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.