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Kwan


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#1 billzant

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Posted 2011-02-20 12:30:41

In a Thai lesson a textbook gave the following:-

“Thai people believe that the head is the most important part of the entire body. It is inhabited by the kwan which is the spiritual force of life. So never pat a Thai on the head even in the friendliest of gestures.”

I said I thought that was not a Buddhist idea, and my teacher investigated the Thai internet coming up with:-


ขวัญ หมายถึง นามธรรมอันหนึ่งคล้ายพลังจิตที่มีอยู่ในตัวมนุษย์ตั้งแต่เป็นเด็กทารก มีความเชื่อว่าถ้าขวัญของผู้ใดอยู่กับตัวผู้นั้นจะมีความสุขกายสบายใจแต่ถ้าขวัญของผู้ใดหายไปนั้นจะมีลักษณะอาการตรงกันข้าม

The teacher translated this as:-

“Kwan is an abstract noun meaning spiritual power which comes with human from their birth. It’s believed that people with their kwan will have both mental and physical happiness. On the other hand, if they lose their kwan, they will be unhappy.”

Can anyone shed any light on kwan, its origins and connections with Buddhism?

Hope you are keeping well,

All the Best,

Bill Z

#2 camerata

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Posted 2011-02-20 13:10:36

The Thai dictionary says:

1. [noun] morale; fortune; luck; courage; heart; spirit; prosperity; merit
2. [noun] whorl of hair on top of the head; cowlick
3. [noun] animistic life force; vital essence of all living things including plants and animals, especially crops

On the other hand winyaan is:

1. [noun] soul; spirit

My guess is khwan as "life force" pre-dates Buddhism. In my experience, when Thais talk about whatever is reborn they use "winyaan." I've mainly heard khwan used in the sense of morale.

#3 sabaijai

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Posted 2011-02-20 23:43:11

Khwan comes from Tai animistic beliefs that pre-date Buddhism. For some Tai groups, including Lao and Northern Thai, there are 32 separate khwan present in your body, each with a separate function in overseeing organs and physical capacities.

The interpretation from the Thai text you quoted sounds like a contemporary, revisionist explanation of khwan -- or perhaps the central Thai interpretation, I'm not sure.

Khwan bears no relation to canonical Buddhism, bu is definitely part of the Thai Buddhist fabric, which includes many elements of animism and Brahmanism.

#4 billzant

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Posted 2011-02-23 11:45:43

Thanks for the replies about kwan that point to it being animist. As I said on Littlebang on "Farmer's day" apparently the praahm (Brahmin?) presides over a ceremony to promote kwan, and I was also told that the King has a praahm to perform a ceremony for Him. I thought it might have had Indian origins.

I don't understand why kwan resides in the head?

Know anywhere in English where I can read about Thai animism?

#5 sabaijai

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Posted 2011-02-23 15:26:03

The 32 khwan reside in different places all over the body, but they enter and leave via the crown of the head, supposedly at the fissure in the skull thats partially open when one is a baby.

Further info:

http://www.patana.ac...on/Origins.html

http://kirjon.com/sa...tic-beliefs.htm

http://andrejandkare...m/?page_id=1928

http://www.thaicov.o...ring_tying.html

http://www.crvp.org/.../chapter-12.htm

#6 healthcaretaker

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Posted 2011-02-25 01:57:19

Khwan comes from Tai animistic beliefs that pre-date Buddhism. For some Tai groups, including Lao and Northern Thai, there are 32 separate khwan present in your body, each with a separate function in overseeing organs and physical capacities.



This interests me.

The brain is the headquarter of our nerve system that controls our organs and physical capacities too & Buddhism believed in meditation and its usefulness which works on the mind.

Isn't this something that showed the coherence between science & Buddhism

Looks like Buddhism is very science-based although it's long before science discovered it.

Edited by healthcaretaker, 2011-02-25 02:01:16.


#7 lungmi

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Posted 2011-02-28 21:13:09


Khwan comes from Tai animistic beliefs that pre-date Buddhism. For some Tai groups, including Lao and Northern Thai, there are 32 separate khwan present in your body, each with a separate function in overseeing organs and physical capacities.



This interests me.

The brain is the headquarter of our nerve system that controls our organs and physical capacities too & Buddhism believed in meditation and its usefulness which works on the mind.

Isn't this something that showed the coherence between science & Buddhism

Looks like Buddhism is very science-based although it's long before science discovered it.

In Asean countries for Lom Pran (chi'i,-chinese, Ki -Japanese), Prana (india) the center point is is the Tan Tien, two finger kun under the belly bottom (chinese), one finger under the Hara (Japanese). The brain is not the headquarter, but don't forget him.

#8 lungmi

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Posted 2011-02-28 21:31:55

Now I understand. I had a patient in Li (Lamphun), Karen after a stroke. Impossible to touch her head for a treatment.
With the help of Luang Pho Kumjon she accepted the "clean light of the Buddha -Low level laser", 1 cm over the skin.
I don"t know what happens after, but when a came later with my wife (family in Li) people asked us, where is the finger of the Buddha.
When I say Karen I'm not sure, there is a melting pot in the mountains of Lamphun.

Edited by lungmi, 2011-02-28 21:39:01.


#9 fabianfred

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Posted 2011-03-01 05:28:47

Today at my temple is a large ceremony to 'riak kwan' call the spirit.
It is to be held for our Abbot who has been sick for more than a month with hepatitis B in hospital. They have arranged the usual Three-legged poles into a triangle like at a house=warming ceremony with bananas and other things around each leg. Sacred white cords go everywhere and to a Photo of the Abbot in the centre with a set of his robes.
Important monks in the area are coming to chant at the ceremony....
more details later.

#10 sabaijai

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Posted 2011-03-01 09:40:48

The tripod/pyramid-like structure and associated ceremony is a northern Thai ritual known as phithi seup chataa (life-extending ceremony). It's quite common throughout the north (but not elsewhere in Thailand), directly descended from a similar pre-Buddhist Tai tribal ritual, and performed for the sick and elderly.

#11 fabianfred

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Posted 2011-03-01 09:58:10

Set-up before ceremony

#12 kokesaat

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Posted 2011-03-01 10:20:43

One of my favorite homework lessons in the 56 lesson series by Thomas Gething was the story about this subject. It's rather elementary.......but made for an interesting lesson and the neighbors enjoyed discussing it with me. The pdf file is available for download online.

[please provide the online link. use of foreign language passages outside of the Thai Language subforum is against one of our Forum Rules. (apologies for the removal)]

#13 fabianfred

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Posted 2011-03-01 12:07:35

nice read kokesaat ..do you have a link to the pdf??

#14 kokesaat

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Posted 2011-03-01 18:33:53

The pdf and mp3 are available from http://siamwestdc.co...er-UH/index.htm

#15 lungmi

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Posted 2011-03-01 20:02:45

Set-up before ceremony

FabianFred, I stay with my heart in this ceremony.

#16 fabianfred

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Posted 2011-03-02 04:46:43



#17 lungmi

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Posted 2011-03-02 16:19:14

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Z5e5GpFVAaY


What's about copyright?
I want to send this documentary to my son to
http://www.bristol.a...entre/projects/

I cry from heart when I see your movie.

But I'm a strong fighter when people misuse and expolit the believing of honest people for economics purposes.

#18 fabianfred

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Posted 2011-03-02 21:16:35

I made the video so own the copyright...you are welcome to use this or any of my videos on my Youtube or my Facebook account...

http://www.facebook.com/fabian.blandford?v=feed&viewas=529691988#!/fabian.blandford?viewas=529691988&sk=photos

#19 sabaijai

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Posted 2011-03-03 01:39:09

Set-up before ceremony


Typical seup chataa setup, with bananas and coconuts as offerings to the spirits, confirming the animist lineage of the ritual. This ritual was in danger of disappearing around 20-30 years ago but has been somewhat revived along with interest in Lanna heritage.

#20 Polsci

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Posted 2011-12-13 05:42:28

My Kwan just returned and joined the discussion. ;-)

Traditional Thai Medicine: Buddhism, Animism, Ayurveda by C. Pierce Salguero is an excellent reference to the Kwan and can answer the OP's questions. See Chapter 6: Thai Folk Healing. Got my copy from amazon.com.

#21 fabianfred

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Posted 2011-12-14 05:46:18

The brain is the headquarter of our nerve system that controls our organs and physical capacities too & Buddhism believed in meditation and its usefulness which works on the mind.

Do not make the common Western mistake of associating the brain with the mind..... Asians usually put the mind more in the region of the heart...although it is actually seperate from the body and therefore cannot be examined by searching for it..

#22 rockyysdt

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Posted 2011-12-14 13:01:57


The brain is the headquarter of our nerve system that controls our organs and physical capacities too & Buddhism believed in meditation and its usefulness which works on the mind.

Do not make the common Western mistake of associating the brain with the mind..... Asians usually put the mind more in the region of the heart...although it is actually seperate from the body and therefore cannot be examined by searching for it..


Having said that, mind cannot exist without body, and body without mind.

Mind & body are co dependent.

Edited by rockyysdt, 2011-12-14 13:06:42.


#23 Xangsamhua

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Posted 2011-12-14 14:05:55

Sorry, clicked in error.

Edited by Xangsamhua, 2011-12-14 14:06:43.


#24 Xangsamhua

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Posted 2011-12-14 15:46:38


Do not make the common Western mistake of associating the brain with the mind..... Asians usually put the mind more in the region of the heart...although it is actually seperate from the body and therefore cannot be examined by searching for it..


Having said that, mind cannot exist without body, and body without mind.

Mind & body are co dependent.


Well, we all talk about the mind, but I don't know if we know what it is, let alone if it's separate from the body or embedded in it.

I'm not sure what the Buddha thought the mind was. He spoke about "thought" or "the mind", as reported in the Dhammapada, and regarded it as prior to action, but I don't know if he argued one way or the other as to whether it was separate from or included in the "aggregates" (skandhas).

Everyone just assumes that each of us has a mind and that it’s different for each of us, but it seems to me we just have different memories.

If I have a mind, I’d like to know where it is, perhaps so I could give it a tune-up or something. Naturalists, like Owen Flanagan (“The Bodhisattva’s Brain”) don’t seem to believe in minds – just brains and all the neuronal things brains do.

Gilbert Ryle (“The Concept of Mind”, 1948) regarded “mind” as a category mistake. We look at all the things we think are products of the mind or mental events and we project from this that there is an entity behind them, but we can’t in fact locate it. It’s as if, having seen companies of soldiers on parade, we turn to our neighbour and ask “But where’s the battalion?”.

We know we have consciousness, and we know we have memory and imagination and reasoning ability. Moreover, we know that others have these things, too. Are these the things that constitute mind or are they derived from some kind of universal mind, something beyond our individual consciousness and on which we draw to initiate thought and action, both of which are products of the brain and the central nervous system?

In drawing on a ‘cosmic’ mind, perhaps we adapt it to our level of awareness and taint it with the karmic effects of greed, anger and delusion, thus appropriating it to ourselves in a sullied form. If this is so, the “Mind” on which we draw is untainted and, if coupled with a life lived according to the Dhamma, retains its purity. Translated into intention and action, the pure Mind exercises a therapeutic role in our lives. In Buddhist teaching, this will ensure a serene life and a good rebirth.

I’m not sure, though, how this differs from the Hindu belief that we are each individually one with the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, as expressed in the wonderful Sanskrit aphorism Tat Tvam Asi, “Thou art That” or “That thou Art”. However, one thing we can be sure of is that we can’t point to any one phenomenon and say “Thou art Mind”.

#25 dutchguest

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Posted 2011-12-14 17:46:55

On page 95 of his book "The forgotten kingdom" ( http://pratyeka.org/...gotten_kingdom/ ) Peter Goullart describes the believe in "kwans" of a certain tribe in South-China as follows:




Their hair is black, slightly wavy and very soft; and its arrangement is a distinctive

feature of all Lolos. It is gathered through a hole at the top of their dark blue or black

turbans and hangs as a limp tail or, more often, springs up like a miniature palm-tree,

supported by a sheath of black strings. The hair of the Lolo is sacred and no one is

supposed to touch it under the pain of death. They believe that the Divine Spirit

communicates with man through the exposed lock of his hair which, like upstanding

antenna or the aerial of a wireless set, conveys the spiritual impulses, like waves to a

receiver, to the brain.





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