At this time, there is no other man in Thailand ‘hotter’ than Jirayu Tantrakul or ‘Got Jirayu’ as Thais say. Shortly after the release of the Thai drama “Krachao Seeda” early last year, the 32-year-old actor became a national overnight sensation for his stellar performance as ‘Ampon’, a character with a gentle manner, sense of humor, and ardent devotion to the woman he loved.
In many ways, there are similarities between Ampon and Got. Both are witty, charming, sensitive, and faithful to their women. The difference between them is that the man is seriously introverted and quite blunt in his opinions.
In recent years, especially since the pandemic, Got has become increasingly well-known in his other role. Already known for his emotional depth and artistic talent, his spiritual side has been revealed more through his interviews about his journey on the road to physical health and well-being on the famous self-development YouTube channel ‘Glao’ (Revise). The show received such overwhelmingly positive reviews that many more related topics followed. So far, all of the shows in which Got has appeared continue to garner tens of millions of views.
But about a decade ago, the award-winning actor was a different person. Born into a Thai-Pashtun family, Got had a strict Islamic upbringing and remained a devout Muslim until he was about 25. By then, his acting career had entered its third year with a decent stream of film projects, but it was still far from successful.
“Honestly speaking, I wasn’t very happy, but very determined to pursue my dream. It was a time of intense soulsearching which led me to realize that the reason my career hadn’t really taken off was because I hardly knew anything about my job. I thought I did because I had been in show biz for a long time, but the truth was, I didn’t,” Got recalls.
He began by asking the question, “Who am I?” which led to intense study on psychology, religion, and history. According to Got, the self-discovery process was “long, confusing, and painful.”
As a devout Muslim, Got has encountered many issues that have challenged his beliefs. “It was the realization that we, as humans, are all influenced by ‘social heredity’ which largely contributes to the formation of our values, attitudes, and beliefs which are reflected through our words and behavior,” he explains. This understanding resulted in a huge improvement in his acting skills.
But the real change came when the actor joined a 10- day Vipassana (Mindfulness) meditation retreat, established by Vipassana Master S.N. Goenka, one of the world’s most famous meditation teachers in the West. His meditation technique focuses on the observation of one’s own breathing while acknowledging emotional, mental, and physical sensations which arise during the meditation. Although it’s based on Buddha’s teachings, it is not limited to Buddhists and can be practiced by anyone wishing to gain mindfulness and mental clarity.
The change was so profound that it has “changed me completely…I feel much smaller with the words ‘humbleness’ and ‘appreciation’ coming to mind. I feel so humble and thankful for everything in my life,” the self-described headstrong actor explains, adding that his perfectionism had also played a role in his tendency to be critical of everything. “I used to be quite judgmental because I was too fixated that certain things must be in certain ways.”
The transformation, Got adds, came after a long struggle against his old self. It is regular Mindfulness practice that has helped him surmount his inner hurdles. “For me, Dhamma and meditation are universal; they don’t have a name and aren’t limited to a group of people.”
Many people have wondered how the change has affected his career as acting involves creating an illusion. Actors need to ‘lie’ well enough to themselves to deliver a superior performance. There is also a technique called ‘method acting’ in which actors practically live the character – one that several Oscar winners have adopted.
However, Got views himself an artist who expresses his art through acting. “When I act, I immerse myself fully in a character because I want to craft the best performance. But artists are also people, so they don’t work all the time. Actually, Vipassana meditation has made me understand human nature better, resulting in improved, realistic performances, and when it’s time to return to reality, it’s easier to leave the character.”
Got plans to continue to perform for the rest of his life. Not only does it make him a “much different and better person,” but it also generates a renewed sense of purpose, all by looking out from within.
“Knowing yourself is the most important quality one can possess. For me, meditation is the most effective tool in discovering the truth about myself. When I know myself, I begin to understand others and the world.”
It has been almost five years since Got began regularly practicing meditation. You can tell that his rebellious and ready-to-fight aura is no longer there, replaced by a serene and relaxed personality.
After all, by undergoing such a long and arduous journey, something’s ‘Got’ to give.