Saturday, March 7, 2009


Buddha and Thailand have been intimately connected since about 500 A.D. but it was not until mid 1200's that a Buddhist royal sponsor sent a team of monks to study the tenets of Buddhism monks in Buddhist Mon and then on to Sri Lanka that the doctrines and practices took root. The Buddha representations from this period show the figure as almost asexual, soft with no defined musculature or bodily features. A flame is shown coming from the top of the head to reflect the spiritual ascension. A walking Buddha is more typical

This Buddha and Thailand connection was replaced by that of the Ayuthaya Buddha from central Thailand. The popularity of the Buddha figure was shown by the increasing elaborateness and value of the statue and the decoration with precious gems and a kingly crown.

The change in both Buddha and Thailand which occurred beginning in 1851 King Mongkut ascended the throne of Siam unexpectedly. Mongkut had been a Buddhist monk for 27 years prior to his rule. The king made every effort to turn the view of the Buddha back to simpler and less superstitious tenets. .He founded a school of Buddhism which is still extant today, but in general the people of Thailand did not stay with the more austere teachings. Westerners however, seem to have more interest in Mongkut's version.

For a time, craftsmen who made the Buddha figures increased the standardized postures from six to 45 to represent various lessons taught be the Buddha. The idea was that people would spend money to purchase different postures but it did not prove to be successful, so the project was quietly discontinued.

Today the people of Thailand practice a form of Buddhism which is a mixture of superstition, animism, worship of spirits and religious overtones. It is the most prevalent religion of Thailand and nearly every believer has at least a surface observation of the tenets.

They believe that the spirits are intimately interested in people and can be bought off in order to receive never ceasing good luck. For instance, before purchasing a lottery ticket, a Thai might rub an amulet of the Buddha in order to ensure winning. Many of the small amulets are purchased and worn, much as Westerners might rub a rabbit's foot for luck.

Buddha and Thailand have both changed and grown together, making the Thai form of Buddhism uniquely its own.