Buddhism in thailand

Buddhism in Thailand

Ever since Siddhartha Gautama sat under a Bodhi tree and reached the state of Enlightenment after seven days of meditating in the 5th Century BC, the teachings of the Buddha (= The Awakened One) are one of the most widely spread philosophies in the world, particularly in Asia. The specific branch of Buddhism practiced in Thailand is called TMap Theravada Mahayana buddhismheravada, which originated on the small island of Sri Lanka, just south of India.

Buddhism in the day-to-day lives of the Thais

These teachings are being followed by almost 95% of the Thai population and it plays a vital role in their everyday lives. Most of the local people try to perform good deeds throughout the day in order to make merits, which is a ritual we have touched on in our post about “Songkran”. This can start early in the morning by giving offerings in the form of food or money to the local monks. This is not seen as charity where there is a giver and a receiver, but it is a purifying act of simply giving and receiving. There are roughly 300.000 Buddhist monks in Thailand and it’s a tradition for Thai men to become monks once in their life before their 20th birthday. This period doesn’t have to be long; it can be for only a few days or weeks.

Following the Buddhist teachings for most of the Thais is about being free of worry. They know that true happiness can’t come from material enjoyment, but only from within through personal practice. This doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy the many things this world has to offer – they certainly do. But they know that these things can’t give them happiness, peace and a life without worries. Buddhism is therefore considered a way of life instead of a religion. There is no God that needs to be revered or even feared. It is more about the respect the followers have for the Buddha and his teachings.

Buddhist Monk Theravada Asalha Puja

What does this mean for tourists visiting Thailand?

Thailand has some of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the world, a lot of which can be found in bigger cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai. When visiting those cultural landmarks, it is highly recommended to behave accordingly and to dress appropriately. The dress code usually calls for long-sleeved shirts and pants. It is totally fine to take pictures of yourself with the Buddha, but don’t stand on the statues and try to keep your kids from climbing on them. As we mentioned in our first post about Cultural Insights, the feet are the lowliest part of the body and should not touch such a holy artifact under any circumstances.

Although 95% of the people in Thailand are Buddhists, you might be a little surprised to find almost as many mosques as temples in Krabi. This is due to the fact that this region is quite close to Malaysia, where the majority of the population is Muslim. Therefore you can find many Malay-Muslims in Southern Thailand. Fortunately for everyone, the Buddhists and Muslims, at least in the Krabi area, live in peace and harmony, so you don’t have to worry about any religious or cultural disputes.