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???buddhist tradition????
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  1. #1
    fanz Guest
    My thai lady friend was presented with a small wooden phallus by a thai monk. I was suspicious of his motives. After inquiring from 35 year expat was told this may have been a good luck amulet of sorts. Old expat told me there are large statues of phalli throughout the city of BKK in prominent places.
    What is religious significance of gift by monk? Why the large statues?

  2. #2
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    Hi Fanz, this article hopefully will answer your questions.


    Phallic Shrine

    by Richard S. Ehrlich
    Asia Correspondent

    BANGKOK, Thailand -- Penises abound at the shrine of Goddess Tuptim. Most are built of wood, and are quite huge, including some which stand 10 feet tall.

    Follow a brick path lined by knee-high wooden phalluses, and you will arrive at a huge cluster, in varying shapes and sizes, including some adorned with pastel-colored scarves.

    In an anthropomorphous flourish, some of the biggest penises stand on two legs, and display their own set of genitals near ground level. Reverently placed elephants, incense, candles, and garlands of sweet- smelling flowers at the shrine create a tranquil place to pray.

    Some worshippers leave small personal items such as mirrors, combs, bottles of nail polish, and other toiletries. A heart-shaped glass box, covered in dust, sits next to a cock made of styrofoam. Blossoming bougainvillea disguises a chain link fence and a nearby canal where an occasional speedboat passes, carrying commuters to and from work along the brackish waterway.

    Many of the shrine's sex symbols are painted solid red. According to Philip Rawson, who traces such erotic imagery to Tantric beliefs within Hinduism and Buddhism, "The most powerful sexual rite, of re- integration, requires intercourse with the female partner when she is menstruating, and her 'red' sexual energy is at its peak.

    "For these reasons, the representations in the art of the female counterpart, or initiator, are usually colored red," Rawson adds in his book, Tantra: The Indian Cult of Ecstasy. These spiritual phalluses represent "the male organ, symbol of the male seed of Being" and are thus highly potent staffs portraying half of the universe's birth and evolution.

    Little is known about the origin of the shrine, which now stands on the grounds of the Hilton Hotel in the heart of the Thai capital.

    A small sign at the tiny sanctuary's entrance says, "Chao Mae Tuptim, or Goddess Tuptim Shrine. The origins of Chao Mae Tuptim are obscure. It can only be recalled that a spirit house was built by Nai Lert, for the spirit who was believed to reside in the large Sai (Ficus) tree. The basic offerings are fragrant wreaths of snow-white Jasmine flowers, incense sticks, pink and white lotus buds."

    Though no one seems to know much about who Nai Lert was, spirit houses are common throughout Thailand and virtually every home, office, or institution has one constructed on their property. The doll house-sized homes are set atop a pedestal and placed in an auspicious location, which allows residents, workers and others to offer prayers and small gifts to appease spirits which are believed to be dwelling in the land, trees or elsewhere nearby.

    Most spirit houses do not develop into full-fledged shrines, and are said to be a tradition continued from pre-Buddhist and pre-Hindu time, when Thailand was heavily influenced by Animism. Spirit houses in Thailand usually include doll-sized human figures, or perhaps a small figurine of Buddha or contemporary priests, but rarely display phalluses. Goddess Tuptim's shrine appears to be unique in its development into an erotic, Tantric-influenced place of worship.

    "Chao Mae Tuptim has received yet another less conventional kind of gift, phallic in shape, both small and large, stylized and highly realistic," the shrine's sign explains. "Over the years they have been brought by the thousands, and today, fill the area around the shrine. Confronted by the extraordinary display, the shrine has automatically been concluded to be dedicated to fertility."

    A Bangkok business magazine, Siam Trade, alerted its white-collar executives to "the shrine to the male sexual organ" by publishing a tongue-in-cheek letter from a surprised female visitor. The humorous note said, "My, my, my there are phallic symbols everywhere back there. What's a girl to do? They come in all shapes and sizes, and they're all over the place."

    Sexual imagery has long been mixed with Buddhism, and its predecessor Hinduism. Tall cylinders of stone "lingams" are worshipped as the phallic images of a fabled Hindu god, Shiva. Much of Thailand's modern Buddhism has its roots in India's ancient Hinduism, and many spiritual rituals and symbols are shared by both religions.

    According to Diana L. Eck, an associate professor of Hindu Religion at Harvard, lingams are "simple stone shafts" which represent "the erect phallus of a god who is creative, procreative, and indeed, erotic. Shiva's creative aspect is sensuous. He is the beautiful bridegroom of (goddess) Parvati."

    Columns depicting Shiva's manhood also reflect the strength of his seed.

    "Shiva and Parvati have no normally conceived offspring. Shiva's seed is too hot for Parvati to carry," Eck said. To procreate, the seeds were carried to the Ganges River and mothered by six female deities, who helped Shiva give birth to a six-headed child.

    "Nonetheless, Shiva and Parvati are praised, in the tradition, as the ideal married couple," she added.

    Indeed, the shrine resembles what Lord Shiva once proclaimed: a garden of delights in his honor. Referring to a primordial forest thick with freshly sprouting phalluses, Shiva is quoted in eulogistic literature as telling his wife, "My lingams are everywhere there, like little sprouts arisen out of sheer bliss. Thus it is called the Forest of Bliss."

    Shiva, describing the various lingams to Parvati, adds, "They are made of various gems, made of many elements, made of stone. Many are self-born, and many are established by gods and sages...some are not visible, some are visible, and some are in rather a miserable state. Even those that are broken down by the ravages of time are still to be worshipped, fair Parvati. One time, I counted a hundred billion of them. Six million of them stand in the waters of the Ganges. Those lingams bestow yogic achievement and have become invisible now."

    While no one knows how many lingams are being worshipped in Asia, millions have sprouted, mostly in Shiva temples across Hindu-majority India. To feed and honor Shiva, followers in India often offer milk and "bilwa" leaves to the phalluses, amid echoing bells and lilting chants.

    Hindus involved in the sexual-based spiritual discipline known as Tantra do not merely worship penises, they use live ones in their ceremonies.

    Rawson said, "The most famous Tantric rites are the variants of the 'chakra puja.' This is a kind of long- drawn Eucharist, carried out by night, attended by a number of couples, married or not, who ceremonially take the five enjoyments normally forbidden in high-caste society: meat, alcohol, fish, a certain grain, and sexual intercourse. The last may be performed with several different partners, one's own, or one chosen at random."

    Though Bangkok is known for its raucous and often raunchy nightlife, no such activity goes on at Goddess Tuptim's shrine. Legend has it that women who pray here in an effort to become fertile for pregnancy, will return if their wish is fulfilled, and place yet another phallus at the shrine in thanks.

    Usually, however, the shrine seems to be ignored. Unlike most tourist-friendly places, the shrine is not highlighted by guide books. Seekers must wander down through the hotel's parking area, and past the hotel's workshop where broken toilets and other furnishings are stacked up awaiting repair or replacement.

    Hindus say they worship Shiva's lingam as a "symbol of the Lord's perpetual presence." Through the ages, however, foreign colonialists, missionaries and explorers who "discovered" Asia were often confused or outraged by the below-the-belt organ being linked to religion.

    For example, in the 1600s, Diogo de Couto described them as "an idol, which in decency I abstain from naming, but which is called by the heathen 'lingam,' and which they worship with many superstitions."

    In the early 1800s, the Abbe J. A. Dubois condemned them as an "obscene symbol" and "insult to decency." In the mid-1800s, Christian missionary M. A. Sherring came to India and also denounced "lingams and other indecent figures."

    A 19th century British colonialist in India, Lord Macaulay, said, "Lingamism is not merely idolatry, but idolatry in its most pernicious form."

    Modern Thais, meanwhile, are familiar with wooden penises which are sold in markets as good luck amulets. Some are thumb-sized, while others are carved from a large tree branch.

    Thais occasionally dangle a tiny wooden phallus from their belt or necklace, for added protection. Usually they are adorned with Thai or Pali language script which praises its spiritual attributes and offers blessings. Sometimes, a shop or restaurant will display a wooden penis in a discreet location, hoping it will help business in some vague, undefined way.

    Bangkok bars which feature striptease, prostitution, and other sexual lures also occasionally position wooden penises near the cash register or elsewhere, either in hopes that the phalluses will exert positive, mystical influences over the cash flow or simply to excite customers who like to marvel at unclothed human anatomy.

    The origin of the lingam myth includes widely differing versions. Some say the first lingam was created by jealous sages who feared Shiva was seducing their wives -- so they castrated him. Most stories however tell of a blazing "lingam of light" which beamed across the heavens, and split earth in half, at the dawn of time. Shiva stepped out of the light, much to the amazement of the other gods.

    The world's first lingam is said to have appeared in the Indian town of Benares, also known as Varanasi, which is reportedly the world's oldest, continually inhabited city on earth.

    ------------------

    Richard S. Ehrlich has a Master's Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, and is the co-author of the classic book of epistolary history, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!"--Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is located at http://members.tripod.com/~ehrlich.

    -30-

    from The Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 3, No 3, Jan. 18, 1999

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