In Thailand there is a Buddhist movement called Santi Asok. In recent years one of its lay communities has developed a five-day bodily detoxification course for the good of the Thai public as a form of merit making. Participants who refrain from eating food and drink other than the intake of herbal tonics, undergo various forms of detoxification procedure and particularly colon cleansing. The course culminates in the inspection of the participants’ stools followed by a lavish vegetarian meal. This paper analyzes the detox course as a ritual of the body constructed within the anti-materialist and merit-making moral values of the Asok Buddhist community. In this ritual human excrement becomes a symbol revealing the unhealthy polluting demerits of modern consumer society. It concludes that “shit” is a powerful and even dangerous “natural symbol” to moralize with.
[Thailand, Buddhism, Santi Asok, detoxification, complementary and alternative medicine]