The pervasiveness of Buddhism

Being an Atheist myself and seeing Thais going about their daily routine and all the respect they show towards their religion, it peaked my interest and so a quest was born to find out more about Buddhism in Thailand. After a few visits to the National Library I have decided to share a few of my findings.

For many centuries now, Thailand has been dominated by a single religion (Buddhism). Mostly likely Buddhim was brought to Thailand around the third century A.D. through Indian missionaries. By the seventh century A.D. there Buddhist communities to the West and North of Bangkok. In the 13th century, Thailand invited Sri Lankan monks to Sukhothai to help purify the religion. Today as much as 90% of Thais practice the religion.

Modern Thais practice a form of Theravada Buddhism, also known as Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle, Buddhism. In this form it calls for a priesthood of monks to voluntarily enter the monkhood for at least 15 days once in their lives. But many enter and never leave. The monkhood educates a man in the tenents of the religion and allows him to make merit to atone for his sins, so that upon reincarnation he will return as a higher being.

Although there are no ordained nuns, many woman don white robed, shave their heads and live in secluded parts of the monastery where they meditate but cannot preach.

Monks are expected to live ascetically although this is sometimes stretched to include luxury cars and property. They are obliged to obey 227 moral concepts and they live on what they are provided by the laity. Each morning they put on their saffron robes and take to the streets to collect alms.

Thailand’s other Buddhism

The other form of Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, is practiced by the nations ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese. Although its doctrine differs from Theravada Buddhism, their celebrations and practices are similar.

Mahayana Buddhist activities take place at the temple and include shaking bamboo sticks out of can to tell ones fortune. They also believe in burning paper objects (such as cars, houses and money) which is sent by smoke to departed loved ones.

I wish to learn more about Buddhism and if anyone has any further information for me, please let me know.

Norrad

No power in the 'verse can stop me.

4 thoughts on “The pervasiveness of Buddhism

  • August 8, 2007 at 6:10 pm
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    Have you read the book “Pra Farang”? It gives you a good insight into Buddhism in Thailand.

  • September 9, 2007 at 3:07 am
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    I just wonder how atonement and reincarnation are perfectly explained in Buddhism.

    Atonement in Christianity means that a person’s sin has to be purged and forgiven by God ONLY through His reincarnated son Jesus Christ, and not by anyone else, because man doesn’t have the power to completely remove the stain caused by sin, after man became sinful since his disobedience to God’s law just right after his creation in the Garden of Eden. Justice to God’s law demands the blood of the perfect offering from the sinner, thus, no monetary amount, material thing or even the life of any sinful being is enough to satisfy any infraction to God’s perfect law. Only God’s mercy through man’s acceptance by faith of Jesus’ death on the cross as man’s perfect offering can perfectly justify his condition before God. The result of that faith in man’s life of obedience culminates to man’s translation of his mortal body into immortal one (a sort of reincarnation) by God when Jesus returns for the second time to take His people to His heavenly kingdom. Atonement will be completely attained when man lives with God, his Creator, in His kingdom forever.

  • April 9, 2008 at 4:51 pm
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    “Modern Thais practice a form of Theravada Buddhism, also known as Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle, Buddhism. In this form it calls for a priesthood of monks to voluntarily enter the monkhood for at least 15 days once in their lives.”

    It is only called Hinayana by the Mahayana followers, in a disparaging way…..

    and 15 days are not the minimum required….

    “..allows him to make merit to atone for his sins, so that upon reincarnation he will return as a higher being….”

    make merit…yes, but to atone for his sins….no…. buddhism also teaches re-birth…not reincarnation.(not just playing with words of similar meaning…they are different..)
    Making merit accumulates good karma…..entries in black, so to speak ….whereas negative actions create bad karma…entries in red….but unlike book-keeping they do not cancel each other out.
    Nuns can teach the dhamma….and often do at meditation centres…..even lay people can teach the dhamma…it is one of the ten ways to make merit..

    “Monks are expected to live ascetically although this is sometimes stretched to include luxury cars and property.”

    The rules of conduct for a monk are never stretched….they are either followed or ignored….and those who pick and choose which ones they are going to keep will have to watch out……life is like a resturaunt….don’t forget to pay your bill on your way out….

    the chinese shaking sticks and burning stuff has nothing to do with buddhism…Mahayana or theravada

  • July 28, 2008 at 12:54 am
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    Norrad: Most of the detailed information I know about Thailand Buddhism comes from a book called “Buddhism Explained” which I bought at Asia Books. I’d recommend it as an exceptional read for anyone who wants an English-language explanation of Theravada Buddhism.

    yllorco: What does any of what you wrote have to do with the blog about Buddhism?

    Buddhism has no concept of atonement or the Christian idea of sin.

    As Fabianfred said, there is no concept of reincarnation either, though re-birth is a central tenet of Buddhist philosophy.

    Your description of Jesus as God’s reincarnated son is not correct (unless you’re reading a different Bible than I am).

    It appears that you don’t have much interest in Buddhism, so for you I would recommend a very good book titled “Basic English Grammar Form and Usage” which is also available at Asia Books.

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