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GLE Orientation presentation
by Laura Johnston
Nov. 12, 2009
[email protected]
Image courtesy
Some facts
 Buddhism is the fifth largest religion in the world. It is based on the
teachings of a man named Siddhatha Gotama, who gave up royal life
in India to live as a monk and achieve enlightenment.
 Some people say that Buddhism is not a religion but rather a
philosophy since the Buddha didn’t consider himself a god.
 There are several branches of Buddhism, two of them are:
Theravada: the oldest form of Buddhism, this is predominant in
Thailand. It emphasizes the difference between a monk’s authority
and people’s practices. Buddha is not considered a god; those who
attain enlightenment are equal to Buddha.
Mahayana: the second oldest form, is also found in Thailand but isn’t
as prevalent. Mahayanas believe that Buddha is a god.
Basics of Buddhism
 Despite branches and particulars of the religion, the
practice is about achieving nirvana or enlightenment.
 All Buddhists believe in rebirth and that performing good
deeds can result in good karma.
 There is no central governing body in the religion similar
to the pope in Catholicism or a preacher at a Protestant
 Buddha taught Four Noble Truths as the way to find
nirvana, a state of being.
Four Noble Truths
 1. Suffering exists.
 2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires.
 3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desires ends.
 4. Freedom from suffering is possible when you follow the
Eightfold Path.
• From
Eightfold Path
Religion in Thailand
 Majority of Thais are Buddhist — 95 percent of the
population. But there is no rule that says only Thais can be
Buddhist monks. (Women aren’t able to become monks.)
 Other religions include Muslims, 4 percent; Christians,
Sikhs and Hindu make up the remaining population.
 There are approximately 400,000 monks and novices in
Thailand and 30,000 wats or temples.
 The King of Thailand must be a Buddhist. Although
Buddhism has been the official religion of the nation since
the 13th century, it was written into the constitution in
Religious practice
 Thai children learn Buddhist teachings in school.
 Monks read, study, pray and preach during their daily
routine. They memorize the Buddha’s teachings in Pali,
the language of the religion’s founder.
 At age 20, many Thai men join a monastery. Some do it for
a short period of time, maybe just days or for the rainy
season, while others remain for life.
 The men are called novices while they are learning the
religion. There is no similar word for women, but the word
mae chi is closely translated as nun in English.
Practice of the monks
 No professional requirements to becoming a monk in
Buddhism. Man must ask for ordination and cannot be a
slave or hold debt.
 Once he has met the requirements, he applies for
membership in the order or Sangha.
 During his studies, the novice monk must learn the 227
rules that monks follow. Although most Thais don’t know
all the rules, they do know that women cannot touch a
monk. A monk cannot touch anything at the same time a
woman does (example: bus tickets).
Practicing the faith
 To become a monk is the best thing a young man could do.
It brings honor to his family and shows he was raised well.
 Joining a monastery is a way for people to reform from
past problems.
 Allows men to seek spiritual guidance or search for truth.
 Monks aspire to loving kindness to all other beings;
compassion toward all creatures; sympathetic joy at
another’s successes and a quality of equanimity. These are
called the “Abodes of the Gods.”
Modern concerns
 Some are worried that the modern culture is causing Thais
to lose their Buddhist values.
 There is a fear that material rewards are beginning to
overshadow goodness and virtue and that Thais are
becoming less religious because of it.
 Immigration to cities and urban lifestyles also play a part
in this concern, as does issues of assimilation among
immigrants new to Thailand.
Life as a monk
Religious tension: Islam
 Muslims make up the next largest religious group in
Thailand after Buddhists.
 Although most Thai Buddhists and Muslims get along
peacefully, there are some tensions particularly in the
south of Thailand. Muslims find that their social and
religious restrictions sometimes limit their contact with
other Thais.
 Thai word for Muslims is khaek, the same as the word for
guest. The Thai use this term for people who keep to their
own ways and don’t assimilate into the culture. There are
some Thais who would deny that a Thai Muslim is truly
Thai because of this.
Islamic insurgency
 There have been some insurgent attacks in southern
Thailand in recent years. The government has begun to
acknowledge that there is a problem but no links to
international terrorist organizations have been confirmed.
 There are four provinces in the south where the Muslim
community has great influence. Many of the people in this
region are of Malay descent. It’s also been a region filled
with military and government corruption.
 Some practices of Thai Islam have been integrated with
beliefs that aren’t true to the faith, much like other
religions encounter.
 “The Thai & I: Thai Culture and Society” by Roger Welty
 “Fodor’s Thailand,” published 2007
 Web sites:, which focuses on
background information and reports for journalists
covering the military, homeland security and defense
 Religion Newswriters Association,
 “Travel Guide: Amazing Thailand” by