Most Vénérable Lersi Tafaï Akhadamo (1924-2005), Wat Barn Kokhaï-Bua (Nakhon Ratchasima)
The Lersi hermit tradition goes back to before the birth of the historical Buddha, whose parents received a visit from one of these holy men when the Buddha was only a baby! The Lersi are traditionally represented as men of advanced age, long hair, bearded and wearing a
tiger skin. One often sees them depicted with walking sticks embellished with fantastic animals and carrying malas made of huge beads. Sometimes one encounters statues and amulets of animal faced Lersi (tiger, lion, monkey but also cow and even Nâga!)
Two images from kid's book, showing the parents of the Buddha receiving a visit from a Lersi
The Buddha himself is sometimes described in ancient texts as a Lersi, and said to have received teachings from at least one Lersi master at the beginning of his life as a hermit.
The Budha receiving teaching from a Lersi
Lersi in pilgrimage
The venerable Lersi tradition is therefore linked to the Buddhist tradition, and its practioners were hermits of sundry ascetic practices that nowadays are totally forgotten, as well as in touch with diverse practices from the Hindu and Animist traditions, one of their main principles being that extreme purification of one's body leads to purification of one's spirit in the attainment of Awakening. From the origin the Lersi enjoyed a lot of freedom in their life and Spiritual practice, having no fixed organization to watch over them and give them order, so they were living free lives, being living example of the joy there is to be a Holy man and help other being by miraculous ways.
In our time, alas, this tradition is on the verge of extinction andthe last true Lersi (Lersi Tafai Akhadamo) passed on in 2005. There are a certain number of Venerables claiming to be in the lineage but not a one of them can say, as could Lersi Tafai Akhadamo, that they were able to spend 40 years of hermit life in the jungle and caves as well has having been initiated according to the Old Way.
The life of Ven. Tafai Akhadamo is really fascinating. As young man he was a doctor in the military, acquiring the lore of herbal medicine. Then he became a brigand in a well know group called "The Tigers" before at age 40, he became a student of the Ven. Ajarn Thongdam and began in his Master's company to seek out leklai in the most dangerous and hidden caves. One day the Venerable suggested to him that they perform the ritual required to become a Lersi, and Tafai, weary of his layman's life, accepted.
As a first step, he had to observe strictly the ancient life-rules of the Lersi: not to cut his hair for three years, to cease eating any crude meat or blood for 7 years (these two rules are required before the initiation for, without their results, during the ceremony one risks going insane). At the same time, he had, with the help of Ven. Ajarn Thongdam, to oberve and respect, strictly, the eight monkly precepts.
Finally the proper ceremony took place in a sacred cave in the region between Loe and Utharadit. The Ven. Ajam Thongdam during the initiation took it upon himself to summon the spirit of Lersi. The spirit manifested physicaly and asked what was being asked of him. Lersi Tafai, from his heart, asked the spirit of Lersi to take up residence within his being. The spirit granted his request. The spirit of Lersi became visible for about an hour and a half (this is utterly extraordinary, normaly in such ceremony the spirit merely speak a few words or manifest very briefly) and the ceremony thereupon went on for three days and three nights. It would be helpful here to recall that appreciate that Lersi hermits are not supposed to be ordinary men but as being homes for the spirit of Lersi, who is a species of Deva, an intermediary between the world of men and the world of divinities.
In the days following, Lersi Tafai entered the depths of the jungle and stayed there many long hermit-years. He rarely appeared among humans, and then only to help out and share his blessings.
Towards the end of his life, seeing that his failing health would no longer allow him to live alone in the jungle, he established Wat Barn Kokhaï-Bua, where he spent his final years at peace. During those years he created some Phra Khunpen amulets (for metta), the Rop-Lor amulets at his image (known for their powers of protection), Kee-Phrung cream with the Makalipön fruit amulet (for magical powers of attraction).
He NEVER sold any of these pieces, always gifting them away to visitors. He never took on a disciple and had little patience with the "New Age Lersi" who would visit only so they could later pretend to be among his students while proudly showing pictures of them with Lersi Tafai (sadly, one hears more and more of these Lersi wannabes, appearing often in Singapore to peddle their trash).
He said that anyone who called himself a Lersi and sold his amulets, that person is a false LersiHe also said that out of respect for Tigers a real Lersi has nowaday to wear only synthetic Tiger skin and leave the real skins on the real Tigers. He never predicted lottery numbers despite the great many number of people who came asking him about it. Lersi Tafai harbored the greatest of respect for Buddhist monks and always considered himself a layman, having merely the duty to help his neighbor thanks to his gifts "just a little bit special"
On This video a Thai women get into trance and impersonate Lersi Tafaï
There remains, however, one real Lersi in the Pathum Thani region. He is said to be 700 years old. In 2005 he made a very rare public appearance for an observance. The taking of photos was strictly forbidden. A friend wrote to me that this Lersi is , "a human being with skin like stone".
One of my friend from Singapore told me he went to the Khon Kien area and met with a Lersi nicknamed Tah Seuar (Tiger eye). This Lersi live with his chicken in a very remote village, make Lek Laï and has powerfull divination and healing powers. He can see inside the body of his visitors and read their mind. He give proof of this sometime by telling people what they been eating before to visit him, and also has some time detected some tumor on some people while they thought they were healthy...presence of the tumour was later confirmed by medical examination.
this strange Lersi was found "sleeping" in a coffin buried deep in an ancient graveyard (the graveyard was moved and so the coffins were removed, this is how he was found). He say he was a monk before, then died and then managed to make his actual body using the corpses of his grandad and grandmom (he is actually half man/half women like Hinduist deity Ardhanarishwara)
My friend told me this Lersi live half naked all the time, has one women breast, one big hand and a smaller one and that his face is clearly asymetric. But this Lersi has such a bad temper that so far no-one has dared to ask to picture him. This Lersi has no real name, no identity paper and does not know his exact age, most of his disciples say that between his past life and actual life he is over 200 years old (he does look to be about 100 years old but is very healthy and active for this age)
Rare image showing some of the few Lersi of our time. From left to right: Lersi Sutho (from Nongkhaï), Lersi Sorot (from Kon-Khien), Lersi Warapot (from Ubon Ratchatani) and Lersi Sompit , Lersi Mokala Kolat, Lersi KampeeTom (from Mahasalakhan)
Lersi Tafaï Akhadamo giving a Nam-Mön shower to two visitors
Lersi Amnat with a Buddhist monk. Lersi Amnat live in the Konkhien area and stay most of the time in the jungle.
Lersi Amnat blessing some Lersi Nah Seuar statues (Lersi with Tiger face )
Vénérable Lersi Amnat (clic the image to see it full size)
LP Lersi Paratta (Nakhon Ratchasima)
Some Lersi such as LP Lersi Paratta are famous for predicting future and more specifically lottery numbers. LP Lersi Parattadid the mistake to predict those number too often and to have several of his disciples winning the lottery again and again...
The local Mafia did not like it and sent some killers to solve the "problem", Lersi Paratta then disapeared for almost two year before to reappear and start teaching as usual.
A Lersi from Burma
Lersi from Bali where they are called Rsi (or some time Resi or Rhsi)
A Resi from Bali
(Thanks to Christian Balie for this rare image)
During some amulets blessing it is not unusual to ask for the assistance of a Lersi
Venerable LP Prohma from Wat Hin Phanangkhawy (Ubhon Ratchatani) went to live in a cave like a Lersi several years ago, he seldom come back to his Temple and none of his monk know if he is for sure still alive. This Master was making in the past some very good Lersi amulet and also some Lek Lai amulets, those are becoming more and more researched by collectors and their price is increasing very fast.
Exactly like the Yogi of India and Tiget, the Lersi are famous for their Magical and Paranormal capacities, Magical stories about them are many and are some time very surprising. For example, one Lersi from the Kanchanaburi area is famous for having the power to materialise balls of fire in his hands and be able to throw them as a weapon. Some other Lersi are sayed to be able to speak to animals, or to have met some Mythical creatures during their stays in the jungle. It is also sayed that some Lersi can take the shape of animals to avoid being bothered by visitors...
The amulet and blessed objects of the Lersi are often non-conventionals, made from unusual substances, and having very surprising uses. The fact to wear a Lersi amulet or to keep a Lersi statue on your Altar is sayed to be a very powerfull protection against black Magic.