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History of Buddhism in Thailand - What Influences Thai Buddhism?

What makes Buddhism in Thailand today what it is. - Influences on Thai Buddhism

Wat Kaeo Fa Chulamani Buddhist Temple in Bangkok, Thailand - Close-up of the Linga - Traditionally an iconic representation of the Hindu deity Shiva

Continued from << History of Buddhism in Thailand - 20th-21st Centuries

Influences on Thai Buddhism - Three major forces have influenced the development of Buddhism in Thailand:

The most visible influence is that of the Theravada school of Buddhism, imported from Sri Lanka. While there are significant local and regional variations, the Theravada school provides most of the major themes of Thai Buddhism. By tradition, Pali is the language of religion in Thailand. Scriptures are recorded in Pali, using either the modern Thai script or the older Khom and Tham scripts. Pali is also used in religious liturgy, despite the fact that most Thais understand very little of this ancient language. The Pali Tipitaka is the primary religious text of Thailand, though many local texts have been composed in order to summarise the vast number of teachings found in the Tipitaka. The monastic code (Patimokkha) followed by Thai monks is taken from the Pali Theravada - something that has provided a point of controversy during recent attempts to resurrect the bhikkhuni (a fully ordained female Buddhist monastic) lineage in Thailand.

The second major influence on Thai Buddhism is Hindu beliefs received from Cambodia, particularly during the Sukhothai period. Vedic Hinduism played a strong role in the early Thai institution of kingship, just as it did in Cambodia, and exerted influence in the creation of laws and order for Thai society as well as Thai religion. Certain rituals practiced in modern Thailand, either by monks or by Hindu ritual specialists, are either explicitly identified as Hindu in origin, or are easily seen to be derived from Hindu practices. While the visibility of Hinduism in Thai society has been diminished substantially during the Chakri dynasty, Hindu influences, particularly shrines to the god Brahma, continue to be seen in and around Buddhist institutions and ceremonies.

Third major influence on Thai Buddhism - Folk religion - attempts to propitiate and attract the favour of local spirits known as phi. While Western observers (as well as urbane and Western-educated Thais) have often drawn a clear line between Thai Buddhism and folk religious practices, this distinction is rarely observed in more rural locales. Spiritual power derived from the observance of Buddhist precepts and rituals is employed in attempting to appease local nature spirits.

Many restrictions observed by rural Buddhist monks are derived not from the orthodox Vinaya, the regulatory framework for the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha, but from taboos derived from the practice of folk magic.

Kamthieng House Museum - (Large) Spirit House - History of Buddhism in Thailand - What Influences Thai Buddhism?

Astrology, numerology, and the creation of talismans and charms also play a prominent role in Buddhism as practiced by the average Thai—topics that are, if not proscribed, at least marginalised in Buddhist texts.

Additional, more minor influences can be observed stemming from contact with Mahayana Buddhism. Early Buddhism in Thailand is thought to have been derived from an unknown Mahayana tradition. While Mahayana Buddhism was gradually eclipsed in Thailand, certain features of Thai Buddhism—such as the appearance of the Bodhisatwa Lokesvara in some Thai religious architecture, and the belief that the king of Thailand is a Bodhisatwa himself—reveal the influence of Mahayana concepts.

Most houses and businesses in Thailand have a spirit house placed in an auspicious spot, most often in a corner of the property. The location is often chosen after consultation with a Buddhist (or Brahmin) priest. The spirit house is normally in the form of a miniature temple and may be mounted on a pillar or on a dais. A spirit house or san phra phum in Thai is a shrine to animist spirits, also found in Cambodia and Laos. The house is intended to provide a shelter for spirits which could cause problems for the people if not appeased. Offerings are left at the house to propitiate the spirits. They are often filled with various items to keep the spirit occupied - the more interesting the better!

History of Buddhism in Thailand - What Influences Thai Buddhism?

Text adapted from 'Buddhism in Thailand' from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Buddhist Flag
First hoisted in 1885 in Sri Lanka, is a symbol of faith and peace used throughout the world to represent the Buddhist faith.

Buddhist Flag Picture - Buddhist Flag Colours - The Buddhist Flag Sri Lanka 1885

Buddhist Flag Meanings
Blue: Universal Compassion
Yellow: The Middle Path
Red: Blessings
White: Purity and Liberation
Orange: Wisdom


History of Buddhism in Thailand - What Influences Thai Buddhism?

Originally adopted in the Ayutthaya period. It was replaced by coat of arms of Siam until 1893. The National Symbol of Thailand - The Garuda, a figure from both Buddhist and Hindu mythology. In Thailand, this figure is used as a symbol of the royal family and authority. This version of the figure is referred to as Krut Pha, meaning "Garuda acting as the vehicle of Vishnu." The National Emblem is also the Emblem of the King of Thailand.

The Dharma Wheel

Spokes of the Dharmachakra - "The Dharma Wheel" Meaning - The Dharma Wheel Symbol - The Dharma Wheel Image - 8 spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya magga)

In Buddhism—according to the Pali Canon, Vinayapitaka, Khandhaka, Mahavagga, the number of spokes of the Dharmachakra represent various meanings:

8 spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya magga).
12 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada).
24 spokes representing the Twelve Laws of Dependent Origination and the Twelve Laws of Dependent Termination (Paticcasamuppada).
31 spokes representing 31 realms of existence (11 realms of desire, 16 realms of form and 4 realms of formlessness).

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is a Japanese Buddhist chant based upon the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Daishonin (Feb 16, 1222 – Oct 13, 1282) a Buddhist monk who lived during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) in Japan. Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, entitled Myōhō-Renge-Kyō in Japanese, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment and the chanting of Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō as the essential practice of the teaching. Various schools with diverging interpretations of Nichiren's teachings comprise Nichiren Buddhism.
Nam - To devote one's life
Myoho - Myo is the mystic nature of life and Ho, its manifestation
Renge - "Lotus Flower"; which symolises the ballance of cause and effect
Kyo - Sutra, the voice or teachings of Buddha (The sound or vibration that connects everything in the ubiverse)

As the Buddha had never claimed to be a god, it is evident that he never prescribed the form of worship that was to be rendered to him. A legend, however, attributes to him the institution of this form of worship

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