Luang Phor Pheh, Wat Sawang Arom

Maker of the Peanut Amulet

Luang Phor Pheh

Luang Phor Pheh

 

“Pheh” is actually a nickname, and Luang Phor’s full name is Phra Kru Thamatorn SomSong ThammaTinNo

. His parents named him “SomSong”, and his family name was Detchinda
. He was born on 11th January, B.E. 2501, Saturday, in the Year of the Dog. He was born in the village of Barn PakKraTha
, located in Ampur Nakorn Chai Sri, Changwat Nakhon Pathom
. He is the 3rd child among a family of 4 sons. His eldest brother was named Somneuk Detchinda
, his second brother was named Somsak Detchinda
, and his younger brother was named Sompoch Detchinda
. As a child, he lived with his parents and showed great enthusiasm for Buddhism. His father had earlier ordained as a monk and related many of the teachings and stories of Buddhism to him.

His father had completed 10 Rain Retreats and subsequently disrobed to work as a civil servant. He did, however, send his children to the temple to learn the ways of Buddhism. After he retired from his job, he also returned to the Sangha, remaining there until his passing.

Young SomSong began his Primary education at a private school in the vicinity of his home called Santad Wittaya

, located at Tambon Ngiu Rai, Ampur Nakhon Chai Sri
. He continued his studies there until Primary 3, when the school was shut down. He then went to the school at Wat Klang Bang Keaw
, Perm Wittaya Moolnithi
to continue his formal education. Luang Phor Perm Poonya WaSuNo
, (also known as Phra Dej Phra Khun Tan Zhao Khun Phra Putta Wittinayok
), the famous maker of Bia Gae (refer to our article on this) had earlier built this school to serve the children of the area. This school is presently under the purview of the government of Thailand.

 

First Encounter with Meditation

Somsong finished his Primary school studies at Perm Wittaya. It was his chance meeting with a Tudong monk in Secondary 1 however, that sparked his interest in Gammatan

(meditation). He was playing with a friend near the area of a cemetery at Nakhon Chai Sri, and saw a monk doing his Sīvathika meditation (cemetery meditations). He approached the monk to pay his respects. The monk took a liking to Somsong, as he sensed that the young boy had a strong affinity with the teachings of Buddhism. Both of them would meet up often, many times talking for hours on end as the monk related stories of his experiences from his Tudong travels.
Travelling Tudong monk in meditation (Picture References: Allaksandr P-K/Shutterstock.com)

Travelling Tudong monk in meditation (Picture References: Allaksandr P-K/Shutterstock.com)

 

The monk had wandered from the Songkra, Ampur SaTing Phra

in the south of Thailand, and was in the midst of journeying North, before finally aiming to head East. Somsong was deeply inspired by these stories and made up his mind to learn meditation. He aspired to be like the monk, developing himself in Samadhi
. The monk advised him to only embark on Tudong after he had become an adult, as the jungles were full of unpredictable dangers. To satisfy his thirst for learning, the monk taught him meditation after each of their near-daily conversations.

When Somsong first learnt meditation, he was unable to still himself. But through repeated instruction from the monk, he learnt to fully enjoy his meditation sessions. He loved it so much that he stopped playing with his friends, opting instead for the stillness of mind it brought. One day, it was time for the monk to continue his journey. Before he left, however, he taught Somsong a form of meditation called Asu Pa Gammatan

(contemplation on the death and impermanence). Young Somsong was terrified of ghosts, and the monk taught him this meditation and contemplation exercise to help him overcome his fear and prepare him for his eventual Tudong journey.

 

Wicha Asu Pa Gammatan (Nava Sīvathikā-manasikāra contemplation)

Wicha Asu Pa Gammatan (Nava Sīvathikā-manasikāra contemplation)

When Somsong first attempted this form of meditation, he was terrified and even nauseated by the grotesque sights he was presented with. After repeated practice, however, he came to fully grasp the impermanence of the human body. He understood that since humans have no control over anything, even their own bodies, he realized that nothing could do him more harm than his own mind.

 

The Journey of Knowledge

After he overcame his fear, his hunger for more knowledge, and a desire to learn the skills of wicha saiyasart grew. He continued his practice, and his parents saw that he had an inclination towards religious practices. His father decided to further school him in the art of meditation.

One day, a Thai traditional doctor named Mor SaNgiam

, who had learnt meditation from Luang Phor Sodh, Wat Paknam
, arrived in his hometown. When Somsong heard about this, he approached Mor SaNgiam, hoping to study under him. Mor agreed. Following this, he sought further tutelage from Phra Ajarn Chareon
. At that time Ajarn Chareon was renowned for his skills in Gammatan, Tudong, Saiyasart and Horasart
(fortune telling). Ajarn resided at Wat Mai Chareon Yod, a short distance away from Somsong’s house, and had completed many years of Tudong, acquiring skills from many masters along the way.

Sometime between the ages of 14 and 15, Somsong, decided he wanted to focus on Saiyasart. It was at this time that he picked up fortune telling. Somsong’s house was located near a red light district named Dong Kluay

. Being young and ignorant, he would often wander around the area. One day, he saw a crowd, and as he approached, witnessed a lady doing fortune telling. Curious, Somsong decided to let her read his fortune. He was amazed at the accuracy of the readings and decided that he too, wished to learn the craft.

His parents recognized that he had an innate talent and disposition towards these skills, and sought a proper teacher to instruct him. He honed his skills until he was famous in his hometown for reading fortunes. One day, an Indian who was skilled in the Indian methods of fortune telling taught Somsong the art of foretelling using charts. After acquiring that knowledge, he met Mor Yuak

, who lived beside Wat Sai
, not far from his house. Mor taught him fortune telling using numerology. Soon Somsong was an adept in all 3 methods of fortune-telling.

 

Entering the Sangha

In B.E. 2519, at the age of 18, Luang Phor graduated from secondary school. Mor Yuak had also passed away. He decided to become a novice monk at Wat Sai and make merits for his deceased Teacher. His 1st Announcing Teacher was Luang Phor Pian

, Zhao Awat of Wat Tookata
. After ordination, he wanted to embark on his Tudong journey, but the Zhao Awat (abbot) felt that Luang Phor Pheh was not ready. A Tudong journey required substantial experience and skills, but Luang Phor Pheh was not even a Bikkhu yet.

Luang Phor Pheh was impatient to advance his skills in Saiyasart, instead of meditation. Wat Tookata was famous for Saiyasart, and held plenty of Tamra for wicha. Luang Phor Pheh searched for the Samood Khoi

and Khom Tamra
of Luang Phor Boon
’s and Luang Phor Ned’s wicha, which was known to be very detailed in Saiyasart, Horasart, Palmistry and Physiognomy.

Luang Phor Pheh wanted badly to go on his Tudong journey, despite failing his Naktam

Buddhist examination. He secretly embarked on the journey, afraid that the abbot would once again disapprove. He invited a junior monk by the name of Phra PreeCha PaPadSaroh
to accompany him. They planned to travel to the south of Thailand, following in the footsteps of his first meditation teacher. He also wanted to see the sea and the beach, as he had not seen it before. Southern Thailand was also home to many guru monks who were well-versed in wicha.

They travelled to Ratchaburi

, where Phra Preecha suffered a snake bite. Daunted by the experience, Phra Preecha decided to cut short his Tudong journey and went back to Wat Tookata
.

Luang Phor Pheh proceeded alone to Chumporn

where he met Luang Phor Song of Wat Zhao Fah SalaLoi, and asked to learn wicha. He also met a few monks on their own Tudong journeys, and travelled with them for a spell. They eventually parted ways at Nakhon Sri Thammarat
.

Thereafter, he went to see Luang Phor Kling, Wat Thaloongthong

, and studied wicha from him. He formed a close bond with one of the monks from the Wat, and eventually set off on a Tudong with him. Along the way, whenever they heard about any special ceremonies or monks of renown, they would travel there and ask to learn from them. Some readily accepted them, some did not. Due to the language barrier (Southern senior monks speak their own dialect, and are not proficient in the national Thai language), Luang Phor Pheh barely understood most of what was being taught. He returned to Wat Tookata before his third Pansa, as he had to report for National Service. He was not however, chosen for conscription, and returned to monkhood. This time, he was qualified to be a sammanen.

Luang Phor Pheh once again embarked on Tudong, travelling to Wat Pradoochimplee, in Bangkok to study under Luang Phor Toh, Wat TahSung in Changwat Uthai Thani to learn from Luang Phor Lersi Lingdam

, and Wat Palelai in Changwat Supanburi, to seek out Luang Phor Tin. He went on to visit many more temples and the masters residing in them, seeking to further expand his skills and knowledge.

In B.E. 2522, on Sunday 13th May at Patha Sima

(the Bot of) Wat Tookata, Luang Phor Pheh, aged 21, became a full-fledged monk. His Preceptor was Phra Kru WiBoonSiritum, Zhao Awat of Wat Tookata
, his 1st Announcing Teacher was Phra Ajarn Thongkum Suwanna, Wat Tookata, and his 2nd Announcing Teacher was Phra Kru Samu Jeua, Wat Klang Bang Keaw
. He was given the name Thamma TinNoh
. He settled at Wat Tookata, and would travel to seek out more knowledge of wicha each time he heard of a monk renowned for his skills in the art.

Before the Buddhist Lent Day in B.E. 2522, the Zhao Awat sent him to another temple, Wat Kae Theaw

(also known as Wat Sawang Arom). The temple back then had been deteriorating. Although the path to the temple was dilapidated, making travelling there difficult, many people still paid visits to him. He gained the respect of many, even though he was only 21 years old. The people requested him to be Zhao Awat of Wat Sawang Arom but he only agreed to be the acting abbot until such time that a senior monk could take over the position. He stayed there for 4 months before he was replaced, and returned to Wat Tookata after.

After failing his 4th Buddhist exam, Luang Phor Pheh remained at Wat Tookata, studying as intensively as possible for 2 Pansa, before finally passing the exam. He was asked to return to Wat Sawang Arom, and sought permission from the Zhao Awat to occupy the position of Zhao Awat

of Wat Sawang Arom, He eventually travelled back to Wat Sawang Arom in B.E. 2524, when he was around 23 years old.

It is required by Buddhist law in Thailand to complete 5 Pansa before being qualified to assume the position of Zhao Awat. The committee in Wat Sawang Arom decided to instead place him in another position, RakSahGarn Tan Zhao Awat Wat Sawang Arom

(“Temporary Abbot”), intending to promote him after he had completed his 5 Pansa.

 

Wat Sawang Arom had always been intended as a temporary stopover point for monks. The facilities in the temple were threadbare. There were only 2 living quarters for the monks. There was no toilet, no incense sticks and no cutlery.

 

On the Buddhist Lent Day in B.E. 2524, only 4 to 5 people came for blessings, as it was an important Buddhist day, many felt that they would participate in blessing ceremonies in large temples. To make matters worse, many believed that Luang Phor Pheh would only stay for a short time, and then leave (like what happened in B.E. 2522).

 

Luang Phor Pheh poured significant thought into refurbishing the temple, in order to attract more devotees. His first decision was to allow people to become monks without paying requisites. A total of 20 people came for the ordination. These 20 monks stayed in the monkhood for that entire year. As more people frequented the temple, funds started flowing in, and Luang Phor Pheh was able to fully refurbish the temple. This practice of carrying out free ordination for willing monks endures to this day.

 

The committee of the temple agreed to pool money to build a Hor Rakhang

for Luang Phor Pheh, if he agreed to become Zhao Awat. In B.E. 2529, he was promoted to Phra Kru Samu Somsong
. In another few years, he was again promoted to Phra Kru Thamatorn Somsong Thamma TinNoh
.

 

Hor Rakhang (Picture References: Sytilin Pavel/Shutterstock.com)

Hor Rakhang (Picture References: Sytilin Pavel/Shutterstock.com)

Making of Amulets

Luang Phor Pheh learnt the knowledge of Phithi Arb Namman Wan

from Phra Ajarn Chareon, of Wat Mai Chareon Yod. This wicha is an ancient form passed down through old gurus living in the interior regions of Thailand. The knowledge of this ceremony is slowly fading away in modern times. To make the blessed oil, coconut oil must be brought to boil, a special blend of herbs is added, and a blessing is carried out by a powerful and virtuous monk seated within the pot. The health of the monk must be strong, for the potency of the blessings to be strong as well.

 

Consecration process with monk in boiling oil

Consecration process with monk in boiling oil

Next the oil needs to be blessed by guru monks for 3 or 7 nights, depending on the size and scale of the ceremony. The monks will also procure holy items such as takrut

, Meed Mor
, Pra Kam
, Mai Wai Sett
, Phra Kreung and Kreung Rang to be added into the oil to further enhance its potency. Because the ingredients are difficult to find, and the ceremony is tedious, Luang Phor Pheh only conducted it 3 times, each 3 to 5 years apart, depending on how fast each batch of oil was depleted.

Because of his extended years of austere practices undertaken during his Tudong travels, Luang Phor Pheh’s health has been waning over the years, and he has sought to pass the knowledge of this wicha down to other temples. As the health of the Presiding monk is of utmost importance in the ceremony, he is unable to perform this ceremony anymore but does not want this wicha to go extinct.

 

Present Day

Each weekend, Wat Sawang Arom is packed with devotees. In B.E. 2551, an incident occurred that increased his fame overseas. He gave 5-segmented peanut to a Malaysian named Lit Han, and a Singaporean named Ho Kee Wong. It was said that their lives and luck improved dramatically, even extending to winning at the casinos. Another businessman in the construction sector, named Lee Yan, has become bankrupt at age 55. He sought the help of Luang Phor Pheh, who gave him a similar peanut. He brought it home and prayed with it, and witnessed his business miraculously take a turn for the better. This has thus become Luang Phor Pheh’s signature amulet in recent years.

Lucky peanut with 5 segments within

Lucky peanut with 5 segments within

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