insightsocialstudies Belief and Religion Beliefs in Thailand (1)

Beliefs in Thailand (1)

If you visit Thailand for the first time or never visit and study about this country only on the internet, you may think that Buddhism is only the main belief among Thai People. However there are other beliefs that affect the people life. Interestingly Thai people’s lives relate with them not less than Buddhism.

To offer food to the monks; it shows about the way of life among Thai People which relates to the Buddhism (Photo from

Before we know about the other believes of Thai People, let me describe about Buddhism in Thai at first. In fact Buddhism can be divided into 3 sects : Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Among 3 sects, Only Theravada and Mahayana affect Thai People’s lives so I will stress to explain only 2 sects.

From the meaning of the word,

Theravada means the way of elders, they teach us to do meditation till realize everything in the universe is nothing real existence. We have to detach or not hold anything. This is the way to reach an enlightenment according to Theravada teaching. 
Mahayana means the great ship which bring more people to free from cycle of life. This freedom represents to entering nirvana. They teach us to accumulate the merit or the virtue enough for becoming Bodhisattva. Bodhisattva is like the angel who helps to relieve the suffering of Human Kind. As the status of Bodhisattva, they do not want to reach an enlightement till they can help all of people to free from sufferings.
The Statue of Guan-Yin at the Shrine of Kian-Un-Keng in Thonburi District Bangkok

About Bodhisattva, if you are Chinese people or educated about Chinese culture before, you may know about Guan-Yin.

Guan-Yin is one of the Bodhisattva who names Avalokitesvara (or Goddess of Mercy) according to the interpretation of Chinese People. 

The belief about Guan-Yin is not only found in China but also in the area where the Chinese people immigrate to live and the areas that the Chinese culture affect such as Korea, Japan. In case of Thailand you will find Guan-Yin in lots of shrines or temples because the Chinese people immigrated to Thai Kingdom since the past. Although they are integrated to Thai at the present day but they still inherited their beliefs and culture.

The Stupa in the Lotus Shape at Wat Mahatat of Sukhothai; it represents the prosperity of Buddhism during the Sukhothai Kingdom Period around 13 century

Because Thai culture is created by the integration of various beliefs or cultures, it’s not surprise that we find two sects of Buddhism in Thailand. Nevertheless for Thai people, the main religion of us is Theravada Buddhism. We have followed this sect since Sukhothai Period or Ayutthaya Period. Both are two great kingdom of Thai people which existed around thirteenth to fourteenth century. From my explanation in the second paragraph, the main goal of Theravada is doing meditation until realize that everything in the universe is nothing real existence. If we enlighten this, it means we will enter nirvana therefore doing meditation is the thing that Thai Buddhists give an important the most.

Doing Meditation Activity (Sitting Posture) at Wat Patumwanaram (Photo from

Doing meditation can be done by sitting and walking. The purpose is to know the movement of spirit mind until get insight that everything is space. At the present day, there are lots of temples teach this. Wat Patumwanaram near Siam Paragon (Patumwan District) is an example if you pay visit Bangkok and want to see this.

Doing Meditation Activity (Walking Posture) at Wat Patumwanaram (Photo from

But Buddhism in Thailand is the same as the other religions in lots areas of the world which is facing to the influence of Capitalism. The lives of Thai Buddhists have changed. We focus on the ritual or ceremony for begging or requesting things we want. About this issue, the influence from the other beliefs among Thai people as well as the political and social condition since the past also affect.

Group of Thai People are requesting the lucky number for the Lottery Drawing from the Monks; it represent the changing of the Thai way of life. (Photo from

However in my opinion

“only focusing on the rituals or ceremonies is not the real purpose of Buddhism if we compare to do meditation. Because if you get insight the Buddhism truly, it teaches us to detach everything because nothing in the world is real existence.”

When you read until this line, I think you will understand Buddhism which is the main belief of Thai People more. But as I told you at the first paragraph Buddhism is not only one belief of Thai people. There are other believes which affect our life. I will describe this story in the next part.

Please wait to read it!

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