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The national religion of Thailand is Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism. It is the faith of 95 percent of the population, with minorities of Muslims (4.6%), Christians (0.7%), Mahayana Buddhists, and other religions. Thai are also attached to Mahayana Buddhism which is practiced widely in China, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, Japan and Nepal.

Buddhism is considered an essential pillar of society; it is not only the major moral force of Thai family and community but has also contributed to the moulding of freedom loving, individualistic, and tolerant people for many centuries. Buddhism in Thailand is strongly influenced by traditional beliefs regarding ancestral and natural spirits, which have been incorporated into Buddhist cosmology. It plays a very important role in Thai ways of life from the past until today.

Sukhothai's King Ramkhamhaeng organized the Theravada Buddhism as Thailand's governing religion. Accordingly, the king of Thailand must be a Buddhist under the constitution. Both the government and the king support morally or spiritually all the religions approved by the people. Amidst rich diversity of beliefs, people of Thailand have always lived together in peace and harmony.
This Buddhism is exercised in Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Sri Lanka in the 1980s. Thai Theravada Buddhism is supported and overseen by the government, with monks receiving a number of government benefits, such as free use of the public transportation infrastructure.

In Thailand, the second largest religious group is Muslim. Southernmost provinces in Thailand such as Yala, Narathiwat, Pattani and part of Songkhla Chumphon have been controlling Muslim populations, consisting of religious of Thai and Malay. Most of Muslim lives separately from non-Muslims communities.

Thai places of worships are known as wats or temples, which are colourfully decorated in golden colour and usually feature multiple dome-shaped roofs which become increasingly acute towards the highest point. Temples are usually occupied by monks, who can also be seen walking around the city during the morning to receive their food from people as a sign of respect.





Most Thais believe in reincarnation, hopefully to a higher form of life and ultimately to nibbana, and to this end try to make merit doing good deeds. Ways to make merit include giving money to beggars, releasing caged birds and giving food to monks doing morning ‘pindabat’ alms rounds. Every Thai Buddhist man is expected to spend time as a monk, optimally between finishing school and starting a career and marrying.

Boys under 18 years of age often enter the Sangha as novices, as a family is believed to gain much merit when a son ‘takes robe and bowl.

Traditionally, the length of time spent in temple discipline is three months, usually during Buddhist lent. This begins in July and coincides with the rainy season, and so is called the “rains retreat” (Khao Jam Sin or Khao Pansa). Monks stay in their temples 3 months from Wan Khao Pansa, the day after Asha Pucha, in late July. Afterwards, they can, and do, go on pilgrimages again.

Modern men spend as little as a week or 15 days accruing merit as a monk. Some only spend a week as a novice, never becoming a monk but learning Buddhist history, philosophy and principles of meditation; other boys and young men stay in a temple as the “temple boys” helping with odd jobs in exchange for opportunity to advance their learning without taking vows.
Unseen forces are incredibly important in Thai life; underlying Buddhism hear are ancient forms of animism – belief in things of strong force, especially old trees, large, weird stones and all river, having souls. Buddhism molded itself onto local Animism, and produced a unique blend of moral philosophy and superstition, vaguely reminiscent of Latin American Catholicism.

Thai ghosts and spirits are of two kinds: ghosts of nature and place, and spirits kinked to Buddhist beliefs and legend. It is unwise to call attention to them, but spirits and ghosts live almost everywhere in Asia. Thais are dismayed by any irreverent speech or action related to them, which might disturb or provoke, diminishing harmony and perhaps leading to temporary chaos. Thai people take ghosts seriously; don’t joke about them, lest they appear!

Most Thai people own spirit houses, miniature wooden houses on a pole in which they believe household spirits live. This is most often found at the corner of a home or business, and generally positioned in an unlucky spot, as to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Spirit houses outside buildings in Thailand are for local spirits displaced by the construction of a human dwelling; they’re meant to be attractive to any potentially harmful spirits which might haunt people in the vicinity.

The Thais present offerings of food and drinks to these spirits to keep them happy. If these spirits aren't happy, it is believed that they will inhabit the larger household of the Thai, and cause chaos. These spirit houses can be found in public places and in the streets of Thailand, where the public make offerings.

Little symbolic icons, figurines representing servants, dancers, elephants, and even cars are placed on Spirit House verandahs. The plaster dancers entertain the local spirits. An elephant, horse of small car provides transportation, and blinking Christmas-tree lights make things cheery. Offerings are also placed in front of shops, on the bows of boats, in front of big trees. Any place spirits are believed to hang out receives gifts. Shrines inside a house are a recent phenomenon, adopted from Chinese practices. They’re also regularly given small cups of water, coke & /or whiskey, incense and flower strands.

Yellow or red cloth is sometimes wrapped around big trees believed to honor resident spirits, and even a cement pole may receive gifts, should there have been fatal accidents nearby. As elsewhere, small roadside shrines mark places of accidental death, and offerings are made as tokens of memory of the deceased, to placate a disturbed, possible disruptive spirit. Many large trees are believed to have a spirit, or even several, in residence. Very old trees are held in particular respect, and aren’t to be cut without warning the spirit, who can then find another tree.

Thais traditionally use protective tattoos and amulets for a variety of purposes. Medallions worn around the neck are believed to offer protection, as from accident of attack, or provide other forms of assistance, such as enhancing charm and sexual attractiveness. Sometimes tattoos and or charms are worn to ward off the interest of announced suitors!


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