Luang Pu Thuat — “who stepped on the seawater and turned it fresh”

The biography of Luang Pu Thuat is mentioned in early regional histories of Thailand but his story is mainly the stuff of oral histories. In southern Thailand, tales of the life of this famous monk has been passed on primarily by word of mouth. The story is a mix of many Buddhist elements: early signs, magic, travel, study, meditation, and eventual “sainthood.” Older, sacred amulets of Pu Thuat are considered priceless and very powerful. His movements throughout parts of the Southern peninsula constitute a unique path of pilgrimage for many believers.

At one temple in Sathingphra, Songkhla — Wat (Ton) Liap — his story is told in murals. The following is a sketch of that biography, panel by panel:

1) Picture a simple village in the year 1556 [B.E. 2099].

2) In this village there is a rich man and his wife.

3) There was also a man named Hu and a woman named Chan, and their house was just south of the Liap tree in the village.

4) After a time, Chan became pregnant.

5) At dawn, on a Thursday [in the Year of the Dragon], she gives birth.

6) Hu takes the placenta and [according to tradition] buries it at the foot of the Liap tree.

7) Seven days after the birth, the rich man comes and asks the couple to get busy and start farming.

8) The baby is put into a makeshift hammock at the edge of the rice field while they work.

9) The mother returns after a boa snake has wrapped itself around the child and then disgorged a glass ball (luk kaeo) near the child.

10) Hearing the news, the rich man comes to ask for the glass ball.

11) Shortly, bad things begin happening to the rich man. [The mural shows his house ablaze and so on…].

12) The rich man returns the glass ball.

13) Hu and Chan take their child to stay with Luang Chuang [the abbot of] Wat Di Luang [at Sathingphra].

14) When he is old enough, the abbot ordains him as a novice.

15) The novice goes to study at Wat Khusiyang [along the highway north of Ton Liap]…

16) …and then goes on to study at Wat Semamuang [Nakornsithammarat].

17) He received higher ordination on a raft at Nakornsithammarat.

18) Later, he boarded a ship to travel and study in the capital of that time — Ayudhaya.

19) The ship gets caught in a raging storm.

20) He steps on the seawater and turns it into fresh drinking water to save the people on board.

21) He goes to study the Dhamma at Wat Thammarangsi [Ayudhaya].

22) Practiced samadhi and vipassana meditation at Wat Samolai.

23) He solves a difficult puzzle posed by some Sri Lankans involving the sorting of letters.

24) He returns to the South to improve Wat Phatthasingbanphot [Wat Pho Kho, Sathingphra].

25) A novice named Kaeo [who became very close to Luang Pu] comes and gives a lotus flower to Luang Pu Thuat.

26) One night near the temple, the local people saw two shooting stars very close to each other [and these were taken to be Luang Pu Thuat and Nen Kaeo].

27) A group of monks convenes and agrees that a sacred amulet of Luang Pu Thuat should be made.