The Spirits and Their Roles in Isan Folk Jatakas

Suddhinan Sri-on and Pathom Hongsuwan





This study aimed at investigating the beliefs and roles of the spirit characters in eight Isan folk jatakas: Kamphra Phi Noi, Katchanarm, Thawgam Gadam, Nang Tang-on, Phaya Khankhak, Lin Thong, Suriwong and Hong Hin. In these Jatakas, the beliefs in and roles of spirits are prominent.


The findings show that spirits in Isan folk jatakas are relevant to the Bodhisattva in two ways: 1) the spirits are the rivals of the Bodhisattva; they do not believe in the Bodhisattva, nor do they have good intention for the Bodhisattva, doing bad deeds, thus making the Bodhisattva preach to them about karma and the dharma; and 2) the spirits believe in and follow the Bodhisattva’s teachings and support the Bodhisattva to succeed in something.


Thus, the roles of the spirit characters in Isan folk jatakas support dharma teaching, making the readers see that good conquers evil and helps understand the concept of karma in Buddhism. The roles, in addition, reflect the belief system of the Isan people in the Buddhist culture. Accordingly, beliefs in spirits and Buddhism can co-exist, being a part of each other.


Keywords: Thai Isan folk jatakas, beliefs and roles of the spirit characters, beliefs in spirits and Buddhism, good and evil spirits in Isan folk jatakas


(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 11/2018 (Number 2), Page 117-140)