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The Influence of Mahayana on Buddhadasa’s Thought
By Shih You Fang
Thailand is a Theravada Buddhist country. They preserve the tradition of
Buddhist teaching. Theravada lineages in Thailand separate into two lineages are
Maha nikaya and Dhammayutti nikaya. Maha nikaya establish by King
Ramkhomheng in Sukhothai period. Dhammayutti Nikaya establishes by Rama IV
Rattanakosin period. From the introduction in above we can see, Thai King
emphasizes on Buddhist tradition. Thus Buddhism in Thailand can able to develop
and spread very fast. Moreover from the influence of Thai king made Thai people
follow to practice the teaching of Theravada. Now, the tradition and teaching of
Theravada Buddhist harmonies into Thai people life.
The next issue I would like to present the Thai Theravada monk who has the
more influence and movement into Thai Theravada. That Thai Sangkha is
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. He is a philosophy monk in Thailand. In addition, Buddhadsa
is accepted by the UNESCO. The UNECO honor him is the benefiter of Buddhism
and importance person in the world. The interesting, he not only is accepted by
UNESCO, but he apply the concept of Mahayana in Thailand. He base on the concept
teaching in Chan School, especially the teaching of Chan Master Hui-Neng Chan and
Master Huang-Bo in the land of Theravada. Buddhadasa create the new movement for
Thai Buddhism. He develops the teaching style of Thai Theravada in news version.
He opens Thai people heart more understand the difference teaching in difference
Buddhist school or religious.
Therefore in this thesis I present Thai Buddhist history including Buddhadasa
biography and the influence of Mahayana Teaching on his thought.
Key Word
Buddhadasa, the concept of Mahayana, one mind and essential mind
A Brief Background of Thai Theravada
The Buddhist history background in Thailand separate into four periods.
1. Theravada Buddhism during the reign of Emperor Asoka
2. Mahayana period
3. Theravada in Pukam (
4. Thai Theravada in Langavong School (
In each period present how Buddhism come into Thailand. And How Theravada
Buddhism has the most important in Thailand including how the teaching of
Theravada has the most influence in Thai people.
Furthermore, I explain the history background of Mahayana in Thailand. This
issue is interesting. Because of once a time the influence of Mahayana is very popular
in Southern of Thailand but the development of Mahayana Buddhism is not continues
to develop.
A Brief of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand
Buddhism was the state religious of Thailand. Thai Theravada in today was the
introduction of King Rama-Khamheng () who established Sukhodaya
kingdom ( ) (13th -15th centuries AD) 1 and greatly expanded the
ideology of Theravada Buddhism of Ceylonese lineage (!"), due to the king
learned the attitude of Theravada Buddhism from the Sri Lanka monk who propagated
the teaching of Theravada Buddhism in Nakon Srithammaraj (#!$) 2
thereafter he invited this monk came to Sukhodaya ( ) and offered the title of
Sangharaja (Ruler of the order) to leader of the monks. King Rama Khamheng was
the first monarch in Thailand who raised Buddhism to the status of state religion in
the Sukhodaya kingdom. Moreover for help the reader understand more the religious
belief on Thai Theravada in Sukhothai ( ). I present the description in the
stone-throne.3 That recorded the situation and religious belief of Thai Theravada
Buddhism in Sukhothai era ( ). The inscription says,
Hazar Lal Kanai, Thailand: Political Historty and Buddhist Culture Influence , p.445
Some of background material of Buddhism in Sukhothai ( ) I also explain it in chapter I
(Background materail)
King Rama Khomheng ordered to build a stone-throne on the ground surrounded by palm
trees at the center place of capital and requested the monks to sit on it and to preach the
sermons to people on holiday.
“People in this state of Sukhodaya are inclined towards charity and to observe
the precepts. King Rama Khamheng of Sukhodaya as well as his household and his
court… men or women, they all have the faith in the religion of Buddha.”4
In the other inscription says,
“Rama Khamheng sought to be ruler and lord over all the Thais, to be preceptor
and instructor to all the Thais, to know true virtue and righteousness”.5
From these inscriptions we can see the Sukhodaya era, King Rama Khamheng
() emphasized to adopt the morality of Buddhism organized Thai
society and political therefore Thai people obtained the ideology of Buddhist morality
from there era. The ideology of Theravada Buddhism has the strong relation with Thai
society, specially the ideology of morality.
Next I move on King Lithai (O "P ) (1347-1374AD) 6 who ruled the
Sukhodaya kingdom after King Rama Khomheng was succeed and acquired him to
Pra MahaDhammaraja (O!$) for his contribution to development
Buddhism. He created Sukhothai kingdom ( ) was the Buddhist center.7
He adopted the teaching of Buddhism in Sukhothai kingdom ( ). Base
on History of Siam that present the Buddhism contributions of the king who attempted
to propagate the Buddhist expansions to the neighbors’ kingdoms as Muang
Srisadchanalai (Q#$ ), Muang Pidsanulok (Q"R), Muang
Kampengpet (Q$), Muang Pra-Bang (QO
)8. King Lithai
was the expert of Tripitaka thus he wrote a treatise called Tebhumikatha
(PSTU"O)9 (Sermon in the Three worlds), that described the three planes of
existence in Buddhist cosmology and the karma leading to Sukhodaya kingdom.
Furthermore King Lithai (RS" "P ) welcomed a Sri Lanka monk, Phra Mahasvami
Sangkaraja10 (O#V$) to pass the rainy season (the Buddhist lent) in a
newly constructed in the mango grove (WXYO). Thereafter King Lithai
(RS" "P ) ordained to the monkhood for a temporary period, he was the first Thai
King to do so11. King Lithai (RS" "P ) vowed as “in the future he want to become
the Bodhisattva. He made a vow as help sentient beings go to Nirvana”. He also said
“the king should to enter the monkhood for learn the Buddhist scriptures because this
is a characteristic of King”.12 Moreover King Lithai interpreted the ten royal precepts
Hazar Lal Kanai, Thailand: Political Historty and Buddhist Culture Influence, p. 361
Ibid., p.362
Hazar Lal Kanai, Thailand: Political Historty and Buddhist Culture Influence, p. 369
Sitthithanyakij Paladisai, History of Siam, p.462
Ibid., p.464
Ibid., p. 462
Ibid., p. 463
Yoshinori Takeuchi, Buddhist Spirituality : Indian Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese,
Sitthithayakit, Pladisai (W" "!"!c"). History of Siam, p.413
("!$!)13 for organized Sukodaya Kingdom. The rule of Buddhist precepts
became very popular in Thailand and the present day the king in Thai Kingdom also
applied these precepts for organized the kingdom. From this background it presented
Thailand from the past to present always adopted the Buddhism morality to organize
kingdom, in order to Thai people have the ideology of Buddhist morality, especially
the concept of karma and merit.
The next kingdom was Ayudhya kingdom ( ! ) (1733-1758).
Ayuddhaya ( ! ) inherited the Theravada Buddhism from Sukhothai ( ) and
Buddhism in this period continued to play important role as the national religion and
the source of morality. When Ayudhya was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767, King
Tak Sin (OdS") was able to liberate the Thai kingdom and established the
newly kingdom called Thonburi (!
)# . 14 King Tak Sin (OdS") tried to
restore Buddhism to its former state and undo the damage of the war. Buddhism in
Thailand continued to stabilize and prosperity to Bangkok period15 ( S").
The Rattanakosin Kingdom (S") established by King Rama I16, who
founded the Bangkok as the capital. The Buddhist contributions of King Rama I, he
sponsored a Buddhist Council, which produced a standard, purified Pali Tipitaka
written on corypha palm leaves17. Many of the major monasteries of Bangkok were
built at his command, and the study and practice of Buddhism were encouraged. The
next, I move on King Rama IV (King Mongkut) who had the more influence Thailand
Buddhism. He was the first king who created a new nikaya in Thai Theravada during
his twenty-seven years of monastic life which was Dhammayuttika nikaya thus Thai
Theravada became to have the two sect, Dhammayutiika nikaya and Mahanikaya.
Subsequent King Rama V (Chulalongkorn) (1868-1910), continued to the tradition of
The ten royal precepts
1. Dana: liberality, generosity or charity.
2. Sila: morality - a high moral character.
3. Comfort Pariccaga: Making sacrifices if they are for the good of the people - personal
name and fame; even the life if need be.
4. Ajjava: Honesty and integrity. He must be absolutely straightforward and must never take
recourse to any crooked or doubtful means to achieve his ends.
5. Maddava: Kindness or gentleness.
6. Tapa: Restraint of senses and austerity in habits. Shunning indulgence in sensual
pleasures, an ideal monarch keeps his five senses under control.
7. Akkodha: Non-hatred. The ruler should bear no grudge against anybody.
8. Avihimsa: non-violence. Not only should he refrain from harming anybody but he should
also try to promote peace and prevent war, when necessary.
9. Khanti: Patience and tolerance.
10. Avirodha: Non - opposition and non-enmity.
Takeuchi, Buddhist Spirituality : Indian Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese, p.110
Poraminthara Mahachakri Boromanat, Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke the Great.
O! Wlmn$)
Yoshinori Takeuchi, Buddhist Spirituality : Indian Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese,
Ibid., p.110
royal support for Buddhism.
He found the two Buddhisnt academies,
Mahachulalongkorn-rajavidyalaya of the Mahanikaya , which later developed into
Buddhist Universities, and he initiated the first printing of the Pali Tipitaka in Thai
script. The public education in Thailand was formerly organized in monasteries.
Monasteries performed the function of school, college, and university. The parents
who want their children to be the educated in literary or the vocation knowledge had
to bring them to the monasteries, which served as both lodgings and place of study.
The modern system of education in Thailand in began in the Rama V, thus Buddhist
monks in Thailand still have some role to play in national education.
From these background, it present the teaching of Buddhism, have a closely
relationships with Thai society, Thai education and Thai people. The institutions of
Thailand adopted the Buddhist teaching to organize the systematic of Thai society.
The King of Thai Kingdom used the Buddhist morality to rule Thai people. Therefore
Thai people also have the beliefs of Buddhist morality from the influence of King.
Thai people believed the karma, the merits, the precepts and the incarnation of life.
According to Buddhist Spirituality describe the relations between Thai society and
Buddhist morality as.
“Thai people are inseparably connected with Buddhism from birth to death.
When a child is born, the parents approach a monk for auspicious name for him.
Children are taught to pray and to pay homage to the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma,
Sangha) before going to bed, and to pay respect to monks. Many Buddhist families
give food to the monks every morning; this is regarded as a way of accumulating
merit and fulfills the duty of lay Buddhists to support the monks who preserve the
Buddha’s teaching for the world.”20
I present the conceptions of Buddhist morality and the background of Thai
Theravada because I would like to present the relationship of Buddhism and Thai
kingdom. The second I would like to present how the teaching of Buddhism influence
Thai society and Thai people.
From Sukhothai Kingdom ( ) to the present day, Theravada
Buddhism has been influencing the Thai politics, Thai culture, Thai tradition, Thai
Ibid., p.111
Yoshinori Takeuchi, Buddhist Spirituality : Indian Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese,
Yoshinori Takeuchi, Buddhist Spirituality : Indian Southeast Asian, Tibetan, Early Chinese,
p. 111
education and the daily life. Thus as seen from Thai history, it had been affected by
Theravada and Mahayana School and the teachings of Theravada and Mahayana.
Now, Thailand is known as “the Land of Yellow Robes”. It is now the only
country in the world where “the king is constitutionally stipulated to be a Buddhist.21”
Buddhism still exists and plays its vital role in Thailand. About 90 per cent of Thai
people are Buddhists. They have accepted its philosophy very much and try to follow
it with great devotion. But Thai Buddhism can not develop to the present day if we
exclude the role of the Thai Sangha spreading the Buddha’s teachings. Buddhadasa
Bhikkhu was one of Thai Sangha members, who reformed the Buddha’s teachings
into a modernist. He adopted the teaching of Mahayana and Thai Theravada. For
harmonize the relationship between Thai Theravada and Mahayana School. That was
the new reformation of Thai Buddhism.
The Background of Mahayana Buddhism in Thailand
This chapter shows a brief historical background of Mahayana Buddhism in
Thailand. It will guide us in understanding the influence of Mahayana in Thailand.
According to Buddhism in Thailand the beginning of Mahayana Buddhism started in
the Ai-Lao Kingdom (d ) of Thais that located in the province of
Yunnan22. Khun-Lhuang-Mao (d) was King of Ai-Lao (d ).
The Mahayana Buddhism that entered Thailand came from Emperor of Han dynasty
(漢明帝)23. In addition, it was the first time that Thai people became to honor
Mahayana Buddhism24.
In the seventh century, the influence of Mahayana Buddhism from Srivijaya
Kingdom (#"$ ) expanded to Southern Thailand influencing of arts, and
stupas.25 Based on the History of Siam (XOS"SP ), French historian George
Coedes described the stone inscription at Sema temple (W) in
Nakorn-Sri-Thammaraj (#!$) (southeast Thailand) and confirmed the
Hazra Lal Kanai, Thailand Politic History and Buddhist Cultural Influences, p.339
Khun Lhuang Mao was the first of Thai King. Base on the history of Siam. The Ai Lao
kingdom also was the first Thai Kingdom. It located in Yunnan. The Siamese believed the
ancestor of Thais immigration from China to Thailand. Bodhinantha Sathien, Buddhism in
Thailand, p.20
In the present day Ai-Lao Kingdom states on the highland of Ko-Raj (#o
U$) in the
North-East Thailand. Dhanapon Somwang, The third wave of Buddhism
(O!pQoU#o), p.12
Ibid., p. 13
In the seventh to thirteenth century Srivijaya ruled by Batalaputra the King of Sailendra
dynasty. Srivijaya obtained the influence of Vajrayana.
center of Srivijaya Kingdom (#"$ ) (seventh – thirteenth century) located
in the Palembang (Xr
) of the Sumatra Island in Indonesia26. The other one was
an English historian who stated the center of Srivijaya was Chaiya (P$ ) because
the territories of Srivijaya Kingdom (#"$ ) covered from Malay Peninsula, and
Lhampho (!")s in Phurieng (# ), in Chaiya (P$ ) sub-district, Surat-Thani
(Rt!#) provice in southern Thailand.27 Based on History of Siam, Srivijaya
(#"$ ) had been a trade route with India. Srivijaya Kingdom (#"$ )
obtained the cultures and the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism from India. Srivijaya
(#"$ ) had contacted with Pala Kingdom (8th -12th century). 28 The Pala kingdom in
which, was in good relation with Sailendra dynasty of Java, Sumatra and Malaya
(which was Srivijaya (#"$ ) territory on Sailendra dynasty) through the trade route,
as seen in the following diagram:29
Figure 3.1_1 The Map of Srivijaya Empire30
Moreover Srivijaya established several temples in Nalanda. King Balaputra of
Sailendra dynasty supported Mahayana Buddhism in the Pala Kingdom by
establishing the temple in Nalanda for pilgrims who traveled from Malay Peninsula to
India. This situation was recorded in the cooper plate in Nalanda31.
Most of Srivijaya Mahayana Buddhist arts obtained more influence from Pala
such as the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Mahayana Buddhist deities, stupas, etc. Those
who helped us to understand that Srivijaya extended his authority brought the
influence of Mahayana to southern Thailand. The archaeological evidences showed
Sitthithayakit Pladisai (W" "!"!c"), History of Siam, p.248
Ibid., p.249
Pala Kingdom covered to the northern and eastern in India and mainly of Pala was Bihar
and Bengal The founder of Pala was Gopala. He was the first independent Buddhist king of
Sitthithayakit, Pladisai (W" "!"!c"). History of Siam, p.156
Sitthithayakit, Pladisai (W" "!"!c"). History of Siam, p.150
Ibid., p.351
Mahayana School prospered in southern Thailand. One is the stupa which the Thais
call “Phra Mahadhatu” (O!S) which shows the propagation of Mahayana
Buddhism. The structure of Phra-Mahadhatu (O!S) was similar with
Pha-Boromdhatu Chaiya (O
!SP$ ) was located on the sub-district of
(Rt!#) in southern Thailand. 32 Phra-Boromdhatu Chaiya
!SP$ ) was one of the Srivichai arts. The structure of Phra-Boromdhatu
Chaiya (O
!SP$ ) was Sikra (#O) (referred as mountain). 33 It established
following to the ideology of Mahayana. History of Siam conferred that structure of
Mahayana stupas constructed the several stupa on the top because they believed that
interpretation the existence of several Buddha.34
Figure1: Phra Mahadhatu35
Figure2: Phra Boromdhatu Chaiya
!SP$ )36
Although Phra-Mahadhatu (O!S) was Theravada style, in the early
structure of Phra-Mahadhatu belonged to the Mahayana style of art. It was similar the
Phra-Boromdhatu Chaiya (O
!SP$ ).37
Next, we move on to the Bodhisattva images such as Avalokitesvara that were
found in Chaiya (P$ ) of southern Thailand.
The original of Phra-Mahadhatu (O!S) was similar the structure of Phra-Mahadhatu
Chaiya (O
!SP$ ), which have the several tops. Follow to the belief of Mahayana
Buddhism. See figures 3. Kanai Lal Hazra, Thailand Political and Buddhist Cultural Influence,
Sitthithayakit, Pladisai (W" "!"!c"). History of Siam, p. 250
Ibid., p. 250
The picture of Phra- Mahadhatu shows the archeology in ancient city of Sumud Phrakarn
Phra Boromdhatu Chaiya it was clear the influence of Mahayana prospered into Chaiya
(P$ ).
The original Phra-Mahadhatu (O!S) was eroded and required restoration. In the
eighteenth century, it was restored to Theravada style. The influence of Theravada Buddhism,
then in Ceylon, began to influence the Thai Buddhism and the Mahayana Buddhism
decreased in popularity.
Figure 3:Avalokitesvara
Figure 6:Nang Junta
Figure 4:Avalokitesvara
Figure 7:Phra Pim
Figure 5:Nang Tara
The pictures above proved the development of Mahayana Buddhist in southern
Thailand. The four,five are the Avalokritesvara39 Bodhisattva discovered in Chaiya
(P$ ) and Punpin (") the sub-district of Surat-Thani (Rt!#). The
Avalokritesvara Bodhisattva was part of the Srivijaya art around 13-15 century. Other
Avalokritesvara Thai archaeologists discovered Nang Tara (S) and Nang Junta
(v) (the deity of Vajra Bodhisattva) in Chaiya (P$ ). Nang Tara (S)
and Nang Junta (v) was the Srivijaya art around 13-16 century. Furthermore
the Buddha images in southern Thailand referred to the votive tablet as Phra Pim
(O") (Figure 8) ‘an object made of raw-clay bearing the figure of the
bodhisattva and the Buddha on its surface’40. From these were clearly it suggest
another capital of Sailendra dynasty was Chaiya.
Furthermore in 1002 to 1182 A.D. kings belonging to the Suryavarman dynasty
ruled supreme in Cambodia. The king adherents the influence of Mahayana Buddhism
from Srivijaya kingdom thus when their empire extended the authority over the whole
of present-day Thailand, they brought the influence of Mahayana spread in Thailand.
The expansions of Mahayana Buddhism in Thailand are influenced from China,
Srivijaya kingdom and Suryavarman dynasty. All of these brought the beliefs and the
Chaithongdee Pattrapon, THE HERITAGE OF SIAM, p. 55-58
Avalokritesvara in the picture four achieved the influence of Pala Art, the Avalokritesvara in
Chaiya (P$ ) engraved by Pala artist.
Hazra Lal Kanai, Thailand Politic History and Buddhist Cultural Influences, p.350
ideology of Mahayana expended to Thailand. We can see from the Buddhist antiques
in southern Thailand. Although from these background show the appearance in
southern Thailand have the several of Mahayana antiques and the belief of several
Buddha and Bodhisattva but it do not show how these kingdom spread the teaching of
Mahayana in Thailand and what kind of the teaching of Mahayana their adopted it in
The Background of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
Buddhadasa (1906-1993) was an important Thai Sangkha. He spent all of his life
researching Buddhist scriptures, the Pali Tripitaka and the teaching of Buddhism in
other schools, because he wanted to develop and open up Thai Theravada.
Buddhadasa was the first Thai Sangkha who cut through many beliefs, habits of
thought and the old traditions in Thai Theravada.41 In 1940 Buddhadasa was invited
by The Buddhist Association of Thailand (!XOP ), to give talks in
Bangkok. He described the concept of Buddha Tham (!!). Buddha Tham
helped beings become to Buddha. That was the new attitude in Buddhadasa period.
Moreover Buddhadasa stood to give dharma talks. Thai Sangkhas sit on the seat to
give dharma talks, which we call “Tham-Mas” (!). From both of situations,
Buddhadasa attempted to transform the teaching style in Thai Theravada.
Although Buddhadasa enhanced Thai Theravada into a modernist, he also kept
the original thought of Buddhism during the time of the Buddha period. Thai people
began to emphasize and understand more of the core of the Buddha’s doctrine.
Furthermore Buddhadasa translated the meaning in Sutra Pitaka and Vinaya Pitaka
from Pali into Thai language. He was a researcher of Pali commentaries in Thailand.
He also translated Pali chanting into Thai language, called The Chanting Translation
of Suan Mokkh (WSX
)42 which helped Thai people understand
the meaning of Pali chanting. Most of his works were translated from Thai to other
languages as well, such as French, Chinese, English, and German and so on.
Furthermore he established the temple in Surat Thani province (WRt!#),
Suan Mokkh Palalam (), and established The International of Suan
Mokkh ($S") for foreigners. However Buddhadasa emphasized to
support the Buddhism expansion into worldwide. That was the beginning of transform
in Thai Theravada.
Thammapramod, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, p.135
Thammapramod (!X ) , Buddhadasa Bikkbhu, p. 14
Buddhadasa was the first Thai Shangkha. He adopted the teaching of Mahayana
teaching into his works, and Thai Theravada43. Buddhadasa translated the Mahayana
text from English version into Thai language. The famous translations on Buddhadasa
are The Platform Sutra 《 六 祖 壇 經 》 (we called The Wei-lang Sutra)
(US ) and The Teaching of Huang Po《黃檗山斷際禪師傳心法要》
(xX). 44 He helped Thai people open up their attitudes to understand the
Buddha teachings into the difference of Buddhist Schools. Base on Thai scholar
Religious Movements in Contemporary Thai written by Suwanna Satha-Anand
( ), she stated Buddhadasa was the first monk who adopted
Mahayana Buddhism into Thai Theravada as seen in the following,
Buddhadasa was also the first Thai Theravada thinker who explicitly used
materials from Mahayana and Chan traditions for his own teaching. He used the
Mahayanist concept of "emptiness" as one of his key concepts in interpreting
Buddhism for his Theravada Thai audience. He asserted, for example, that the
"empty mind" is the central realization of Buddhist Dharma in practice, which
can be authenticated in the immediate experience of here and now. Thus, he
brought the Buddhist ideal into the empirical realm, and this should not be
understood as some faraway state in a never-never land as seems to be the case
in traditional Thai teachings.45
Therefore Buddhadasa was the first Thai Sangha who emphasized the teaching
of Mahayana and propagated it into Thai Theravada.
In addition Buddhadasa studied the teaching of other religions into Thai
Theravada. For example, Buddhadasa published “The Teaching of Christianity and
Buddhism.” Subsequent, gave a series of talks at Suan Mokkh () published
as The Essence of Christianity as Far as Buddhists Should Know and so on. He
wanted to harmony the relationship between Thai Theravada and other religions.46
According to Sor Srivalak (. "R), Thai writer said. “Buddhadasa was the first Thai
Sangha who emphasized the teaching of Mahayana. Buddhadasa adopted the conception of
the original mind, the Bodhisattva spirit and emptiness in Thai Theravada. Ibid., p.134
The Platform Sutra, Buddhadasa translated in Thai version called The Wei-Lang Sutra.
This paragraph is modified from JSTOR (Asian Survey, Vol. 30, No. 4 Apr., 1990),
Suwanna Satha-Anand, Religious Movements in Contemporary, p. 398
It was purpose of propagation on Buddhadsa. According to Santikaro Bhikkhu, the disciple
of Buddhadasa stated the vows of Buddhadasa.
1. Coursea which introduce foreigners to the correct understanding of Buddhist principle
and practice.
2. Meetings among the Buddhist from around the world to establish and agree upon the
“heart of Buddhism”.
3. Meeting leaders from all religions for the sake of making mutual good and cooperation to
drag the world out from under the tyranny of materialism. Therefore Buddhadasa also
Buddhadasa not only emphasized the harmony of religions, he also the harmony of
Thai society. He presented his idea through out The Dhammic Socialism
(!"" ).47 In 1993 Buddhadasa passed away. Thai Theravada remembered
him as the Buddhist philosopher who contributed for Thai Theravada. In 2006, the
UNESCO honored Buddhadasa as an important person of the world and a benefiter of
This thesis allows us understand the background of Thai Theravada and the
background of Mahayana in Thailand. Moreover it allows us to understand how the
teaching of Mahayana influence Buddhadasa thought.
The influence of Mahayana Buddhism on Buddhadasa’s Thought
Buddhadasa was Theravada monk. He extended the teaching of Mahayana in
Thailand. This movement of Buddhadasa is very interesting for Thai Theravada.
According to Buddhadsa Bhikhu that described, Buddhadasa emphasized the core of
Buddhist teaching. He spent the time on Buddhist scripture research. Subsequently he
researched the teaching of Buddhist Schools. 49 For example the teaching of
Mahayana, the teaching of Chan School, the teaching of Vajrayana ($ ), all of
these Buddhadasa very emphasized the teaching of Chan School. The teaching of
Chan School related to the sudden of enlightenment. Buddhadasa said, “The teaching
of Chan School let people realization samatha (O) and vipassana ("X}) in the
same moment.50 Chan School used the question of Gong-An (公案).51 Gong-An (公
案) let the people concentrated to one question. Thereafter the people are able to
enlighten from Koan. The teaching of Gong-An (公案) made Buddhadasa interested
emphasized the teaching on other religions.
The term 'Dhammic Socialism' was coined by Buddhadasa in the late 1960’s in response to
the growing political polarization in Southeast Asia. During this time Buddhist monks were
routinely threatened into refraining from political comment, a silencing compounded by
decades of cultural belief persuading most monks that politics and other ‘worldly affairs’ were
none of their concern.
UNESCO honored him as the contributor who bestowed his life for propagation Buddhism
and the peace of world. Bhikkhu Buddhadsa, Phasa-Khon Phasa-Tham, p.72
Thammapramod, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, pp.11-12
Samatha control the mind free from delusion of thoughts. Vipassana let the mind liberated
from suffering. Ibid., p.11
Koan is generally some statement made by an old Chan master, or some answers of his
given to a questioner.
Barrett William, Chan Buddhism, p.159
in the teaching of Chan School.52 Therefore Buddhadadasa adopted the teaching of
Chan School in “The Spiritual Theater” ("cc). He interpreted it through
out Chan art. For example the ten ox picture, Buddhadasa presented it in Suan Mokkh
(). 53 He also translated it into Thai language. Furthermore he adopted the
ten ox pictures in Thailand54. Buddhadasa adopted it to decrease the problem of
Theravada and Mahayana in Thailand. In the last of this picture explain to the concept
of emptiness.
Figure 1 Sunyata W
X Pd
ppUd Qoƒ„‚ „
"#oS Qo" "o#c55
Return to help other: The enlightened has renounced all selflessly help others.56
We look from the presentation of the last picture. It present to the concept of
emptiness. That is the meaning of oneness. Buddhadasa presented the ten ox pictures
in Thai Theravada. This is the intellectual of interpretation. “Emptiness” can combine
all of concepts. And all of things are not separate from emptiness.
The follow influence of Mahayana on Buddhadasa is the Chan translations. He
translated The Platform Sutra (US ) and The teaching of Huang-Bo
(xX) from English to Thai language. Both of these translations is
influenced the interpretation of Buddhadasa. He began to interpret the teaching of
Platform Sutra (US ) and The teaching of Huang-Bo (xX) in
Thai Theravada. Buddhadasa interpreted the teaching of original face on through out
The Background of Hinayana and Mahayana (!"X…O). The
Thammapramod, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, p.11
The ten ox pictures are the important interpretation of Chan Teaching.
I show the ten ox pictures in the appendix.
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, The Background of Theravada and Mahayana, p.106
Ma Lizhuang, Rauterberg Matthias, Nakatsu Ryohei and International Federation for
Information, Entertainment Computing - ICEC 2007, p.81
Teaching of Huang-Po, he interpreted it through out Pathakkatha Buddha Tham
(X†!!). Both of these teaching I interpret on the Chan translations by
The essence of mind
Buddhadasa interpreted the core of Buddhist teaching. The motivation of
Buddhism helps the sentient beings liberation from suffering. Although Buddhism has
the difference Buddhist Schools, the motivation is similar. Buddhadasa compare it
with the light. The color of light can be difference. The illumination is similar. Thus
the purpose of Mahayana and Hinayana are similar. The teachings both of schools
bring the wisdom to sentient beings. And help the sentient beings free from
attachment. The main point of this explanation is what human beings want. The most
influence on the desire of human beings is self-centerness (atta). Therefore Buddhada
emphasized on the teaching of essence mind in Platform Sutra.
Buddhadasa reconciled the understanding of Hinayana and Mahayana in Thai
Theravada. Thus he adopted the teaching essence of mind interpretation The
Background of Hinayana and Mahayana.57 In this interpretation Buddhadasa used
the concept of original face (dSW‚W"). Buddhadasa said “the original face is
purity, tranquility and illuminations. It is the purity of nature.” He also supported this
conception. If you are able to realize the original face, The Buddha, Bodhisattva and
Arhat will complete by itself.58 Buddhadasa reinterpreted the concept of the original
face. The essence of mind interprets to the principle of nature. And all of things have
the principle of nature.
Buddhadasa interpreted the concept of essence of mind. This concept helps Thai
Theravada to understand the main idea of The Platform Sutra. Buddhadasa help Thai
laities transformation their attitude. He lead Thai laities understand the core of
Buddhism. It is not look at the external things.59 And reject the teaching of Mahayana
or other religious.
The Teaching of One Mind
The individual of development in Thai Theravada, it is from the Buddhist
reformation of Buddhadasa. He used the new interpretation in various ideas.
Moreover, he opened the Thai Theravada attitude to the modernist. Because he saw
most of Thai people did not understand the core of Buddha teaching. They only know
Buddhadasa explained Background of Hinayana and Mahayana in Thai Theravada.
1. Open the attitude of Thai Theravada.
2. To understand the background and the teaching of Mahayana
3. To Decrease the contradiction between Hinayana and Mahayana in Thai Theravda.
Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, The back ground of Hinayana and Mahayana, p.80
I mean separate the teaching of Mahayana and Hinayana.
the concept of moral, the merits, karma, the state of nirvana, the cycle of suffering and
non-self.60 Buddhadasa adopted the interpretation of Chan teaching in Thailand. He
also interpreted the teaching of one mind. That relate to the concept of emptiness.
The concept of one mind contradicts to the teaching of Anatta in Thai
Theravada. 61 I assume that the teaching of one mind is the skillful mean applied in
the Mahayana. Therefore the one mind in Chan School uses for interpretation the
concept of emptiness. Next I assume Buddhadasa also reinterpreted the teaching of
one mind Thai Theravada. He wanted to let Thai Theravada emphasis on the
conception of emptiness.
Base on Theerathat (!#) who was the Mahayana translator in Thailand. He
said “Buddhadasa very emphasized the conception of emptiness. Buddhadsa was the
beginner of Theravada monk who interpreted the conception of emptiness in Thai
Theravada. In Thai Theravada, there are understand only the conception of anatta
(non-self). Buddhadasa interpreted the conception of emptiness. For support the
teaching of anatta in Thai Theravada”62. Buddhadasa wanted to cut out the limit of
Thai attitude. He supported the development of Thai Theravada in a modernist. The
interpretation of emptiness is very important for Thai Theravada. The Buddhist laities
should to realize the core of Buddha teaching. If Thai people realize the concept of
emptiness, Thai Theravada will be more develop than the past.
I conclude the teaching of one mind through out the interpretation of diagram. It
present to the influence of Mahayana on Buddhadasa’s thought. And help the reader
more understand the structure of content in this topic (the influence of Mahayana on
Buddhadasa’s thought).
For the state of Nirvana, Thai laities realize as the great state of heaven.
Jackson Peter, Buddhadasa: A Buddhist Thinker For The Modern World, p. 218
Pattamapad Thamrong ( ! X}T), Buddhadasa and Mahayana (Chan)
(ƒr), p. 15
The Background of
The Teaching of
Srivichai in Chaiya
Chan School
The Image of
The Spiritual Theater
in Suan Mookh
The Ethic of
Gong-An (
Shi Niu Tu (
The Platform Sutra
The teaching of
Diagram 1: Show the influence of Mahayana on Buddhadasa’s thought
Analyze The Teaching of One Mind And The Interpretation of Anatta
By Buddhadasa.
Buddhadasa apply the teaching of one mind into the explanation of anatta. The
teaching of anatta is the core teaching of Theravada. The Teaching of Huang-Bo not
explained anatta. Chan Master Huang-Bo explains the concept of one mind. Thus how
buddhadasa apply the concept of one mind into the teaching of anatta. In this topic I
base on this question to analyze it.
According to Buddhadasa: A Buddhist Thinker For The Modern World
maintains the thought of Thai Theravada as the aspects of suffering may be softened if
not end through another’s benevolent assistance rather than through one’s own moral
effort and spiritual insight.63
Buddhadasa emphasize on teaching of emptiness and anatta. He knows the
practice of moral that is not the final goal of spiritual practice. The purpose of
explanation of Buddhadsa penetrated the core of Buddha teaching. Thus he applies
the teaching of Mahayana into Thai Buddhism. Base on the philosopher, Peter
Jackson, described the interpretation of Mahayana on Buddhadasa.
The ideas Buddhadasa has borrowed from Chan all fit into the pattern of his
reformist ideology, and they all buttress his attempts to develop a modernist
interpretation of Buddhism64.
Suwanna Stha-anan ( ) Thai scholar said “Buddhadasa present
the Buddhist teaching very perfectly, because he approaches the philosophy
explanation the core of Buddhism”.65 Thus Thai Theravada can able to develop the
explanation of Buddhist teaching in difference way.
The teaching of one mind
Base on The Teaching of Huang-Po, one mind is Buddha Yoni (! ").66 It is
completely from form. Buddhas and sentient beings do not differ at all. They also
have the purity of nature. If you can rid yourselves of conceptual thought, you will
have accomplished everything.67 The description of one mind explains to the original
of nature. It exists in this world before every things arising. It also exists with
everything. Indeed the conception of one mind, it is the illusion. One mind is
emptiness. From this point Chan master Huang-Po interpreted it to the reality world.
It can not rid from emptiness. Emptiness is the fundamental of reality. Chan master
Huang-Po gave the example of emptiness as the general who has the pearl on his head.
He dose not understand the pearl stick to his head. Thus he also searches it in a long
time. If someone talks to him, the pearl stick to his head. That moment he also stops
to search it. Therefore if you do not realize the mind is the Buddha nature. You
Jackson Peter, Buddhadasa: A Buddhist Thinker For The Modern World, p.259
Jackson Peter, Buddhadasa: A Buddhist Thinker For The Modern World, p.228
Stha-anan Suwanna, Mahayana Buddhism in Buddhadasa’s Philosophy
), p.10
Buddha Nature.
Blofeld John, The Teaching of Huang-Po: On The Transmission of Mind, p.33
continue to search it in everywhere68. The important thing is your enthusiasm, it is not
accomplished. Actually the fundamental of the world can not rid from emptiness. The
conception of emptiness is not the ideology of dualism. So it is not existence. It is not
extinction. It is the rule of transformation. In order to if the sentient beings can realize
the transformations. Do not follow to the rule of transformations. You only stay with it.
Realize it. And free from it. In that moment is the presentation of Buddha nature. I
assume the conception of Buddha nature, one mind and emptiness, they are not differs.
But they only use the differ interpretations. Thus Chan master Huang-Po used the
conception of one mind to interpret Buddha nature and emptiness. Furthermore he
continued to interpret the conception of one mind as All Buddhas, Bodhisattavas and
sentient beings have one mind. You not necessary search it. If you continue to search,
you can not see the Buddha nature. Everything is emptiness. And emptiness is
emptiness. Therefore the Buddha said: “I truly attained nothing form complete,
unexcelled enlightenment”69. For help the human beings free from fear that people
would not believe this that Buddha drew upon what is seen with the five sorts of
version and spoken with the five kinds of speech. Accordance with The Diamond That
Cuts Through Illusion: Commentary on the Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra.
Tathagatha have the human eye. Tathagatha have the divine eyes. Tathagatha have the
eyes of transcendent wisdom. And Tathagatha have the Buddha eyes70. Actually the
conception of emptiness can not use the words interpretation, but it realize from the
mind. I show the diagram for interpretation the progress of one mind.
Bhikkhu Buddhadsa, The teaching of Huang-Bo, p.42
Blofeld John, The Teaching of Huang-Po: On The Transmission of Mind, p.38
Hanh Naht Thich, The Diamond That Cuts Through Illusion: Commentary on the
Prajnaparamita Diamond Sutra, p.18
Buddha Nature or one mind
Buddhas and Bodhisattva
Sentient Beings
All Dharma
Diagram 1: The Function of One mind and Buddha Nature
From the diagram it presents the function of one mind and Buddha nature in all
sentient beings. That is the similar. How to say? It starts from mind. All dharmas
include in the mind. And from the mind, the Buddha and bodhisattva realize it. In fact
the mind is one. It is not numerous. Thus I present the diagram in this part. Moreover
it relate The Teaching of Huang-Po
“Dharma original Dharma not Dharma, not dharma also dharma,
Now transmit not dharma, Dharma, dharma how can be dharma.”
“!W"d"p$! Wd "p$! „Q!
!P#‚rU WPXd d!‚OX…!PWd P”71
The Interpretation of Anatta by Buddhadasa
From the interpretation in Chapter III, it is the adaptation of Buddhadasa. He
used the ideology of Chan School for help Thai people understand the concept of
anatta. Due to Buddhadasa research the teaching of Chan School. And he interested
the interpretation of Chan School as the conception of “sudden enlightenment” in
Chan School. Thus I think from this teaching made Buddhadasa adopted it in Thai
Theravada. He interpreted his ideology through out the ideology of “I” and “mine” (in
Thai language we call “Tuo Khu” “Khong Khu” SU U). Buddhadasa interpreted
the conception of anatta to the ideology of emptiness mind (Thai Language call “Cit
Wang "S”). The concept of emptiness mind is the new interpretation on Thai
Theravada. Thai Theravada, they use only the interpretation on anatta. Follow to
This interpretation, I would like more explain it in appendix.
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (S !) it interpreted the ideology of anatta.
“I think Thai people can be realizing the concept of anatta. But they can not
understand it, especially the teaching of sunyata (emptiness) and anatta. I known the
people do not understand these concepts as I hope. Some people understand the
teaching of sunyata but they do not accept it. However in the present day, the
interpretation of sunyata also spread in Thailand.”
“"WXO$$OdpPWd rdpPPWd W ‡OQoccS SS
UdXO$$ PUdQoSS QoccSQ#oPd #oUddP Xˆ"!r# O S„ PrWS‚SS"Wd Qo”
Accordance with the material in Chapter III, I assume most of Thai people have
the belief of Karma, the cycle of suffering. They believe do good actions bring good
results, do bad actions bring bad results (in Thai use Tham Dee Dai Dee, Tham Chua
Dai Chua (W#PWdW# $oPWd$o). From this ideology, Buddhadasa thought it is not the
center of Buddha teaching. It can not help people liberated from suffering. In addition
in increase the ideology of attachment “I” and “mine” (or the idea of atta)
(self-centerness). Buddhadasa gave the explanation of self-centerness as the
fundamental sufferings of sentient beings. Because of self-centerness is mental
disease of sentient beings72. Furthermore the ordinary person can not liberate from it.
Indeed the ordinary persons stay with egoism in each moment. Now, the humans have
the more of selfishness. Buddhadasa gave the methodology to cure the mental disease.
That is return to the fundamental of Buddha teaching and the core teaching of
Buddhism. 73 Therefore Buddhadasa emphasized on the teaching of sunyata and
anatta. Buddhadasa taught Thai people realize the core of Buddhism. That is
everything can not grasping and cling ("o‚XP „W‚Qo) 74 . Buddhadasa
used the story in Machima nikaya ($‰"" ) for explanation the ideology of non
Once day, the man who asked the Buddha question. He said: “The bless one, all
of Buddha vacana if I would like to ask you to conclude it in one sentence, did not?
How did you to explain for me?” Thereafter the Buddha said: “All of things can not
grasping and cling”. ("o‚XP „W‚Qo) The Buddha also said: “if anyone
listen this dharma. As listen the teachings in Buddhism. If practice in this dharma. As
practice the teachings in Buddhism. If obtain the result in this practice. As obtain the
result in Buddhist teachings”.
UO!dW UO!O‚W#oSdOXpd‚# XO
Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, Khan Buddha Sad, pp.17-18
Ibid., pp.17-18
Ibid., p.20
O!dPWdOS"o‚XP „WoQo
dOr ‚PX##„odpPWdl}d#‚rQPWdXˆ"
Š‚Wp!. 75
Buddhadasa used the Pali scripture for support the interpretation of emptiness
mind. It means free from “I” and “mine”. And it is the core of Buddhism. In the next
point, I would like to more interpretation the relationship of one mind and Anatta on
Buddhdasa. Buddhadasa interpreted the conception of one mind and anatta through
out The Way to Reaching Buddha-Tham ("#dU!!). He explained the
meaning of Buddha Tham into two definitions. One means Buddha teaching. Other
one means Tham (dharma !) that help sentient being become to the Buddha. He
emphasized on the definition two. Buddhadasa elucidated the meaning of Buddha
Tham as the oneness discovered by Buddha ("o„oƒ„oO!dd
) and the
normalness of Buddha (XS"TO!d). 76 Buddhadasa explained the
normalness (cRO) as pure nature. All of sentient beings have the state of pure
nature in the mind. The characteristics of everything transform by the rule of nature.
When we contemplate the play of world, that is can not rid from the rule of anatta.77
Buddhadasa also said the characteristic of normalness is more than the thousand of
PWdd "o"S W)
The interpretation of
Buddhadasa in this point as the teaching of Chan master Huang-Po. He also compared
one mind as the sun shine. Huang-Po said:
“You must get away from the teachings of existence and non-existence, for
mind is like the sun, forever in the void, shining spontaneously, shining without
intending to shine.79
In the interpretation of Huang-Po means free from all attachment. If sentient
being practices in this way, it is as the action of all Buddha. For the interpretation of
Buddhadasa, he also explained the shining spontaneously, shining intending to the
oneness. That interpretation the impermanence is suffering. And it is anatta.80 From
the two interpretations of Buddhadasa and Huang-Po have the similar ideas. But they
have the difference interpretation. Huang-Po interpreted the teaching of one mind,
Buddha nature. Buddhadasa did not use the interpretation of one mind or Buddha
nature. He interpreted it to the dharma, that help human beings become to Buddha.
Furthermore he interpreted to the ideology of anatta and sunyata (emptiness).
Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, Khan Buddha Sad, pp. 20-21
Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, Pathakatha Buddha Tham (X†!!), p. 2
Ibid., p.16
Ibid., p.17
Blofeld John, The Teaching of Huang-Po: On The Transmission of Mind, pp. 61-62
Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, Pathakatha Buddha Tham (X†!!), p.17
The Teaching of Huang-Po
The Interpretation of Anatta by
One mind
Buddha Nature
The normalness of Buddha
The enlightenment of Buddhas and
Buddha Tham (!!) helps sentient
beings become to Buddha.
Sentient beings have the suffering from
delusion thought
Sentient being have the suffering from
atta (self-centerness)
The mind, it likes the sun.
The characteristic of normalness, it likes
the sunlight.
The teaching of emptiness
The teaching of anatta and emptiness
Buddhadasa adopted the teaching of Chan to clarify the ideology of anatta in
Thai Theravada. The aims of Buddhadasa are helping Thai people understand the core
of Buddhism. The core of Buddhism it is not rid from the ideology of emptiness and
anatta. The presentation of linguistics are difference, but purpose it not difference
From the background of Buddhism in Thailand (Chapter I and ChapterIII), we
see that Thailand have a much close relationship with Theravada Buddhism more than
Mahayana Buddhism. Most of the influence comes from Thailand King who is the
Buddhist patronage. The teaching of Theravada base on the Pali commentaries, it
emphasize on the tradition practice, especially the practicing on vinaya. Thai monks
usually teach the effort of merits, morals, heaven, hell, and so on. Thus Thai people
emphasizes on the result of merits. Buddhadasa reformed the interpretation of Thai
Theravada. Buddhadasa was the first Thai Theravada monk. He is integrated the
teaching of Mahayana with the teaching of Thai Theravada. He also opened the limit
of attitude on Thai Theravada. He propagates an alternative Thai Buddhist teaching,
but it is a teaching of spiritually independent and socially active layperson, not of the
monastic isolation he himself practices. Thai Theravada necessary to understand the
teaching of Buddha teaching. That combines Thai Theravada in a modernist. If all of
Thai Theravada more understand the concept of emptiness, it will be adopted it into
the development in Thai Theravada. It is as the famous word of Mahayana as
“Because of emptiness, all of things arising” (一空亦故,一切法得成。)I use this
teaching (一空亦故,一切法得成。) to conclude Buddhadasa adopted the teaching of
Mahayana into Thai Theravada.
Now, most of Thai Theravada becomes emphasis the teaching of Mahayana. And
become to research the teaching of Mahayana more than the past. In the background
of thesis material, I also show this point. However the interpretation of Theravada or
Mahayana is the different. The purpose of both Schools also helps the sentient beings
free from suffering. And attain to the salvation. That is reality of equanimity.
Therefore, the motivation of Buddhadasa decreases the problem of Mahayana in Thai
Theravada. And preserve the Buddhism in this world.
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