Questions and Answers on Buddhism in Thailand
King Bimbisara, the ruler of both Magadha and Anga states was the first one who presented the bamboo grove as a monastery to the Lord Buddha not more than a year after the Exalted One’s Enlightenment. The idea of monkhood when seeing some ascetics during His road tour as a crown prince was also that which made Him decide to renounce the worldly life and to become a monk.
Buddhism came into existence in India and had been spread to various countries after the Third Council of Buddhism during the reign of King Asoka about the third century of Buddhist era or B.C. 258.
For the time being it has been recorded in some documents such as the World Buddhist Directory saying that there are Buddhist organizations, monasteries or institutions in 50 countries all over the world.
In Thailand Buddhism is the state religion, because more than 90 percent of Thai population are Buddhists. His Majesty the King of Thailand, according to the Constitution of the Kingdom, is to be a Buddhist.
Besides this Thailand has been voted by members of the World Fellowship of Buddhists to be the country of permanent Headquarters of this international organization.
Buddhists from various countries including Thailand still go to visit Buddhist sacred places in India, though five or six millions of the Indian Buddhists are not even one percent of the whole population of that country.
There is no any rule or regulation being dropped during the last 10-20 years. Thai monks still study and practice the whole disciplinary and doctrinal principles.
Bhikkhuni or female Buddhist monks came to an end according to the rule that the female monks have to be ordained in both sides of male and female Buddhist monks. The female preceptor can do her duty in introducing only one candidate for female ordination once a year and has to wait during the next year. She can do again as the female preceptor when the third year comes.
In the history of Thailand there is no Bhikkhuni or female monk mentioned about, but there is a way appropriate for the women to imitate Bhikkhuni, that is to shave their heads and wear the white robes and vow to practice the eight precepts which lay stress more than five precepts on chastity, refraining from taking food after noon to dawn, refraining from dancing, singing, listening to or playing music, seeing the play, refraining from using garlands, scent, unguents, wearing finery and using high beds and large beds. Though they are still lay women but they are honoured as higher than general lay men for their formal uniforms, precepts and practice, in other words though Bhikkhunis or female monks came to an end through disciplinary rules they are reborn as eight-precepts-upasaka who are honoured. There is the Institute of Mae Chee or nuns in Thailand under patronage of Her Majesty the Queen.
Both sects, Dharmayut and Mahanikaya, belong to the same school, that is Theravada which follows the conservative way of the study and practice of the disciplinary and doctrinal tenets. Both sects in Thailand pay respect to each other and have the same Supreme Council of Ecclesiastical Administration presided over by His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch who may be appointed by His Majesty the King of Thailand. The Supreme Patriarch may belong to any sect as the case may be.
There is not much reaction of Buddhist monks in Thailand to the western influence because Thailand has been from the ancient time a free country, through contact with many western countries Thailand became acquainted with various forms of western material progress or prosperity. The Thais have their own stand points on old and modern culture. They are free to consider and accept only what they think appropriate to be adopted. With regard to western philosophy the Thai people including monks look on it as some thing to be learned about or studied but not necessary to be accepted or denied immediately.
Monks both in the country side and in the city live under the same discipline and way of life. The difference may be that monks in the city have more advantageous instruments than those in the country side.
In Thailand monks still observe the Patimokkha recitation on Uposatha day twice a month. This is according to the disciplinary rules. Thailand is the country which tries to preserve monks’ rules and regulations as much as possible.
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu is famous for his talent, initiative idea in the study of Buddhism. He tried to study the highest Buddhist doctrine including its aim and goal. He tried hard in the way of reasoning, analysis and investigation. He did not entirely follow the explanation of the commentators who explained Tripitaka on some portions through their own personal points of view. His ideas lay a stress on practice, consideration and thorough investigation.
Mahamakuta: A foundation
established in support of Buddhistic education and practice
Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya Foundation
Under Royal Patronage
241 Phra Sumeru Rd, Bangkok 10200
Tel. (66) 02-6291417 , 2811085 Fax. (66) 02-6294015