Questions and Answers on Buddhism in Thailand

1. Do you know how and why Buddhist temple or Sangha or Wats actually come to life? How was the idea of monkhood developed ?
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.
2. Buddhism is said to have started in India. Do you know if Thai Buddhists have any special connection to the land of origin?
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.
3. Do you know in what way the Buddhist order (temple etc.) have changed in the last 10-20 years? Is the life in the Wat still very strict or have many rules been dropped and the situation is more liberal nowadays?
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.
4. Can you say something about a nun situation in Thailand? Why are they so few?
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.
5. What are the different Buddhist school and sect for example Dharmayut in Thailand? Do they fight each other or have conflict?
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.
6. What is the reaction of the monks to the strong western influence (T.V. etc.)? Do monks see the western philosophy negative or positive?
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.
7. What are the different between monks in the country side and in the city?
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.
8. Do you know monk still celebrate the Uposatha recitation of Patimokkha?
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.
9. How famous is Buddhadasa? What are his ideas?
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.