Pattaya Daily News

11 August 2010 :: 18:08:21 pm 35034

Buddism, Buddha & Temples in Thailand

Since the beginning of the first era of Sukhothai, meaning the “Dawn of Happiness”, (the first free Thai city founded by two Chieftains, in 1238), Buddhism has always been a part of the Thai culture. Now in the period of Ratanakosin, Buddhisms is still a major part of almost every Thai’s life that is true to their religion and teaching practices.
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The Theravada sect “The Way of the Elders”, (the original beliefs and practices of the Buddha and the early monastic Elders), was partly derived from Hinduism in India where the practices of mythical characters and aspects with Buddhism with the God being Lord Buddha, a Prince who wanted to discover new ways to make the world a better place, later became the Buddha, gracing the world with his enlightenment.

Every Buddhist’s house will have a statue of Buddha with many having a small table with various statues in different attitudes and placing two vases of flowers, (the most common being the Lotus) on the table as offerings. Prayers would be said at night before they sleep.

Thai people are a very superstitious race and believe in things that cannot be seen. They also wear amulets bought from revered temples as well as a little Buddha. Various sizes of Buddha can be found in every temple in Thailand, with Bangkok boasting many exquisite temples regularly visited by virtuous Buddhists on special religious occasions.

The most famous temple is Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha) which is situated within the grounds of the Grand Palace.  The emerald Buddha is a sacred symbol of the Rattanakosin (the oldest and most historical sub district of Bangkok which was established by King Rama I in 1782 then later became the new capital of Thailand after the old capital Ayutthaya burned down). Thai people frequently go to the temples offering food, candles incense sticks and lotus flowers to the Buddha statues and money to the temples and monks then they will go to receive blessings from the monks for prosperity and good fortune.

When praying or requesting a anything from Buddha, Thai people take three incense sticks, one each for the Buddha, the Sanga (Buddhist community), and the Darma (teachings of the Buddha), a flower (orchids or Lotus) which symbolizes the Buddhist teachings, and a small candle ( symbolizes comprehension and enlightenment).  The incense sticks are lit and the person kneels and bowing three times then put the incense sticks in front of the statue. The incense stick is an important element of worship in paying respect to Buddha.

The Buddha statue is then covered with a thin piece of gold leaf to honour Buddha teachings. In the case of pain, the thin golden leaf should be stuck at the same painful location on the Buddha statue. Garlands are also offered to Buddha statues with the white symbolizing the beauty of Buddha’s teachings. Buddists also read their future from pieces of paper that are wrapped around sticks. There are a few sticks in a box which are gently shaken until a stick falls from the box this is the one that the person reads from to know what the future holds for them.

Gifts in the form of buckets are offered to monks as a way to get merit. The buckets are filled with items such as rice, washing powder, medicine, monks clothes, fruit juice, candles, matches, soap, umbrella, sandals, lights, milk, tins, brushing tooth paste and brush, water, toilet paper, noodles. They are wrapped with transparent paper. When making an offering, people have to write their name in books.

When visiting a temple, Thai people will consult and discuss with monks about earthly problems to get advice or a blessing from monks. The people who offer money for the temple and the monks are often given amulets. The pouring of holy water on the floor is known as ‘Sat Nam’, this is too give strength and good deeds to the spirits and honor the dead. Dead relatives will be prayed for and food given to the monks in their name in order that the waiting time is shortened for them to pass on to the next life.

Anything that is associated to Buddhism is respected by Thai Buddhists and Thai people usually give a quick ‘Wai’ to Buddhists symbols such as temples, statues and spirit houses (not the alcoholic ones). Buddhist monks are highly respected as they are representatives of Buddha who carry on the teachings of Buddhism. The monks must leave the temple barefoot in the morning to get donations of food from the residents and walk back to the temple to have their only meal at 11 AM.

Buddhism is an indispensable part of a Thai’s life no matter how civilized or westernized one can be. More than 90 per cent of Thais are Buddhist, from the King and his family to ordinary people. Buddhism is something Thais hold on to and it plays an important role in their lives.

Sarah Goldman

Photo : Internet   Category : Society

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