Buddhism in Thailand isn’t just a religion but also a moral philosophy and a lifestyle. Around 95% of Thais are Buddhists and worship spirits and the Lord Buddha.
This atheistic religion of spirit worship, idolatry, and salvation by works permeates every facet and level of Thai life from the King’s palace to the beggar living on the street.
It is an essential pillar of society and is practiced on an everyday basis, sometimes even unnoticed. For example, when passing by a House of Spirit, a Buddha Statue or a Temple, people bow down or do the wai with a great deal of respect.
Theravada Buddhism in Thailand
Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism is the national religion of Thailand but there is total religious freedom and all major religions can be found in practice. There is absolute freedom of religion: Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and other faiths are practiced and protected by the constitution.
Buddhism is the faith of 95 percent of the population, 4 percent are Muslims, 0.5 percent and Christians, and the remainder Hindus, Sikhs and other religion.
Despite the fact that Buddhism is the faith of majority, both the king and the government uphold and support all the religions accepted by the people. A midst rich diversity of beliefs, people of Thailand have always lived together in peace and harmony.
Youth monks and its traditions
That religion plays an important and essential role in Thai culture can be seen by the fact that every Thai youngster or even grownups have to undergo a sanctified religious training at least once in their life.
They shave their heads, dress in saffron, white or orange robes, and guided by monastic principles and rules, practice the ethical Buddha philosophy of enlightenment in Buddhist monasteries for a couple of weeks or months.
During this time, the monk is obliged to respect the rules and has to put aside his habits to completely clear and purify his mind and body.
Every morning, the monks engage in their daily routine of collecting food from the public.
Although its not necessary to donate anything, those who are so inclined may do so, assuming the offering is appropriate. This is simply an act of good will and has been performed for centuries.
Although it is mostly practicing Buddhists who take part in this, it is not uncommon to see street youths or foreigners giving offerings too.
Spirit houses in Thailand
It is very common to find a miniature Buddha House (also called the House of Spirits) in Thai households, offices, and other places to show and give respect to the spirits and Gods living around the area.
It is believed that those spirits will protect and bring good luck. Such Spirit Houses are often visibly staged in the key office and residence buildings and in the notable business places.