Buddhism in Thailand: A Quick Introduction

Buddhism in Thailand: A Quick Introduction

From an early age I was drawn to the peaceful religion of Buddhism. The teachings had always made a lot of sense to me. I have since married a Thai woman, traveled throughout Thailand, and have also prayed at Buddhist temples. What exactly is Buddhism though? Seeing that I read this question often, I have attempted a quick introduction to those who may be interested. With this in mind, the Buddhism I discuss here is Theravada Buddhism, the most popular religion of Thailand.

Quickly, a few translations of words frequently heard in the Thai language…

To make merit – tham bun

Temple – wat

Holy, sacred – saksit

Thai Buddhists will go to holy (saksit) sites or temples (wats) to make merit (tham bun). Karma is a notably important belief of the Buddhist. To make merit, or to do a good deed, will in effect boost a person’s good karma. Therefore, to give is also to receive.

There are 5 basic moral precepts that every Thai know and thus respect. Similarly, the precepts are also found in other religions in some form due to being basic moral knowledge. However, many Buddhists (myself included) do not classify their beliefs as a religion, but rather as a way of life.

Thai people in prayer
Thai people in prayer


The 5 Basic Precepts of Buddhism

1 – Do not harm others

2 – Do not steal

3 – Do not engage in sexual misconduct

4 – Do not lie

5 – Do not indulge in intoxication

To put it another way, be moral. Others will slightly change the wording or provide more details as well, but my aim is to simplify these precepts as much as possible for an outsider learning about Buddhism for the first time. Surprisingly, very simple ideas, right? It’s for this reason I love Buddhism.

A Buddhist temple in Thailand (Wat Phra That Choeng Chum)
Wat Phra That Choeng Chum


The 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism

1 – Suffering (Dukkha)

2 – Arising (Samudaya)

3 – Prevention (Nirodha)

4 – Path (Magga)

These Truths are summed up nicely below as can be seen in the following quote…

“Craving temporary things leads to constant new beginnings. Prevent repeating to find real peace and happiness.”

Craving – suffering

New beginnings – arising

Prevent – prevention

Find peace and happiness – path

Eight Fold Path

The path to happiness and peace also has a name in Buddhism too, the Eight Fold Path. There are a few variations on this due to changes over time, however, in this case I will discuss it as I learned it.

Eight Fold Path of Buddhism

The Eight Fold Wheel is the symbol of Buddhism. It is a symbol one will often see in Thailand too. First, starting from top center and working clockwise you have…

1 – Right View

2 – Right Intention

3 – Right Speech

4 – Right Action

5 – Right Livelihood

6 – Right Effort

7 – Right Mindfulness

8 – Right Meditation

Additionally, these 8 can further be broken down into groups of three.

Prajna, or insight, includes 1 & 2

Sila, or morality, includes 3, 4 & 5

Samadhi, or meditation, includes 6, 7 & 8

In other words, while having the right view on life and intentions (insight), and speaking positive doing right actions and living good (morality), you can put in right effort and be mindful leading to right concentration (meditation).

By all means, if it seems complicated at first, read it over a few times. You may want to ultimately learn more about Buddhism. Furthermore, I suggest meditating on the path as well. All things considered, one may now begin to see the path is actually quite simple and very beautiful.

Buddhism in Thailand: A Quick Introduction