Since early history, Thailand’s population has been about 95% Buddhist and many are of the Theravada school. The religion is comprised of unique and creative practices, as well as complex traditions of beliefs. Thai Buddhism is said to largely come from the Pali Buddhist Canon, but other influences have made an impact on the religion over the years, such as animistic beliefs and Hindu influences.
At times throughout history, Buddhism has waned in Thailand, so a revival was needed from time to time. Monks that were quite versed in the revised Canon went to Thailand to teach the religion and get people stirred up once again. In fact, Sri Lankan and reordained Thai monks made their way into Southern Thailand in Nakorn Sri Dhammaraja to spread the news and became well known in the area.
Thai Buddhism has been flourishing since royalty began infiltrating the Order, but it hasn’t always been so. In the 1830’s, Prince Mongkut was not pleased with the way Buddhism was headed and decided to reform according to the way he believed it should be. He believed his interpretation of the Canon was the correct interpretation and in time it led to the beginning of the new order called Thammayut. He questioned things such as the sacred space at the temple grounds and the need for chanting and wearing robes. Though not everyone accepted this new order, it did become quite popular.
Those who want to become monks in Thai Buddhism enter a temple and put a lot of time into meditation. They also have the option of going to a city and studying Buddhist curriculum at a school setting. The monks study three grades that teach Buddhist doctrine and scriptures, as well as the rules of the Sangha bureaucratic order. Nine levels of Pali language are studies as well.
In addition to this, there is the Sangha education system available for those who would like to study religious studies and may not have the money to attend the higher education models. There are centers at the Mahamakut Buddhist University, Wat Bovornives, and the Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University.
Thai Buddhism is still a major influence in Thailand, but with the media now able to broadcast negative occurrences easily, some followers have chosen to fall away due to some negative incidents. Still, for the most part, the Thailand population seeks to follow Thai Buddhism and live a life of happiness and contentment.
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