Buddhism in Phuket and Thailand

Phuket Information

Buddha was born in the year 623 BC in what was then northern India, but which is now Nepalese territory. Originally named Prince Siddharta, he was the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maha Maya of Kapilavastu City. Queen Maha Maya died only seven days after giving birth, so Siddharta was brought up by his Aunt Maha Pajapati. Later King Suddhodana married Maha Pajapati.

When Prince Siddharta was born, an ascetic visited the palace and saluted the royal baby, predicting he would become a Buddha. At the age of 16, Prince Siddharta married his cousin, Princess Yasodhara. Then, coming to recognize the extent of human suffering outside the palace grounds, he decided to determine the truth of life and seek ways to end suffering.

After the birth of his son, Prince Rahula, Prince Siddharta left his luxurious life at the palace and spent six years studying and meditating. On the full moon of the night of the sixth lunar month, while meditating under a Bodhi Tree, he found the path to Enlightenment and became the Buddha -- the Enlightened One. Prince Siddharta was 35 years old at the time.

The Lord Buddha died at the age of 80, after many years of travelling and preaching to his many followers. Over the years following, Buddhism spread to other countries in Asia. During the 3rd century BC, it was first introduced to Thailand, where Theravada Buddhism has become the most prevalent form of the tradition. 

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Concepts Underlying the Buddhist Faith

  1.  THE TRUTH OF SUFFERING
    All human beings undergo suffering during the processes of birth, decay, disease and death.
  2. THE TRUTH OF THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING
    Humans suffer due to their desire and passions.
  3. THE TRUTH OF THE CESSATION OF SUFFERING
    To the extent that desires and passion are subdued (and ideally eliminated), suffering is diminished and, ultimately, overcome.
  4. THE TRUTH OF THE PATH LEADING TO THE CESSATION OF SUFFERING
    Humans must follow the correct path to rid themselves of all desire and passion. The Eightfold Noble Path is this right path, and it leads to the cessation of suffering. The Noble Path comprises:
  • Right view
  • Right thought
  • Right speech
  • Right behaviour
  • Right livelihood
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right concentration

The "middle way" can promote insight, knowledge, peace, wisdom, enlightenment and, eventually, the realization of Nirvana (Nibbana). Avoiding the extremes of constant attachment to sensual pleasures and addiction to self-mortification will lead one to the middle way.

The Five Basic Precepts of Buddhism:

  • Do not take life.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not commit adultery.
  • Do not tell untruths.
  • Refrain from intoxicants. 

Buddhism In The Home And In Everyday Life

The vast majority of Thais are Buddhist, and Buddhism influences virtually every facet of the society and culture. A man, for example, is not considered fully mature until he has spent some time in the monkhood. Most try to spend at least a month as a novitiate at some time in their lives.

Traditionally, the Buddhist temple has been the centre of community life, providing education for children plus a wide range of social services. In many rural areas, this is still the case.

Thai Buddhism, as it is practised in everyday life, includes elements of Brahmanism and animistic beliefs that predate either Hinduism or Buddhism. The respect and importance accorded "spirit houses", for example, is animist in origin. 

Buddhism In The Home And In Everyday Life

The vast majority of Thais are Buddhist, and Buddhism influences virtually every facet of the society and culture. A man, for example, is not considered fully mature until he has spent some time in the monkhood. Most try to spend at least a month as a novitiate at some time in their lives.

Traditionally, the Buddhist temple has been the centre of community life, providing education for children plus a wide range of social services. In many rural areas, this is still the case.

Thai Buddhism, as it is practised in everyday life, includes elements of Brahmanism and animistic beliefs that predate either Hinduism or Buddhism. The respect and importance accorded "spirit houses", for example, is animist in origin. 

Spirit Houses

Many Thai Buddhists believe that each piece of land is guarded by a spirit who should be respected and well treated. A spirit house resembles a miniature temple, and some are very elaborate. People burn incense, light candles and put flowers on the spirit house every day. Some occasionally offer food and fruit to the guardian spirit. In return, the spirit turns evil away. The threshold of a house should never be stepped or sat on, as this will anger the spirit guarding it.

Making Merit

Each individual is responsible for his own destiny and can change that destiny for the better by accumulating religious merit.

Making merit can be done in the following ways:

  1. offerings to the Lord Buddha -- three incense sticks (representing the Buddha, His teachings, and the Monastic Order, or sangha), some flowers, one candle and a thin wafer of gold leaf;
  2. donating money to the wat (temple) or presenting gifts of daily requisites to the monks;
  3. giving alms; or
  4. a man may enter the monkhood and a women may become a nun for a limited period of time.

Buddhism is taken seriously in Thailand, and visitors should show every respect towards related symbols, rituals and institutions. Thais are generally very tolerant, and will often fail to show signs of offense. Some offenses, however -- insults to the sanctity of a Buddha image, for example -- are dealt with strictly in law.

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