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Buddhism in Thailand


The history of Buddhism in Thailand began in the third century BC, when King Ashoka of India sent forth two missionaries to the “golden land in the east”. It is assumed that the monks went to the royal court of the Mon people, whose empire was in the city now known as Nakhon Pathom. With their effective help, the teaching of salvation was spread throughout  the entire kingdom of the Mon.

Thai people who emigrated from southern China met this new teaching for the first time and without any difficulties, they could embrace it together with their animistic beliefs. At the time of the foundation of the first kingdom in Thailand during the 13th century, the monks were already in close contact with their Buddhist brothers in Sri Lanka, who practiced Theravada Buddhism based on the Pali scriptures
The rulers of Sukhothai enabled the monks to spread their belief throughout the whole kingdom. Since then Buddhism is a kind of national religion and it has influenced the cultural and social development of Thailand until today. After the collapse of the Sukhothai Empire, the kings of Ayutthaya took over the political and religious heritage. During their reign, Buddhism had developed into a powerful dimension; today the numerous ruins of temples bear witness to that fact.
One of the most splendid periods in Thai history ended with the conquest and the destruction of Ayutthaya in the year 1767 by the Burmese. Many important religious books and scriptures were lost during the pillage of the temple complex. 

The spiritual centre was moved to what is known today as Bangkok, where Buddhism reached a new time of prosperity under King Mongkut, Rama IV. He is also the founder of the Buddhist Thammayut order, which strongly emphasizes  the original doctrines of Buddha more so than the usual traditions of Hinayana Buddhism.

In 1956, the present King of Thailand, King Bhumipol, also spent several months in one of the monasteries of this sect.
In Thailand  today, almost 95 % of the population confesses to Theravada Buddhism. These moral principles, which resemble more a pragmatically interpreted philosophy rather than a dogmatic religion, are deeply rooted in the social life  of most Thai people.

However, the more Thailand develops from a rural society to a modern industrial nation, the more there will be conflicts between old traditions and the  influence by the western world.
However, with the ability of friendliness, tolerance and patience and their strongly developed sense of practical solutions as well, it is likely that Thai people will find a way to solve these problems.
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