Monday, 9 September 2013

Koh Samui's Cool Mummy

Last week I wrote about Koh Samui's most dubious attraction, the Grandmother and Grandfather erotic rocks. This week I write in praise of the island's coolest and most bizarre icon, the Mummified Monk.

I first discovered this shrivelled corpse by accident several years ago as I was circumnavigating the island by rental car with my daughter Jo. We were not only intrigued by the dried banana-skinned body displayed in a glass case, but also delighted to discover that he's not only wearing orange robes, but also sporting a pair of very stylish Raybans - probably fakes, but this is Thailand after all. 

Why? Why not! I'm assuming his eyes are covered because the shrunken eye sockets might offend, but it also gives the mummified monk the air of a very cool dead dude. No disrespect intended. 

So who is this Rayban wearing monk, and why has be been preserved for all eternity behind glass? 

Born in 1894, Loung Por Daeng entered the temple as a novice during his 20s, but disrobed and married a local woman who bore six him children. When he was 50, he decided to rejoin the monkhood, adopting the name Phra Khru Samathakittikhun. 

After studying in Bangkok, he returned to his home on Koh Samui where he meditated in a cave, Tham Yai in Lamai. He later established Wat Kunaram and its temple school. 

Two months before his death (at the age of 79), he requested that, should his body not decompose (clearly he had some sort of vision - no pun intended), he would like to remain at the temple and be placed in an upright coffin on display as a symbol to inspire future generations to follow Buddha's teachings and be saved from suffering. 

In his final seven days of life, he concentrated solely on his meditation and the path to enlightenment, dying in the same position that he sits today. 

It is said that a pure life and clean diet contributed to the slow rate of decay of the monk's body. 

And while his withered corpse is a curious and perhaps shocking sight for western eyes, it's a reminded that for Buddhists, death is just a step towards nirvana and a better existence.


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