RANONG: Funerals of esteemed monks are always auspicious occasions for believers, a chance to bid farewell to a spiritual leader and wonder what rewards he will get for his life-long accumulation of merit.
At the funeral of an abbot in Ranong, the deceased clergyman’s spiritual power was reportedly so strong that his mortal remains refused to burn.
Phrakhru Praphasawiriyakhun, abbot of Wat Wareebaphot in Tambon Bang Norn, passed away on October 17.
When the day of his intended cremation arrived on November 8, the temple was packed with the faithful coming to see off their abbot. The ceremony was presided over by the Governor of Ranong Province, Kanchanapha Keeman.
Leading up to the ceremony, the heavens were overcast and rain poured down all day, threatening to wash out the proceedings. When it came to the hour of the ceremony, however, the rain suddenly stopped and the clouds cleared as if by a miracle.
At 9 pm, the body of Phrakhru Praphasawiriyakhun, or Phra Duan as he was known to his followers, was brought out and laid on the pyre. The flames were lit and began to lick at the monk’s body.
After a few minutes, the monk’s followers began to realize that something out of the ordinary was taking place before their eyes: Phra Duan’s body seemed to be impervious to flames.
After about half an hour on the flaming pyre, there were little more than a few minor scorch marks on his saffron robe. The body was unblemished by the heat.
With the body so steadfastly refusing to burn, the cremation had to be called off. Phra Duan’s body was brought down from the fire and placed back in his coffin.
He was then taken to the temple’s Hall of the Reclining Buddha, where stunned devotees changed his robes to the sound of cheering from the funeral guests, all amazed that the Phra Duan’s holiness had been stronger than the flames.
Police and volunteers worked together to prevent guests getting too near the body, fearing that scuffles would break out between people desperate to get pieces of Phr Duan’s singed robe to make into charms and amulets.
Witnesses reported that after the 30 minutes on the flaming pyre, the only marks on Phra Duan’s body were a couple of small burns on his arms. The lenses in his glasses were uncracked and his robe was only slightly burned.
Phra Duan’s followers then lifted his body above their heads and carried him among the guests for all to see.
When everyone had had a chance to catch a glimpse of the body, it was placed back in a coffin while the temple’s directors decided what to do it next.
In the end, the directors decided to keep the body in a glass coffin so people could come and pay their respects.
Somphian Banyicheng, a guest at the funeral and a follower of Phra Duan, said that he believed the reason the body’s flame retardant qualities came from Phra Duan’s holiness as he had been a strict follower of the dharma for many years.
As it became clear that the cleric’s corpse was incombustible, K. Somphian shouted for water to extinguish the useless flames.
Phra Duan, a native of Songkhla Province born Duan Prangsuwan, initially wanted to be a policeman. After failing the entrance tests at the age of 21, he became a monk instead.
After spending Buddhist lent in a temple in Phatthalung, he went and practiced meditation in a cave in the province’s Khao Chai Son hills for two years.
He then traveled around making merit, eventually ending up staying in Bang Non. As the story goes, one night a hairy, dark-skinned man dressed only in a loincloth appeared to him and asked him to stay in the village.
In 1959, Phra Duan started building Wat Wareebaphot, where he remained doing good deeds until his death.