṭhamasambodhi, and the idea of Buddha worship and its relation to the Buddha’s bodies that Supreme Patriarch Pussadeva presents in the text, by translating the ten-chapter edition of Pussadeva’s Paṭhamasambodhi from Thai into English. In addition, it will contextualise the importance of the term dhammakāya as well as the concept of Buddha’s bodies in Thai history during the 19th century period. Moreover, it will investigate the controversy surrounding the omission of dhammakāya in one or more previous reprinted edition/s of Pussadeva’s Paṭhamasambodhi.

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Guthrie and Professor Will Sweetman

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme