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Fire-Breathing Monk Told to Snuff Out Flames

A screen capture from a viral video showing Tawatchai, the abbot of Wat Pa Sri Na Pang in rural Khon Kaen, performing a fire-breathing trick.
A screen capture from a viral video showing Tawatchai, the abbot of Wat Pa Sri Na Pang in rural Khon Kaen, performing a fire-breathing trick.

A senior Buddhist monk who gained notoriety for blowing blew flumes of fire from his mouth has been ordered stop performing the trick.

Tawatchai, the abbot of Wat Pa Sri Na Pang in rural Khon Kaen, was seen breathing fire in a video from a village festival that was widely shared on social media this month.

Last week, several senior Buddhist clergymen visited the monastery and asked the monk to refrain from performing the fire-breathing stunt in public as many Buddhists might ascribe it to supernatural causes.

Senior monks are often venerated and credited with magical powers in Thailand where beliefs in the supernatural are widespread.    

Tawatchai denied he had wanted to impress villagers with his powers and said he simply wanted to show them that breathing fire did not require any supernatural abilities.

Breathing plumes of fire is a trick commonly performed by illusionists and even laypeople by help of oil or alcohol held in the mouth and blown onto a flame.

Phayom Kalayano, abbot of a popular monastery in Nonthaburi Province, has urged Buddhists to think rationally and not to be duped into believing in miracles.

“If you believe that fire breathing is a miracle, then you might as well burn all Buddhist teachings,” the respected monk said.

However, such pieces of advice often fall on deaf ears in Thailand where monks who claim to possess supernatural abilities by virtue of their holiness frequently attain devoted followings.

Some monks have claimed to possess a variety of supernatural abilities, including the ability to predict the future, communicate with the spirits of the dead and levitate.

These monks and the temples where they live can then draw masses of pilgrims who donate large sums of money to them in exchange for spiritual favors.

The original version of this story appeared in UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.