Postgraduate students

Isara Treesahakiat BSc, DipGrad, PGDipArts, MA

The Significance of Khruba Sriwichai's Role in Northern Thai Buddhism: His Sacred Biography, Meditation Practice and Influence

Khruba Sriwichai (1878-1938) was a well-known monk in Thailand and especially in the Lanna regions in the northern part of the country. His local fame spread throughout the country among a diverse group of followers. Many people know him for his opposition to the national Thai Sangha and his construction of the 12-kilometre road to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. There have been many books written about Khruba Sriwichai which are mainly based on personal faith and respect for him. There are also works in English on the life of Khruba Sriwichai by Tambiah, Swearer, Cohen, and Thompson which are mainly concerned with the analysis of his role of ton bun, his charisma and his political activities.

Few scholars today describe Khruba Sriwichai as a Buddhist teacher, or as a practitioner of meditation. However, it is clear from contemporary accounts of Khruba Sriwichai that during his lifetime his Buddhist charisma was founded on his spiritual practice and his reputation as a meditation master. His level of Buddhist attainment is reflected not just by his ability to challenge Bangkok (and survive) but also by his revival of northern Thai Buddhism.

The thesis looks at an important key for understanding Khruba Sriwichai and the source of his Buddhist charisma. This key is the investigation of his monastic lineage, his Buddhist teachings, his Buddhist practice, and cult which are based on many primary and secondary resources in Thai and English, as well as information gathered during field research in northern Thailand. In addition to histories and biographies in Thai and English, and contemporary materials about Khruba Sriwichai preserved in the Thai media and Royal Gazettes, there is also a tamnan (history) composed in 1878 in Lanna Tai language concerning his life and teachings.

The investigation of these aspects of Khruba Sriwichai shed some light upon the understandings of the reason for his enduring importance for Thai history. Khruba Sriwichai was not a charismatic Buddhist saint because he challenged Bangkok, or appeared on the covers of political magazines. He was a Buddhist saint because of his accumulation of pāramī.

Download a copy of the thesis from OUR Archive.

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Guthrie and Associate Professor Will Sweetman

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme