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Introduction

Buddhism is Thailand's main religion. 94 % of Thai people are Buddhist. The other are Muslim, Catholic or Chinese.

Buddhism is born more than 2500 years ago. Buddhism is linked with the historical Indian prince, Siddharta Gautama, who became the Buddha and reached the enlightenment ("NIRVANA" - นิพพาน). Now his teachings are still followed. His teachings say that people suffer because they are attached to material things, to women or men by heart links. These links cause suffer, jealousy so pain. People are never satisfied, i.e. they want more money, more power (ต้องรู้จักเพียงพอ).

The aim of Buddhism is to get rid of these pains and of these links. There are several kinds of Buddhism. Thai Buddhism is called Theravada Buddhism.
Lotus
Lotus

Everyone can hope to reach one day enlightenment but path shall be long. It takes many lives. Each time somebody or an animal dies, it reincarns in something else. It is the endless cycle of existence ("SAMSARA" - สังสารวัฏ). The rebirth depends on your "KARMA" (กรรม). If you have done good deed in your life, next life will be better. If you have done bad deeds, next life will be harsh.

lotus
The Lotus is important in Buddhism. It symbols the enlightenment because the lotus blossoms on dirty pool. It symbolises the passage from darkness to light, the passage from ignorance to wisdom.
Lotus

Thai Buddhism is fascinating because it is mixed with older religions (Animism, Brahmanism), which were present before the introduction of Buddhism in Thailand. Nowadays the influence of the previous religions is still present.



Monks

Monks are more suited to reach the enlightenment because they follow a strict way of life far from material attachment. Their life is based on 227 monastic rules and 5 major precepts, i.e. no sex, no lies, no robbery, no alcohol, no killing.

In a temple, some men are monks since decades but there are also some men who are monk only during a short time. They do it in order to bring merit to their parents ("THAM BUN" - ทำบุญ). A boy is not a man until he hasn't been a monk once in his life.
Novices
Novices (เณร)

Even the current King of Thailand Rama 9 has been a monk during one month. In old days this period was three months. Now it can be only a few weeks or a few days. Some families still refuse to marry their daughter if the future husband hasn't ever been a monk. It means that he isn't ripe enough. Ordination is an important part of life in Thai society. A boy that becomes a monk ("PHRA" - พระ) for a few months is making a really good action towards his parents.

monks
Monks wear a robe colour saffron. Monks have few possessions : a bowl for eating and getting food every morning, a water filter in order not to eat small insects, robes.
Monks

Vocabulary used when speaking with a monk is not the same as everyday vocabulary. Monks deserve respect. Depending on the age of the monk, different words are used when talking to a monk.

Monks represent Buddha. When Thai people greets a monk or even a novice, they greet Buddha's teachings.
Monks
Monks

A man can stop to be a monk at any time. It is his own choice. In Thailand, there is a tradition implying that a high rank person, who has done big mistakes, retires in a temple for a while. He "washes" his errors. For example F.M. Thanom Kittikachorn, who presided over a repressive military regime between 1963 and 1973, returns in 1976 from overseas exile in the robes of a monk. It provoked the anger of pro-democracy students who had overthrown him and suffered scores of casualties on 14 October 1973.

Monks seats
In airports there are even areas reserved for monks. In former Bangkok International airport (Don Meuang), those areas were surrounded by orchids.
Monks seats

In a bus, seats in the back are reserved to monks. If a woman is sitting, she should leave because a woman cannot touch a monk.

Those are modern monks seats (priority seats) in Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok.
Monks seats
Monks seats


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