Religion in Thailand has a special status and the attitude of local residents to it differs significantly from other countries. While in European countries most people go to churches only on holidays, in Thailand religion is tightly connected with everyday life. It is practically impossible to find an atheist among the Thais and their kindness, calmness, friendliness are the main features of Buddhism.
More than 95% of local residents profess Thai Buddhism, which is the oldest branch of Buddhism - the Theravada. There are also later branches of Buddhism, which are based on some additions to the teachings of the Buddha from his followers and are successfully practiced in other countries. Buddhism in Thailand is based on the law of karma, according to which everything that happens to us is the consequences of our past actions. Here are some other major aspects of this religion:
• The Thais believe in reincarnation of souls and our body is just a transitory form.
• Our life consists of suffering, which is a consequence of our desires.
• The main purpose of the Buddhist’s life is achieving a bliss without any desires, which is called nirvana.
Different branches of Buddhism are also characterized by a different perception of the Buddha. Buddhism in Thailand sees the Buddha as an ordinary person who has achieved enlightenment, he is not a God. Therefore, the Thais do not make a god of the Buddha and do not ask him for forgiveness or blessing. They follow his teachings and honor him as a teacher. The Thais believe that responsibility for our lives and our happiness is only in our hands, not in the hands of God.
Religion has established several important rules in the lives of ordinary people in Thailand:
• People should strive for a happy life and help others to achieve enlightenment.
• You need to do good deeds to improve your karma.
• Violence and the usage of narcotic substances are strictly prohibited.
If a person wants to be happy and successful in this and next life, he must do good things, help those in need, attend the temple every week and give some food to the monks. Otherwise, if you cause suffering and pain to other people, troubles and misfortunes are waiting for you in this and next lives. A person spoils his karma by doing negative actions.
The Thais honor the Buddha not as a God but as the Teacher who shares his teachings with them. That is why the Thais do not visit temples in order to ask for blessing or complain, they do that to show their respect to the Teacher. Taking part in religious ceremonies and respecting traditions are considered to be very good deeds that improve karma. While visiting the temple, everyone should make three bows as a sign of respect and light three candles, because this symbolic number symbolizes the Buddha, his teachings and his followers.
Despite the fact that almost everyone professes Buddhism, the Thais are very tolerant and respectful to other religions. There is even a law in the country, according to which the King must follow the teachings of the Buddha and protect all religions and believers. So other religions in the Kingdom have the same rights as Buddhism.
Anyone who is inspired by the teachings of the Buddha and wants to convert into Buddhism, can undergo a simple ritual of taking a Refuge. With this ritual, you show your readiness to follow the teachings of the Buddha and respect him as a teacher. It does not oblige you to abandon other religions and follow only one teaching. Buddhism always leaves the right to choose. Even without performing any rituals, you can just follow the teachings of the Buddha because these laws are close to you and you like them. Buddhism is more than a religion, it is a way of life. In any case, going to Pattaya or any city abroad, every tourist should learn about the basics of the local religion and respect it. Only you can decide how to live - to strive for nirvana and enlightenment or just live your life happily, making others happy too.