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World Buddhism


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Buddhism in the Kingdom of Thailand

Sathien Bodhinantha


 

Note about the Buddhist year in Thai system:

The first Buddhist year in Thai system was started one year after the death of the Buddha. Therefore, to find the Christian year or century (AD) please deduct 543 from the Buddhist year or century. For example, the first Buddhist year equals the 543th BC; the first Buddhist century (1-99 Buddhist years) equals   543-444 BC; the 7th Buddhist century (700-799 Buddhist years) equals 157-256 AD. But the system in India was started immidiately after the Budda's death.
 
 

1) Buddhism in India after the Master’s Death

The First Council

With respect to the Buddha’s instruction to the bhikkhus (Buddhist monks) before his passing away informing them that his doctrine, that is to say - the Norm and the Law, shall be their teacher when he is gone, it is well to have at least a bird’s eye view of the history of the Dhamma or his Doctrine from the time of the Dhamma (the Buddha’s teaching) or his Doctrine from the time of his Parinibbana (death) up to the present time. This may give a better understanding and a firm foundation for reasonable belief of those intellectuals who wish to know something of the historical facts in addition to the Message itself.

It is general believed that during the Master’s life-time there was no systematic classification of the Doctrine as is known in the present. Like a variety of scattered flowers blooming here and there in the garden, the teaching of the Master must have been maintained orally and individually, that is to say, according to the tendency of individual disciples. These instructions and admonitions given by the Master were systematically arranged, like the arranging of flowers in the vase, by wise and holy disciples after the Master’s passing away.

We learn from historical facts that shortly after the Buddha’s death here was what could be called a bad omen for those well-wishers of Buddhism. The tears of his mourners had not yet dried away when among one of his devoted Elder Kassapa’s followers there was an old bhikkhu called Subaddha who suddenly surprised, or rather shocked, his mourners by the bold declaration that since the Master had passed away it was better that there would be from then on forbid them to d this and to do that any more.

This, to the Venerable Kassapa, foreshadowed the deterioration of the Buddha’s doctrine if left unchecked. So he expressed his concern to the other devoted Elders who were Arahats or Saints. The latter were unanimous in their support of his plan that there should be held a Council of Elders or Arahats for the sake of reciting the Massage of the Master so that it could be memorised and handed down in its pristine purity to the younger generations.

With such an agreement, the place and the persons who were to participate in this great undertaking had been proposed and carefully selected. The cave of Sattapanna of Vebhara mountain in the town of Rajagaha was at last chosen and the participants, according to the general agreement, were to be the Buddha’s contemporary Arahats or Saints. This was the first “SANGAYANA” or Buddhist Council, which lasted seven months during which the patricide King Ajatasattu had been the prime supporter and host and had given the financial help for carrying out this great task.

This “SANGAYANA” or Council attended by 500 Arahats contemporaries of the Buddha was undertaken for the purpose of settling the contents of the Buddhist Canon by revising, classifying and standardizing the various teachings of the Buddha during the 45 years of his preaching. Obviously it is a great enterprise as well as huge undertaking. It is not an over-estimate, therefore, to say that much, or rather most of the success was derived from the Venerable Ananda who was the Master’s personal attendant bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) and who had heard and committed to memory almost all Sutta and Abhidhamma, second and third of three Baskets (TIPITAKA) of the Buddhist Canon. The first, however, was accomplished through the memory of the Venerable UPALI who had always been the distinguished bhikkhu for his VINAYA -- the first of the three Baskets (TIPITAKA) concerning the monastic Law. After the process of questioning and answering in details, all other attending Arahats or Saints including the Venerable Kassapa who presided over the Council, recited those passages again and again until they were word-perfect. How great and difficult this task was may be seen from the fact that the Council lasted seven months before the whole of the teachings was satisfactorily revised.

Now that the meeting was closed the participating Arahats then went forth on their missionary work, preaching to their own followers the Dhamma or Message that had been studied from the Council. Thus it is a fact that we cannot portray the depth of our gratitude for the pioneer Venerable Kassapa and Ananda and Upali, without whom we can never imagine how lost in ignorance we should be who are born long after the Master’s Parinibbana (Absolute Extinction).

The Second Council

One hundred years after the first Council presided over by the Venerable Kassapa there arose a sad incident in the town of Vesali. A large group of bhikkhus called Vajjiputta was formed up and caused a great sensation all over the Buddhist circles by their heretical beliefs. These were numbered ten and included the drinking of the juice extracted from palmyra date or cocoa palm and the receiving or hoarding of money. These and many others being prohibited in the Vinaya (Monastic Law) were then proclaimed by the group of VAJIPUTTA bhikkhus to have been allowed. This caused a great discordance as well as a great sensation among the Buddhists, laity as well bhikkhus. The situation threatened to become worse and worse as time went on and the chief bhikkhu of the orthodox members, YASA KAKANDAKAPUTTA by name, was, according to history, even bribed by the heretics. But being no less holy than wise, he drove away the heretics’ messenger and with his clever instruction and explanation was later on successful in gathering a large number of followers, both bhikkhus and the laities, against the Vaiputta bhikkhus, who had then been successful in winning over King Kalasoka of Magadha country to their side. Under their instigation the befooled king set out oppressing the bhikkhus under the leadership of Venerable YASA by various means. But no sooner had the sovereign order been carried out than the King’s sister who was a bhikkhuni (Buddhist female monk), Nanda by name, intervened and finally convinced her brother of his mistake. Seeing now what was right and what was wrong in the Buddha’s doctrine, the king then revoked his former orders, begged forgiveness of his holy sister, and gave his support to the Venerable Yasa’s group of bhikkhus and laities. Now it was time for the Venerable Yasa to hold a general meeting of all the devoted bhikkhus and to have in the presence of the meeting a formal discussion as to how it was wrong in the Vajjiputta bhikkhu’s ten heretical beliefs. After the process of thorough questioning, answering, reasoning and debating, the meeting come to its final resolution that the heretical claims were all wrong. In addition to this all the three Baskets of the Buddhist Canon were also brought under a copious discussion and careful consideration in such a manner as had been done in the assembly of the first Council one hundred years ago. How great the task was can be seen in that it lasted eight months, that is to say, one month longer than the first Council.

The place of this second Council was in the town of Vesali. The Arahats or Saints participating were about seven hundred in number.

The Third Council

So far as the second Council is concerned the Venerable Yasa and King Kalasoka may be successful in maintaining the Message of the Buddha in its pristine purity, but the heretic Vajjiputta bhikkhus were in no way defeated. Nor were they discouraged in propagating those heretical beliefs to their followers as a counter-attack for the Venerable Yasa. Their competition proved to be no less successful for there grew more and more discordance among the Buddhists both bhikkhus and laities. Since there are always those who prefer what is convenient to them and others who respect what is good and right more than what is what is only convenient, the quarrels between the two groups became more and more bitter. So much so that the bhikkhus of one group refused to perform religious rites and ceremonies with those of the other group. This was equivalent to saying that the bhikkhus of other group were no more bhikkhus in the ecclesiastical sense and were consequently as good as a layman. Thus Buddhism was at this time i.e. 218 years after the Buddha’s death rent by discord in two hostile schools viz. the Theravadas and the Acariyavada. The former represents those who still respect the words of the Thera or Elders such as the Venerable Yasa of the second Council, whereas the latter represents those who still cling to the teachings of the Vajjiputta bhikkhus. We also learn more of this unhappy incident from some historians who say that each of the two schools were even subdivided into several different and antagonistic sects, numbering altogether eighteen. This shows that the situation of Buddhism was at that time almost hopeless for any well-wisher to make better. The need was strongly felt for a “strong” man in this critical moment of Buddhism.

In a Buddhist text called “Mahavangsa”, however, it was told that the heretics being deprived of the usual offerings and honour by the King’s devotion to Buddhism, had masqueraded themselves as Buddhist bhikkhus and then taken that opportunity to preach and practise their former doctrines. Of course there was no surer way of destroying a doctrine than by doing so, and in course of time when this infidel movement was known to the righteous group of bhikkhus it invariably gave birth to a bitter contempt on the part of the pious Buddhists who were not so befooled. This being known to King Asoka, a general meeting of bhikkhus was formally held in which there was a close scrutiny of the behaviour and ideal of an individual bhikkhu. This Council held under the auspices of the great and pious King Asoka was presided over by the Holy Thera Tissa Moggalliputta who was well versed in the Master’s doctrine. Any bhikkhu who was found out as holding heretical beliefs and practising infidel methods were disrobed until it was reasonably believed that there was left no more of such defilement of the doctrine.

After this monastic purgation the holy Tissa was then invited to call a meeting once again of the righteous and well versed bhikkhus for the sake of reviewing and restandardizing as in the previous Councils the Master’s doctrine so that it could be correctly handed down in all its simplicity and nobility. For this purpose the Arama (or monastery) of Asoka in the town of Pataliputta was presented to the holy ones as the choice place. About one thousand bhikkhus were called in to participate in this Council which lasted nine months, during which King Asoka, like the previous kings of the first and second Councils, had all the time given his best help. This even took place in the two hundred and eighteenth year after the Buddha’s death.

It has been rightly said that those who undertook to carry on the third council must have been more or less encouraged by the work of the previous Councils and its success was therefore undoubtedly inspired by the previous achievement of their devoted predecessors. But a unique aspect of success of the third Council which seems to surpass the previous two is that its missionary work was carried on in a far wider scale. King Asoka being an ardent missionary himself, it would not extol him to say that through his initiative character, groups of self-sacrificing bhikkhus were after the Council sent forth to various lands carrying the torch of India’s greatest son to illumine the four corners of the earth. Of these groups one sent to Ceylon was conducted by the great king’s son and daughter who had been ordained as a bhikkhu and a bhikkhuni (Buddhist female monk) respectively. Others were sent abroad and overseas to various remote countries. The one that reached Thailand was known to be conducted by the Venerable Sona and Uttara.

From the historians’ view-point these three Councils convened in India were accepted as perfectly and rightly carried out. From now on there had been several Councils held in various lands at different times but all these are local and sectarian Councils and not universally accepted as the perfect ones.
 
 

2) Buddhism in Indo-China Peninsula

As has been already pointed out, a group of missionary bhikkhus was sent by King Asoka to remote countries of the Indo-China peninsula. This was conducted by Venerable Sona and Uttara. In the course of their journey by land from India they must have passed Burma first before going on to other south-eastern countries. In Thailand the antiquities at the town of Nakhon Pathom, 50 kilometres west of Bangkok, seems to give practical evidence as to where Buddhism was first settled down. These include stone inscriptions, Buddha Images, the Buddha’s Foot-prints and the great Pagoda itself which, stripped of its later-constructed top, would be of the same design as the “Stupas” of that Great King Asoka at the town of Sanchi in India.

It was at first doubtful how the missionary bhikkhus managed to make themselves understood by the people of the place where they landed or reached. But in the case of the two holy ones who arrived Thailand at that time, it was rather fortunate for them that there had been Indian traders and refugees living all along the Malay and Indo-China Peninsulas. Some of these Indian tribes were known to have fled from Asoka’s invasion before he was converted to Buddhism by the horrors of war. Thus it was not without reason to say that the first preaching of the Message would be at first among the Indian themselves and then through these Indians interpreters to the people of the country who were supposed to be at that time a racial stock of people known as the Mons or Lawas.

Fu-Nan Period

We have learnt how Buddhism prospered in the Indo-China Peninsula which to some extent may be rightly called “Suvannaphumi” (lit. the Golden Land). The inhabitants of this region at that time, however, were supposed to be the Mons or Cambodia or “Lawa”, whose superiors or rulers were either the Indians themselves or of Indian blood or lineage by marriage. From this fact it was certain that Indian culture and civilization were prevailing all over the land. Thus to the exclusion of the north-east which is now the northern part of Vietnam, Theravada Buddhism had spread all over the Indo-China Peninsula and when in course of time the Burmese and the Thais evacuated from Tibet and Yunnan, they were also impressed and later on adopted it as their religion.

With the rise of Mahayana school in India in the sixth Buddhist century, missionaries were sent abroad both by sea and by land. Travelling by land they made their journey through Bengal and Burma, while in their voyage they first landed at the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra where they made the second part of their voyage to Cambodia. Also during this time there arose a “Fu-Nan” or Phanom Kingdom covering the land of Cambodia, and also the north-eastern and the central part of the Thailand. The people of this Fu-Nan Kingdom were known to profess the two schools of Buddhism were known to profess the two schools of Buddhism viz. the Theravada and Mahayana. So much so that in the tenth Buddhist century some Fu-Nan bhikkhus were recorded to have gone forth to China for the purpose of studying and translating the Buddhist texts there. Of these courageous bhikkhus, the well-known were Sanghapala and Mandarasena.

But the Fu-Nan Kingdom was, in the eleventh Buddhist century, on the decline and then overrun and defeated by one of here own colonies, the Jen-la kingdom. This also brought about a stop, if not a deterioration, in the progress of Buddhism of this land.

Tvaravadi Period

During the eleventh Buddhist century when Buddhism was more or less affected by the decline of the Fu-Nan kingdom, the Mons who lived in the territory of Chao Phraya River took it an opportunity to declare themselves independent and build up the “Tvaravadi” kingdom. Due to its being once a seat of culture and civilization, the new kingdom made a rapid progress in its arts and religion. It was also unique in maintaining and strictly observing the doctrine of Theravada Buddhism from one of Asoka’s missionary group. Since it had a close contact with the Indians of the Ganges, Buddhist art of this period was very much like that of Kupta dynasty of India. The capital, or centre of the “Tvaravadi” kingdom must have been in the present town of “Nakhon Pathom”. But in the following the twelfth Buddhist century the kingdom extended upwards firstly to the town of Lopburi and then to the northern provinces of Thailand. One evidence of this fact was that Queen Camadevee, who was a Mon of Tvaravadi period, became the ruler of the town of Hariphunjai or the present town of Lamphun (some 700 kilometres north of Bangkok) and had invited 500 bhikkhus, all well versed in the Canon, to preach their doctrine for her people. This was one reason that Theravada Buddhism of Tvaravadi had gained ground in the northern Provinces of Thailand at present (It was also at that time in the possession of the Thais evacuating from Yunnan). The Mons domination over the northern region lasted many centuries and inscriptions in ancient Mons character can be found from the town of Nakhon Pathom up to Lopburi and Lamphun.

In the fourteenth Buddhist century the Jen-La kingdom was replaced by the ancient Khmer (Cambodian) kingdom, which also pushed forward its territory to some parts of Tvaravadi kingdom, to the exclusion of the latter’s north and north-eastern provinces.

Srivijai Period

During the time Tvaravadi kingdom was still flourishing there were in the south of Thailand several states, some of which, as mentioned in the Chinese record, were Siah-Tho (Red Earth) and Phan Phan. The former was situated somewhere near the state of Saiburi in the Federated Malay States (also some archaeologists confirm that this state was somewhere near the town of Madrid in Burma). Its people professed Buddhism. The latter was what is at present the town of Surat Thani in Thailand (some 650 kilometres South of Bangkok). Its people were said to accept Theravada Buddhism as their faith. These states used to have close communications with the Tvaravadi. In the twelfth Buddhist century there arose in Sumatra a Srivijjai kingdom, whose dominating power and territory extending to the Malay Peninsula was bordered by that of the Tvaravadi dingdom. In these states during this time, however, the Savakayana Buddhism, according to the Chinese missionary E-Ching’s record, was still flourishing, since their rulers and people firmly adhered to the rules and the practices of the doctrine. But when the Pala dynasty of Magadha-Bengal began to rise to power, Mahayana Buddhism, especially the Mantarayana sect, was energetically patronized, and since the country also came into contact with the equally mighty kingdom of Srivijai, now lord of the Southern Seas and the Malay Peninsula, the Mahayana sect had been accepted by the Srivijai kingdom as their faith for the following five Buddhist centuries. Evidences of these may be found in that in the town of Nakhon Si Thammarat, which was then known by the name of Tam-Pnon-Link, there is a rock inscription in Sanskrit characters, dated as far back as B.E. 1318 (775 AD), mentioning the suzerainty of a Srivijai King. Also in the fifteenth Buddhist century, there was mentioned a great religious teacher of Tibet, called Dipankara Atisa who had had his resident for 120 years at the Dhamma-Kirti in Sumatra. Next to these will be seen in the Vihara of Borobudur in Java, of which there is now no further question as to the greatness of its constructor. Especially in Thailand several places of worship such as the dagoba or Chedi enshrining the Buddha relics at that town of Chaiya and the innermost Chedi within the Ceylonese style Chedi at the town of Nakhon Si Thammarat are, among many others, undeniable evidences of Srivijai influence accompanies with Mahayana Buddhism of those days. These evidences along with several others, tell us that there were tow periods when the Srivijai influence was spread overseas to the land of Kam-Bhoo-Ja (Cambodia) and to her colonies in the thirteenth Buddhist century, whereas the second one was in the middle of the fifteenth century. King Suriya Varaman the first of Cambodia was also of Srivijai lineage and such was the reason why Mahayana culture was once flourishing in the countries of Thailand and Cambodia from the thirteenth Buddhist century.

Lopburi Period

The fifteenth to the eighteenth Buddhist century, when the Cambodian influence was predominant in Thailand, was called Lop Buri period. Some of these Cambodian kings, however, were Buddhist while others brahmanist. As for Buddhism then prevailing, they were mentioned both Theravada and Mahayana: the former not so ardently supported as the latter, since most kings were inspired by the Mahayana Buddhism, which had struck firm roots in this soil since the Fu-Nan period. Though it was for some time, during the Tvaravadi period, on the decline, it was subsequent to the decline of the Tvaravadi kingdom that the Mantarayana sect of Mahayana School was adopted from Srivijai and quickly became the dominating power in Cambodia and in some parts of Thailand such in the central plains and the north-eastern tableland. The well-known rock temple at that town of Phimai (on the north-eastern tableland) bears evidence of the dominating power of this Mahayana sect. This was supposed to be built in the sixteenth Buddhist century while the triple “Prang” (a kind of pagoda) at Lopburi was also known to be dedicated to Mahayana Buddhism. Besides, a countless number of Buddha amulets will be found in several towns of Thailand such as in the town of Nakhon Sithammarat (some 800 kilometres south of Bangkok), Lopburi, Suphanburi and Sawankalok (some 500 kilometres north of Bangkok). These were all made according to the belief of the Mantarayana Buddhism which was later on the breeding ground of a sort of “black” magic that was added to the “corpus” of Buddhism in the neighbouring countries as well as in Thailand.
 
 

3) Buddhism in the Thai Kingdom

Buddhism as a movement in Thailand had always undergone various developments and obstacles side by side with the situation of the country that patronized it. Generally speaking, when the country is peaceful and safe from outward enemies, the Buddha light is aglow and the study and practice of Buddhism is always encouraged by the public as well as by the king or rulers. But when the country is on the decline, although the spirit of Buddhism - the Buddha light within - may still be singing in the hearts of the people, Buddhism as a movement is inevitably more or less affected. The teaching of history of Buddhism in Thailand is therefore not possible without referring to the periods when each dynasty ruled over the country and when the capital was moved generally southward for the sake of safety and convenience.

The “Ai-Lao” Period

The “Ai-Lao” Kingdom of the Thais in the province of Yunnan, so far as we learn from history, was founded in the fifth Buddhist century and in the following century Buddhism was believed to reach China. Meanwhile one of the Thai Kings of the “Ai-Lao”, called Khun Luang Mao, (there were at that time several independent tribes of the Thais) was known to have formally declared himself as a Buddhist. This was the first Thai ruler who made himself known as upholder of Buddhism, which was presumably a Sankayana rather than a Mahayana. But whether it was really the Theravada school or not is still an unsettled question (the Sankayana was, from its history in Pali and Sanskrit texts, sub-divided into 18 smaller groups).

Nan-Chao Period

Towards the close of the seventh Buddhist century the Thais, in constant conflict with the Chinese, chose to migrate southwards to the Indo-China Peninsula. Then there arose a Thai King whose name was Pi-lok, who founded the Nan-Chao Kingdom which lasted five centuries with its capital at the town of Ta-Li-Foo. It was during this time when Mahayana Buddhism, upheld by the “Tang” dynasty of China, was believed to flourish also in Thailand. One of the tributes paid to a king of the “Sung” dynasty was known to be a text of “Prajna-Paramita-Sutta”, which of course was especially one of Mahayana Suttas.

But in the following century (the eighteenth Buddhist century) Nan-Chao Kingdom was overrun by Kublaikhan’s army. This was the cause of further migration southward of the free-spirited Thais and they consequently came into contact with their compatriots who had settled down in the Indo-China Peninsula before that time.

Chiang-San Period

The Chiang-San or Yo-nok, the sixteenth – twenty-first Buddhist century, was founded in the sixteenth Buddhist century by the Thais migrating from their “Ai-Lao” Kingdom. They seemed, however, to have at this time a more cosmopolitan outlook in their religious beliefs, for while some were known to be still ardent supporters of Buddhism of their former Kingdom (Ai-Lao), others adhered strongly to the Theravada of the Mons, others Mahayana of Cambodia and still others Mahayana of the Nan-Chao Kingdom. But in course of time, some parts of the Kingdom were under the suzerainty of the Burmese, who had been used to adopting and re-adopting various faiths that reached their land. They, as well as the Thais, first professed Theravada Buddhism of the Mons and then changed to the Mantarayana sect of Mahayana school which reached Burma from Bengal in India. Then in the sixteenth Buddhist century, when King Anoradha of Burma re-adopted the former Theravada as his faith, seat of Buddhism was then at the town of Phu-Kam (or Pagan) where Theravada Buddhism had had her golden days. This led to a misunderstanding by some historians who concluded that the Buddhism belonged to another system of thought and practice and thus incorrectly named it “Theravada in the Pagan Style”. In fact it was no other than the former School of the Mons which had once been on the decline and was afterwards revived during the great king Anoradha’s reign.

Due to his mighty forces the north-western part of Thailand and some of the town on the Chaophraya River were also under his power. The town of Nakhon Pathom was also overrun during his reign. Thus Theravada Buddhism also gained ground in these parts of the land. But owing to their being accustomed to their former practices, Mahayana Buddhism was still firmly adhered to by those who had once been under Cambodiam power.

Lankavangsa (Ceylon) Period

In the Buddhist seventeenth century there reigned in Ceylon a great king whose name was Prak-Kamabahu. Being himself a devoted follower of the Buddha, he had dedicated much of his personal property and of his own happiness for the promotion of Buddhism in his land. His unique achievement was that he had managed to unite the bhikkhus of various sects who had some minor doctrinal differences and also had them convene a Council of well versed Theras (or Elders) for the sake of settling the contents of the three Baskets of Buddhism Canon as had been previously done in Ceylon and India. Due to the success of this Council, the Pali language was once again revised and proclaimed as the formal language for the research and study of Buddhism. His fame having spread for and wide to foreign lands, several Buddhist countries such as Burma and Thailand then sent out groups of bhikkhus to further their study of Buddhism in Ceylon. Seeing with their own eyes how the Ceylonese bhikkhus were well-behaved and well-grounded in their doctrinal beliefs, most of these bhikkhus were strongly impressed and took that opportunity to remain in Ceylon and have a thorough study of the Master’s teachings. For this purpose, these foreign bhikkhus were to be ordained once again in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Ceylonese bhikkhus. On their return, they brought to their homeland the refined manners, well-grounded belief and Ceylonese culture which again made no less impression upon their people than they themselves had been so impressed. More young men left their homes for the homeless life of a bhikkhu and the Ceylonese religious culture had from that time taken root in various countries such as Burma, Lao, Cambodia and Thailand.

In Thailand it was about the Sukhothai Period, B.E. 1800, that the Ceylonese culture was adopted. It was believed that there were also some Ceylonese bhikkhus accompanying Thai bhikkhus on their homeward bound. They must have first of all landed at the town of Nakhon Sithammarat (some 800 kilometers south of Bangkok) and heralded the new culture there. When, as before, their fame was known far and near, it had later on reached the town of Sukhothai (some 500 kilometers north of Bangkok), then the capital of Thailand. The great king Ramkamhaeng, being himself as devout Buddhist, was delighted at the news and sent messengers to invite the group of “Lankavansa” bhikkhus to preach their doctrine at Sukhothai, promising them every help and convenience. We learn from the inscriptions that, through these Ceylonese bhikkhus from Nakkon Sithammarat, he was also well versed in the Buddhist Canon and whatever lessons in moral he taught his people, they were always backed by his own example.

Thus with the rise of Ceylonese Buddhist culture under the devoted king’s patronage, came the decline of the once flourished school of Mahayana. This undoubtedly was due to the doctrinal as well as the disciplinary differences in several major practices and ideals. The former Theravada school not differing widely in the spirit and modes of practice, held their ground for the time being but had finally to give way and assimilate itself with the more influential party of Lankavangsa.

Obviously this movement bears a paramount and lasting influence upon the Buddhist disciplinary practice from then to the present time. One practical evidence to be seen even today is that around the Uposatha or the main shrine of several Aramas or temples both in the Sukhothai and the Chakri (the present dynasty) period there can be found sets of two, or even three, boundary stones set up within an arched stone canopy. This was possible because of the aversion on the part of Ceylonese bhikkhus, who were unwilling to perform religious rites within the former boundary stone, which, to the, might not have been correctly built or formally put up in strict accordance with the disciplinary rules. Thus they had one, or even two more to be built and formally put up according to their standard of belief. That most of the royal Aramas or temples in Bangkok today can be seen with two or three blocks of boundary stone is an evident proof how deep-rooted was the establishment of Lankavangsa ideals in Thailand.

Sukhothai Period

The eighteenth Buddhist century saw the decline of the Cambodian power which paved the way for the independence of the Thais and then to the establishment of the Sukhothai kingdom by the free Thais under the leadership of Poh-Khun (Lord or chief) Intrathit and Ban Muang. These people of Sukhothai professed Buddhism both Mahayana and Theravada, while those of the north-east and of Nakkon Sithammarat in the South, being independent of Sukhothai, adhered firmly to Theravada. In the reign of the great king Ram Kam Haeng, third king of the Sukhothai lineage, his kingdom was greatly extended as far north as the town of Laung Phra Bang and as far south as the Malay Peninsula. In the East it was borderedd by the river Mae Khong and in the west it annexed the whole of the Mons kingdom. The flood of Srivijai power was now ebbing away due to the downward press of the Thais together with the upward press of Java. And, just as before, with the ebbing away of military power came the decline of its accepted faith. Thus it was now the turn of Theravada to gain the spiritual power over the people, whereas Mahayana of Cambodia and Srivijai, having once risen to power together, were once again having an equal share in their declining days.

Now that the Lankavangsa Buddhism was well patronized by King Ramkamhaeng of the Sukhothai dynasty, it finally dominated over the existing beliefs of the Theravada and Mahayana. Sanskrit, the language held sacred by the Mahayanist, was accordingly replaced by Pali, the sacred language of the Theravadins and the Lankavangsa. The study of Pali was certainly at that time greatly enhanced. So much so that one of the later kings of Sukhothai dynasty called Phaya Lithai was among the well-known Pali Scholars far famed for his experience and devotion in the Buddhist study and way of life. He had also crystallized his research into the form of a book called in Thai “Triphoom Phra-Ruang” which is considered the earliest manuscript of Thailand. Its index and bibliography tells us how extensive his research was and how well-known he was among Buddhist scholars of that time. From a book by a lady called “Nopphamas”, presumably one of the lesser queens of the Sukhothai kings, there were ample evidences how Buddhist was at that time flourishing both in the study and the practice.

One of the stone inscriptions (B.E. 1835 or 1292 AD) in the reign of the great King Ram Kamhaeng tells us further that the Buddhist hierarchy of Ceylon was also adopted in Thailand. In another inscription (B.E. 1904 or 1361 AD) in the reign of the later king Lithai of Sukhothai there was mentioned a Patriarch “Maha Swami” of Ceylon being invited to be the Patriarch “Maha Sangha Raja” of Thailand. Also in this reign there was recorded that the bhikkhus were divided into two groups viz. the “Gamavasi - those living together within the town (or village) and the Aranyavasi - those living alone in the forest. This must have been originated from the two aspects of the study of Buddhism in the scriptures viz. Ganthadhura - the business of learning (or book-studying) and Vipassanadhura - the business of practising or meditating for the development of Insight. This two categories of bhikkhus though not formally divided may be actually seen even in the present time.

All though the time of Sukhothai period Buddhism had played a very important role as the foundation of culture, architecture and Buddha image construction, some evidences of which may be seen in the exquisite worksmanship displayed in the images of the Buddha called JINARAJ, in the grand temple of Phitsanulok, 400 kilometers north of Bangkok, and JINASRI in the temple of PAVARANIVESA in Bangkok. The stars of Sukhothai, however, had risen for one hundred and twenty years and from that time it began to fall gradually until the kingdom was finally annexed to Ayutthaya.

Chiang-Mai Period

While one of the Thai tribes of the Chao Phraya River was founding Sukhothai kingdom, another tribe in the north-western tableland, called Lanna, was also successful in driving out the Mons influence from the River Ping. In the nineteenth Buddhist century King Meng-Rai of the ancient Chiang-San dynasty was known to have defeated King Ye-Ma, the Mon king of the town of Lamphun, and later built his capital at Chiang Mai.During this time Theravada Buddhism of Ceylon had been brought from their flourishing states in the Mons country and in Sukhothai to the north-western tableland, but was not able to take its firm roots there. In the twentieth Buddhist century through the royal order of King-Kue-Na, several “Lankavangsa” bhikkhus both from Moulmein (Mau-Ta-Ma) and from Sukhothai were invited to Chiang-Mai (750 km. north of Bangkok) to preach their doctrine. Of these bhikkhus along with their followers, one named Ananda was from the town of Mua-Ta-Ma in the Mons country and the other called Sumana was from Sukhothai.

In the following century (B.E. 2020 or 1477 AD) under the auspices of King Tilokara, the thirteenth of Chieng Mai dynasty and under the leadership of Khammadinna Thera, a general Council of bhikkhus which lasted one year was convened at the Maha Bodhivong Vihara. Practically this was the first Council held in Thailand and reflected the intensive study of Buddhism during the time. A collection of Pali texts, compiled by the Thera (Elders) of that glorious age, are now a pride of the those who wished to further their research of Buddhism in the Pali language. Some such texts were Abhidhammayojana, Mulakaccayanayojana. Vinayayojana, Vessantaradipani and Mangalathadipani. In the following (twenty-second) century the town was taken by the Burmese and from time Chiang-Mai became a unhappy town alternately torn by two superior powers i.e. Burma on her north and the kingdom of Ayutthaya on her south.

Ayutthaya Period

Towards the close of the nineteenth Buddhist century which witnessed the decline of Sukhothai kingdom, King U-thong of Suphunaphum, once under Sukhothai domination, proclaimed his state as independent of Sukhothai power and built up his capital at a town called Sri Ayutthaya, south of Sukhothai. This kingdom, which lasted 417 years, are ruled over by 33 kings.

Through more than four centuries which marked the age of Ayutthaya kingdom, Theravada Buddhism in Thailand seemed to reach its zenith of popularity. Within and without the city of Ayutthaya there scattered innumerable temples and pagodas which served as places, thereby exerting a great influence on the spiritual life of the people. Buddhist art, both in the field of architecture and Buddha-image construction, were on the same line of flourishing. An illustrative example of this fact may be seen today in the temple of the Foot-Prints at Saraburi. There was also a tradition which is still in practice today for every Thai young man to be ordained at least once as a bhikkhu. Several kings such as Pra Borom Trai Lokanatha, the 18th king, in following the example set by King Li-Thai of Sukhothai period, had temporarily renounced his throne to be ordained as a bhikkhu.

During the reign of Phra Borom-Kote, the thirty-first of Ayutthaya kingdom, there reigned in Ceylon a king named Kitti-Siri-Raj-Singha, who being discouraged by the decline of Buddhism in his island country and learning that Buddhism was purer in Thailand than any other country, sent forth his religious mission to the Thai King, asking a favour of some Thai bhikkhus to revive the spirit of Theravada Buddhism which had almost died out in his land. This was a good occasion when Thailand was able to repay her debt to Ceylon and the Venerable Upali, together with his followers, were sent to Ceylon. Thus the community of Ceyl;onese bhikkhus ordained by the Thai bhikkhus at that time has ever since been called Upali-Vangsa or Siam-Vangsa. It is the well known and most revered sect in Ceylon.

Religious literature of Ayutthaya, however, abounded both in Pali and Thai language, but most of them were most regretfully destroyed when the kingdom was ruthlessly overrun by the enemy in 2310 BE.

Thonburi Period

There was not much to say about Buddhism in the short-lived Thonburi period (2310-2365 BE). During the prelude of fifteen years, a greater part of which was occupied in driving our the enemy and restoring the peaceful situation of the country, what could be done to Buddhism was merely a general revival of Buddhism, not to say the compiling of new texts and other measures for the propagation of Buddhism. In the reign of King Thonburi he had several temples repaired, monastic rules settled, religious texts collected and the study and practice of Buddhism revised to some degree. With regard to the texts such as the Tipitaka, Commentaries and Sub-commentaries destroyed by fire, he had them borrowed or copied from those Combodia. It is safe, however, to say that Theravada Buddhism in the form of that of Ayutthaya was still prevailing in Thonburi period.

Ratanakosin Period

King Rama I

The reign of King Rama 1 of Chakri dynasty began in the year 2325 BE, with the town of Bangkok as capital. Although there were some wars with outward enemy, he often managed to find time to encourage the study and practice of Buddhism. Numerous temples, both inside and outside the capital, were repaired. Of these temples, the Jetuvana Vihara (or Wat Pho, in the vernacular), which ranks among one of the most important, had undergone seven years of repair and the well-known Wat-Phra-Keo (Temple of the Emmeral Buddha), which is regarded as the most important one in Thailand, was also built during his reign. From the Northern provinces such as from Sukhothai, a number of Buddha images (about two thousand in all) were brought in order to be enshrined in the Uposatha of various temples in Bangkok.

 In 2331 BE a Council of Bhikkhus was convened for the sake of, as before, settling the contents of the Tipitaka and having those settled passages written down with a stylus on books made of corypha palm leaves. Such books were numbered 345 in all, i.e. 80 for the Abhidhamma and 53 for the Saddavisesa texts. The Council, held at the present Wat Mahadhat, lasted five months and under the chairmanship of a Supreme Patriarch (whose name was Sri). The participants were 218 bhikkhus together with 32 lay scholars. This was the second council held in Thailand.

Religious literature during his reign were compiled both in Pali and in Thai, of these, one was a Pali treatise celled Sangitiyavangsa written by Somdet Phra Vanarat of Jetuvana Temple.

King Rama II

King Rama II, formerly called Phra Buddha Lert Lah, came to the throne in B.E. 2352. Buddhist activities during his time were noted in sending a religious good-will mission group to Ceylon and organizing the research and study of Buddhism. Thus it was during this time that the course for studying Buddhism in Pali language was divided into mine grades as such had once been done in Ayutthaya period. Other activities included the repairing of the existing temples and the building of new ones. The latter included the “Prang” of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), symbolic of Thailand for all foreigners.

King Rama III

Phra Nang-Klao, the third of the Chakri dynasty, succeeded his father in B.E. 2367. Having a natural bent for architecture besides being a pious king himself, he had more temples built both inside and outside Bangkok. The temple of Jetuvana in the reign of King Rama I became a treasure of religious knowledge for Buddhist scholars and the symbolic “Prang” of Bangkok was perfectly completed in his reign. Also two groups of good-will missionary bhikkhus, one after the other, were sent to Ceylon. His piety in Buddhism may be seen in his pioneer undertaking to translate the Pali Tipitaka and some other Pali texts into Thai. Nevertheless, his reign came to an end before they were all completed.

In B.E. 2372 there was a religious movement which marked a cornerstone for the study and practice of Buddhism in Thailand, ---- the birth of the Dhammayutta group of bhikkhus. This was due to Prince Mongkut, the King’s younger brother who had been ordained as a bhikkhu for 27 years. Through this long period of secluded life he was endowed with a thorough knowledge of the Buddhist Scriptures, including the Tipitaka, its Commentaries, Sub-commentaries and other Pali texts as well. With such a wealth of knowledge gained and digested as a result of long and profound thinking, he was able to distinguish more clearly between what is right and what is wrong in the Master’s doctrine. He then set out putting to practice what is mentioned and regarded as righteous in the Tipitaka. By doing so, he unwittingly made a great impression on those who, inspired by his conduct, took it upon themselves to follow his way of life. This group of people, in course of time, grew bigger and more popular and became a separate gathering of bhikkhus called the Dhammayutta group as distinct from the former group of bhikkhus in Thailand. Besides being proficient in religious knowledge, Prince Mongkut also had a good command of Sanskrit and English , and in his establishing the Dhammayutta group of bhikkhus, his movement might be compared with that of the Venerable Rahula Thera who through his examplary mode of practice had founded the Lankavangsa group of bhikkhus at the town of Nakhorn Si Thammarat (some 800 km. south of Bangkok).

Of the religious literature in Thai, one was “Pathom-Som-Bodhi-Katha” (life of Buddha) compiled by the Supreme Patriarch Prince Paramanujit Jinorasa of Jetuvana Temple. Of the works in Pali, one called “Sima Vicarana” (Treatise on Sima or boundary of a main shrine) compiled by Prince Mongkut himself wins high respect in Ceylon.

King Rama IV

King Rama IV, or Prince Mongkut who had to disrobe himself after his brother’s death, came to the throne in B.E. 2394. He was formally known as Phra Chom Klao. During his reign bhikkhus were greatly encouraged in their study and practice of Buddhism, so that they were well-behaved as well as well-educated in the Buddha’s doctrine. Some rules and regulations for the betterment of the administration of the community of bhikkhus as a whole were laid down; a group of religious good-will mission was sent forth to Ceylon; and the community of Dhammayutta bhikkhus was also established in Cambodia.

Never was the construction work neglected. The Raj-Pra-Dit Temple, one of the most important temples of Bangkok was an evidence of the fact. The greatest and highest “Chedi” or pagoda of Nakhon Pathom, called the “Pathom Chedi” second to none in its design and decorations, also bears witness of his constructive genius and serves to remind the Thai people of its historical importance.

As a result of earnest study in Buddhism there were more books expounding the tenets of the Buddha’s doctrine in Thai language. This movement opened up a new trend of modern thought in disseminating the Dhamma to the people on a broader scale, instead of the former which seemed like monopolizing it for the realization of the few intelligentsia. Of the Pali literature, a volume by the Supreme Patriarch Prince Pavares Variyalongkorn, named “Sugatavidatthividhana” is the most important of the time.

King Rama V

The reign of King Rama V, formerly called Phra Chula Chom Klao, began in the year B.E. 2411 and lasted 42 years. He was also one of the few monarchs who temporarily renounced his throne after his coronation in order to be ordained as a bhikkhu. This was because most of the Thai kings since Ayudhya period were usually ordained before the coronation day.

Being no less devout to Buddhism than his predecessors, he managed to found two Buddhist Universities for the sake of increasing the progress and stability of the education of Buddhism.

These two were Mahamakuta Raja Vidyalaya and Mahachulalongkorn Raja Vidyalaya, both of which have played a very in the field of Buddhist study. He also enacted a law concerning the administrative system of the community of bhikkhus, declaring that the Buddhist Church should be self-governing holy community, while the state would be the patron under the direction and for the welfare of the Church. Of other major construction work one is Wat Benjamabophit, which is well known among foreigners for its impressive Buddha image in the Uposatha.

In B.E. 2431 a Council of Bhikkhus under the chairmanship of the Supreme Patriarch Prince Pavares Variyalongkorn was held for the purpose of transliterating the existing Tipitaka from the palm-leaf books in Cambodian characters to printed books using Thai characters. This required 39 printed volumes for each set of the entire Tipitaka. Besides the Message itself, some Commentaries from Cambodian to Thai characters and then printed in the form of paper books.

One of the king’s elements of religious success, however, undoubtedly comes from the zealous efforts of one of his great helpers. This was no other than his own half-brother, the Supreme Patriarch Prince Vajirananavarorasa, who had a profound knowledge in English as well as Pali and Sanskrit. Thus, by virtue of his ability plus his high position (as the king’s brother and as chief of the whole community of bhikkhus), the theoretical and practical sides of Buddhism under the far-sighted and able Patriarch were greatly encouraged. Most of his noble works are still now studies by the public as well as by the students, and it is never an over-estimate to say that he has blazed a trial for modern thought in the study and practice of Buddhism.

In B.E. 2437 the Mahamakuta Raja Vidyalaya, one of the two Buddhist Universities published a religious periodical, called “Dhama Cakshu”, which now reaches its sixty-third anniversary and is therefore the oldest and most long-lived religious periodical in Thailand.

King Rama VI

King Rama VI, the poet and philosopher, formally known as Phra Mongkut Klao, ascended the throne in B. E. 2453. In order to imbue the spirit of Buddhism into the minds of his citizens, without distinction of position, profession or sex, he organized a new branch of studying Buddhism in Thai language. This was successfully done because there has been several texts on Buddhism compiled in the reign of his royal father together with many writers during his reign [mostly by the Supreme Patriarch Prince Vajirananavarorasa]. He himself never neglected to do so, and thus there were written many religious books which were both instructive and understandable by all. His wealth of religious literature consisted of such books as “ Addresses to Scouts” and “What did the Buddha realize?” So it can be said that the study of Buddhism was now accessible to all, whether they know Pali or not, whether they want to study it for a long time of within a limited period of time and whether they be a male or a female. In case they have a limited time for studying, it is then advisable that they should Buddhism from the texts written in Thai, and if they are ordained as a Bhikkhu or Samanera [Novice], they are called “Nak Dhamma [Dhammiko-the Dhamma student]. The [almost] same course for laymen or woman called “Dhamma Suksa”. [Dhamma-Sikkha-Dhamma student].

As regards the transliteration work done in the reign of King Rama V, more Commentaries, Sub-commentaries, Tika, and other Paki works were transliterated during his reign.

King Rama VII

Phra Pok Klao, of King Rama VII, came to the throne in B.E. 2468. Besides preserving all the movements for the promotion of Buddhism as King Rama VI had done, he also had a Council of Bhikkhus convened under the chairmanship of the Supreme Patriarch Prince Jinavara Sirivatthana for the sake of revising and checking the contents for the 39 Tipitaka volumes printed in the reign of King Rama V with the Tipitakas from Ceylon, Burma, Europe and Cambodia. Then a re-print was done. This time the contents were divided into 45 volumes, of which 8 were the Vinaya, 25 Suttanta and 12 Abhidhamma. All these were printed in B.E. 2470. This new set of Tipitaka was called “the Siam-Rath edition”.

King Rama VIII

King Rama RII or King Ananda Mahidol, succeeded King Rama VII in the year B.E. 2477. The administrative system for the community of Bhikkhus was during this time altered in compliance with that for the State, so that there were Ecclesiastical ministers and prime minister. More of this alteration will be dealt with under the heading “Administrative system for the community of Thai Bhikkhus” in the following pages.

Or the events worth mentioning, one was the construction of Wat Phar Sri Mahadhat by the Government and another was the study of Buddhism which became more popular in neighbouring lands such as in the Federated Malay States and Singapore.

King Rama IX

The reign of King Rama IX, formally called King Phumiphon, began in B.E. 2489.

A special hospital for Bhikkhus was built and two Buddhist Universities, in the real sense of a university, were established. These two are Mahamakuta University, situated at the temple of Bovaranives, opined in B.E. 2489. and Mahachulalongkorn University, situated at the temple of Mahadhat, opened in B.E. 2490. There two Buddhist Universities were really managed by Bhikkhus, with a subsidy from the Government and contributions from the public. Also studying in these two universities are Bhikkhus from neighbouring countries such as Laos and Cambodia. Up till now there have been several groups of graduated students. This is in a way a good omen foe Buddhism in this age of trouble and turmoil.

In B.E. 2499. King Bhumiphol temporarily renounced the throne for the purpose of ordination. During the period as a Bhikkhu he gad attentively studied Buddhism both in its theoretical and practical side. This moved the people to a general appreciation and rejoicing and in this occasion there was also rejoicing and in this occasion there was also an amnesty of many prisoners. The Supreme Patriarch was the Preceptor [Upajja] in this royal ceremony of ordination.
 
 

MAHAYANA BUDDHISM IN RATANAKOSIN PERIOD

Mahayana Buddhism might have theoretically or nominally been lost from Thailand in the eighteenth Buddhist century, but all through this time some of its ideals have been practically and with some degree of sincerity adhered to by the general public. The general belief that everybody is or can be a Buddha and that the king is a Boddhisatva [or future Budbha] including the efficacy of charms and amulets that make a believer invulnerable to weapons and dangers and misfortunes are evidences that the spirit of Mahayana is still clinging stubbornly to the hearts of the people.

The first time Mahayana Buddhism came into Thailand was the Mantrayana Sect. Then for the second time Mahayana was introduced in the reign of King Thonburi and Rattanakosin Period by the refugees from Viet-Nam or Annam at that time. Owing to a state of revolution in their country, there were many noblemen and people who were immigrants from Annam. They later on built up a temple of their own. With a second wave of immigrants two more Annam Temples were built in Bangkok. In the reign of King Rama III, there more temples of the Annam Buddhism, one in Bangkok and two in the country, were built by the third group of immigrants.

In the reign of King Rama V there came from China a Chinese Bhikkhu, who later became very popular among the Chinese in Thailand, He afterwards built two Chinese temples-one in the country and the other in Bangkok called in Chinese “Leng Noi Yee” or Wat Mang Kon Kamalavas which is the biggest Mahayana temple in Thailand. When an ecclesiastic title was given to the Chinese and the Annam Bhikkhus, he was one of those who were offered the honorable title. It should be noted, however, that Mahayana Buddhism in Thailand introduced by the Chinese and the Annam Bhikkhus belonged to the Sukgavati sect.

Another progressive step of the Chinese Buddhists during this reign was the building of another temple of their own-the first temple in Thailand that, due to the presence of Sima (formal boundary mark as prescribed in the Vinaya or Book of Discipline), can be used as a place wherein to perform the religious rite of ordination. This eliminated one of the the previous troubles that required a Chinese Bhinkkhu to be ordained from China. In addition to this, there were also many Buddhist Associations founded by the Chinese Buddhists for the purpose of propagating their Mahayana doctrine. Nevertheless, their propagation was practically restricted restricted among their propagation was practically restricted among their fellow-men. This is possibly because the Mahayana Bhikkhus are generally more relaxed in their behaviour and less educated in their study.

SOME PROPAGATION ACTIVITIES

It has been traditional for every Wat or temple in Thailand to arrange for every Wat or temple in Thailand to arrange for a delivering of the sermon four times a month. This is done on the Buddhist Sabbath day, called in Thai “Wan Phra”, which, calculated from the lunar calendar, falls on the full-moon day, the half-moon days (of the waxing moon and the waning moon) and the day before the new moon day. In addition to this, there was later arranged a sermon on Sunday which, like those on the four Sabbath days, has been broadcast from various radio radio stations. The days of the Buddhist events such as Visakha Day, Magha or All Saints’ day and the day of Lent are proclaimed official official holidays. On the Buddhist Sabbath days there is to be no killing whatever in all slaughter-houses. There is also a department of religious affairs which is responsible for the welfare of Bhikkhus and the upholding of Buddhism (and other religions), for which purpose an annual subsidy from the Government is given. Bhikkhus who are well be offered a noble title by the king according to their ability and will also be given some financial help by the government.

Every turn of life practically cannot do without Buddhist ceremony or observance in some way or other. The birth, marriage, death and many other occasions of an individual as well as state ceremonies often require some Bhikkhus to take part in them by chanting or by delivering a sermon or by some other methods. Before beginning the morning lessons in every school, the pupils are to say their prayer to the Triple Gem (i. e. the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha ), and the life of Buddha and his doctrine are among compulsory subjects in the school curriculum. Also there has for a long time a tradition that every Thai youth must be once ordained as a Bhikkhu for a “Vassa” (a rainy season i. e. three months). It is all the better for him if he can stay as a Bhikkhu longer than that or for the rest of rest of his life.

At present there are several Buddhist as associations under the management of devoted lay adherents. Some of these are the Buddhist Association and the Yong Buddhist Association of Thailand, both with affiliated societies in almost every town in the country. By the efforts of these associations programmes for a lecture or talk or discussion on the Dhamma are at regular intervals arranged for the public, in addition to a periodical each of their own.

Thus it is an undeniable fact to say that the every day life of a Thai from the cradle to the grave, so to speak, together with his arts and craft and literature and culture and arts and other elements of his life, are all based upon and moulded by the one common factor-the spirit of Buddhism.

ADMINISTRATION OF THE BUDDHIST CHURCH

In Thailand the head of the Buddhist Church is the Supreme Patriarch. The executive power is vested in the Council of Ecclesiastical Ministers, which to a great extent corresponds to the Cabinet Council of the State. For this Council there are Ecclesiastical Ministers, including the Sangha Nayaka (Ecclesiastical Premier), Ecclesiastical Ministers for Administration, for Propagation, for Education and for Public Welfare, and Eccl. deputy ministers. The rest are Eccl. ministers without portfolio.

The State, so far as the administration of the Church is concerned, is divided into main sections, each with its own Eccl. High Commissioner and his assistant, something like the State High Commissioner or Governor-general. Each section is further sub-divided into town, each with its own leading Bhikkhu or Eccl. Commissioner or Governor with his assistant. Then (for each town) there is a board of town committee, along with the board of town judges. Each town is divided into several “Amphur” (or districts), which in turn is sub-divided into several “Tam-boon” (Sub-districts). For each “Amphur” and “Tamboon” there is again a chief together with his assistant and board of “Amphur” or “Tam-boon” committee, These administrative agents are all Bhikkhus.

The Twenty-Fifth Buddhist Century

In the auspicious occasion of the twenty-fifth Buddhist century, Thailand has organized a nation-wide celebration from 12th-18th May in commemoration of one of greatest events for all Buddhists. Thus for the glory of the longevity of Buddhism in spite of undermining influences, and for the sake of showing the world how Thailand had firmly upheld Buddhism and how the Thai people are impressed by the Master’s teaching, there is allocated as a sanctuary a piece of land to be called Buddha-Monthon (Buddha’s domain), wherein is erected a standing Buddha image 2500 in. in height. In addition to this, the whole Tipitaka or the Three Baskets of the Buddhist Canon has been translated into Thai; temples and places of worship all over the land are being repaired; 2500 persons are to be ordained as Bhikkhus, and an Amnesty Act is passed; Buddhist activities, both on the part of Bhikkhus and laities such as of the various Buddhist societies, are also exhibited to the public; Buddhist literature and pieces of art will be displayed, and, within the temporary pavilion in the midst of the Phra Meru Ground, sermons are to be delivered, Parittas (instructive passages from the Sacred Books) chanted and food presented to 2500 Bhikkhus each day throughout the seven day celebration. These are to be presided over by their Majesties the King and the Queen.

CIRAM TITTHATU SADDHAMMO
May the Buddha’s doctrine remain for ever.


Source:  - Mahamakuta Rajavidyalaya Foundaion, Thailand
             -  Buddhasasana Homepage

 

 


Update : 01-12-2001

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