This research aimed at studying the Isaan Mahachat sung-sermon with three main objectives – i) study the origin and development of the Isaan Mahachat sung-sermon in the socio-historical and religious context: ii) examine the role of Mahachat sung-sermon practitioner monks; iii) analyze certain literary and narratological aspects of the Isaan Mahachat sung-sermon,
From the study, it is clear that the Mahachat sermon, which is well-known throughout Thailand, had originated ong time go and was originally delivered in prosaic form in the Pali language, which later came to be replaced by Thai and subsequently into Isaan tyric form that began to flourish in the sung-sermon style more than half a century ago. The reason why Thai-Isaan Buddhists are devoted towards this particular sermon is that they have a strong faith in a non-canonical sutta known as Phra Malai Sutta. According to this sutta, whoever listens to all the 13 sections of the Mahachat sermon on a single sitting accrues great merit, leading to a rebirth during the time of the future Buddha, Ariya Mettaiya. The content of Mahachat sermon has never changed, but the way it is delivered has undergone modifications in northeast Thailand from time to time to time. From a single monk prosaic recitation style, it changed into thirteen monks’ recitation of each of the thirteen sections (kan) of the sermon. With the passage of time. This style appeared to be longish and practitioner monks began to take up roles as dramatic personae (albeit, no bodily or gestural performance involved except for the vocal rendition in the form of rhythmic narration) to represent the sixmain characters in the story – King Sonjay, Queen Phusadee, Prince Vessantdorn, Princess Matsi, the royal grandson, Prince Chali and the royal granddaughter, Princess Kanha. At the present scenario, three practitioner monks can take up all the roles and successfully deliver the sermon on a single day in the sung-sermon style which is interesting and appealing to most Isaan people.
Regarding the role of the Lsaan Mahachat sung-sermon practitioner monks, it has been found that there are eight major roles viz., propagation of Buddhism, preservation of indigenous Buddhist oral narrative, drawing people’s attention to indigenous Buddhist culture and tradition, contribution towards the preservation of the Isaan language, contextualization of the Jataka story, uniting village community for merit-making during the Boon Phavet ceremony, instilling pride among local people and diversification of creative monastic roles.
In regards to poetic and literary elements, it has been found that the Rai Yao composition is predominantly used in the roi krong or lyrical version of the Isaan Mahachat sung-sermon text and various figures of speech both of the tropes type i.e. related to general meaning of words such as simile, metaphor, hyperbole, paradox, proverb, didactic interpolation, irony, symbol, imagery, foreshadowing, satire, and pathos and schemes type i.e. related to form or shape such as alliteration, assonance, interna. Rhyme, and onomatopoeia, are found in the text. Regarding narratology in the Isaan Mahachat sung-sermon, it has been observed that various devices are employed such as interiorization, serialization, fantaisation, cyclicalisation, elasticisation of time, spatialisation, stylization and improvisation.