An Introduction to Thai Buddhism
Buddhism is the main religion of Thailand, and has a huge impact on Thai society even today, with over 94% of Thais being Buddhist. The remainder is a mix of Muslims, Christians and Animists.
Born over 2500 years ago, Buddhism is forever linked with the Indian Prince Siddharta Gautama, the man who became Buddha and was the first to reach enlightenment or Nirvana.
The teachings of Siddharta Gautama are still followed to this day in Thailand. The basic message of his teachings state that people in this world are suffering due to the fact they remain attached to material things, such as men and women, money and power. Much suffering and jealousy is caused by these links, and this becomes pain, meaning that people cannot ever be satisfied with what they have. They always want more power, more money etc.
The basic aim of Buddhism as seen by Thais is that it tries to rid people of these links, and therefore these pains. There are many different kinds of Buddhism in the world today. In Thailand, the predominant branch is called Theravada Buddhism.
The path to enlightenment is for most people, a very long one, yet everyone can be hopeful that they will reach it some day. For most people, it will take many lives and rebirths. Thais believe that when a person or an animal dies, their spirit or soul is reincarnated into another living being. This is known as the Samsara, or the endless cycle of existence. Your rebirth will depend on your Karma, which is a measure of what kind of person you are. A person who has done good deeds in this life will have a better existence next time round. Anyone who has done bad deeds in this life will face a harsher existence next time around.
- Bangkok Tourism and Must Know Thai Etiquette (bangkokbeyond.com)