Buddhism Around The World


Buddhism in Thailand


Buddhism in Thailand is largely of the Theravada school, which is followed by roughly 93.4 percent of the population. Thailand has the second largest Buddhist population in the world, after China, with approximately 64 million Buddhists. Buddhism is believed to have come to what is now Thailand as early as the 3rd century BCE, in the time of the Indian Emperor Ashoka. Since then, Buddhism has played a significant role in Thai culture and society. Buddhism and the Thai monarchy have often been intertwined, with Thai kings historically seen as the main patrons of Buddhism in Thailand. Thai Buddhism is distinguished for its emphasis on short-term ordination for every Thai man and its close interconnection with the Thai state and Thai culture. The two official branches, or Nikayas, of Thai Buddhism are the royally backed Dhammayuttika Nikaya and the larger Maha Nikaya.


The Mahāvaṃsa, a historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, mentions that during the reign of Ashoka (c. 268 to 232 BCE), monks were sent to spread Buddhism to Suvarnabhumi, which is somewhere in Southeast Asia. Thai scholars believe that the Mon kingdom of Dvaravati (c. 6th to the 11th century) is likely to have received Buddhist missionaries during this era. This is because numerous archaeological finds in the ancient Dvaravati cities like Nakon Pathom point to an early Buddhist presence. These finds include Dharma wheels, Buddha footprints, crouching deer and Pali inscriptions. Thus, Dvaravati Buddhism was probably an Indian form of Theravada (or at least a non-Mahayana) Buddhism. The Dvaravati style has been compared to the Amaravati style and may be influenced by it. It has been suggested that the original structure of the ancient Phra Pathom Stupa (which has been covered by restorations and a spire that was added later) was of similar design to the Stupa of Sanchi.


There are two sects or Nikayas of the Buddhist Order in Thailand. One is the Mahanikaya, and the other is the Dhammayuttika Nikaya. The Mahanikaya is the older and by far the more numerous one, the ratio in the number of monks of the two sects being 35 to 1. The Dhammayuttika Nikaya was founded in 1833 A.D. by King Mongkut, the fourth ruler of the present Chakri Dynasty who ruled Thailand from 1851 to 1868 A.D. Having himself spent 27 years as a Bhikkhu, the King was well versed in the Dhamma, besides many other branches of knowledge, including Pali, the canonical language of Theravada Buddhism. The express desire of the King in founding the Dhammayuttika sect was to enable monks to lead a more disciplined and scholarly life in accordance with the pristine teachings of the Buddha.

The differences between the two Nikayas are, however, not great; at most they concern only matters of discipline, and never of the Doctrine. Monks of both sects follow the same 227 Vinaya rules as laid down in the Patimokkha of the Vinaya Pitaka (the Basket of the Discipline), and both receive the same esteem from the public. In their general appearance and daily routine of life too, except for the slight difference in the manners of putting on the yellow robes, monks of the two Nikayas differ very little from one another.

Buddhist Festivals in Thailand:

Visakha Puja - falls on the full moon of the sixth month of the lunar year (around the middle of May on the international calendar).

Magha Puja - falls on the full moon of the third lunar month (February). It was on this day that 1,250 enlightened monks converged to pay respect to the Lord Buddha without any prior appointment. The day is celebrated in a similar fashion to Visakha Puja day.

Asalha Puja - falls on the full moon of the eighth lunar month (July) and is also very important. It was on this day that the Lord Buddha preached His sermon to followers after attaining enlightenment.

Khao Phansa - falls on the first day after the full moon of the eighth lunar month (July) and marks the beginning of the three-month Buddhist 'Lent' period. At this time, all monks and novices must remain in their temples. They should not venture out or spend the night in any other place except in cases of extreme emergency and, even then, their time away must not exceed seven consecutive nights.

Ok Phansa - marks the end of the Buddhist 'Lent' and falls on the full moon of the eleventh lunar month (October). This is a day of joyful celebration and merit-making. For many families, it is also the day they welcome a son back into the home and celebrate his successful completion of a term in the temple.

Songkran - Songkran is the water-splashing festival celebration in traditional new year for Buddhist calendar widely celebrated across South and Southeast Asia and begins on April 13th of every year.


  • Thai Buddhist Texts. ...

  • Pali Canon (Tipitaka) ...

  • Semi-canonical. ...

  • Major Pali Commentaries (Atthakatha, Tika, Atthayojana, Anutika, Pakarana, Vannana, etc.)

Famous Temples and Monasteries:

Wat Arun - The Temple of Dawn, Bangkok: One of the most iconic sites of Thailand and its capital, the temple is located in the Bangkok Yai ("Great Bangkok") district, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, and is named after the Hindu god Aruna, who represents dawn. Built during the Ayutthaya period, it houses the Emerald Buddha which was seized in Vientiane between 1778 and 1784. The "temple of dawn" is illuminated and reflected in the dark waters of the river like a mirage at night.

Ayutthaya Historical Park: This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, including 67 magnificent temples, and ruins, named Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchanurana, Wat Lokaya Sutha, Wat Phanan Choeng, etc. Among them, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, functions as a royal temple and is the most important one in the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Wat Phra Kaew - The Jewel of Temples in Thailand: The Wat Phra Kaew temple complex in Thailand is not only a marvel of architecture but also serves as the spiritual center of Thai Buddhism. The complex is home to the revered Emerald Buddha, the country's most sacred image

Wat Pho, Bangkok : Built-in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I, Wat Pho in Bangkok remains one of the most sacred temples in Thailand. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, locals gather here to meditate, pray, and make donations and offerings. The main attraction of the temple is the large reclining Buddha that sits at the heart of the temple, built in 1848 at 46 meters long and 15 meters high.

Wat Ratchannadaram, Bangkok: Famous for the Loha Prasat pagoda, it contains 37 spirals which represent the 37 virtues necessary for enlightenment.

Dragon Cave Temple, Phang Nga: Located in the mountains, the cave includes meditation chambers where monks show visitors the Buddhist way of meditating, including the chanting of mantras. The dragon cave is said to have healing powers and onecan see monks preparing herbal teas for medicinal purposes for their visitors. With its spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, you are sure to experience calm, peace, and quiet in one of the most spiritual places in Thailand.

Tiger Cave Temple, Krabi: The temple's name comes from the caves it possesses, which contains footprints of tigers, as well as an opening that resembles a tiger's paw.

Wat Mahathat: Wat Mahathat also referred to as the 'Temple of Relics' is one of the many popular monasteries in Thailand in Ayutthaya. This ancient temple is believed to be founded way back in the 13th century, even before Bangkok was founded. It was built to house a relic of Lord Buddha. The main Chedi of the temple is built over the Sukhothai character, and has the shape of a lotus bud and is presumed to have once contained the relics of Lord Buddha.

Present Status:

There are some 300,000 monks living in the Land of Smiles. From Phuket to Bangkok, visitors are almost guaranteed to see a few of them in Thailand. Their yellow and orange robes are very recognizable in a sea of modern-day clothing. Many Thais start their day off by giving offerings to monks who are collect donations in the streets. Every man in Thailand is required to become a monk for a period of time before age of 20. Though the expected time length is about three months, some stay as little as a day or two. In their long history of existence the Thais seem to have been predominantly Buddhists, at least ever since they came into contact with the tenets of Buddhism. All the Thai kings in the recorded history of present-day Thailand have been adherents of Buddhism. The country's constitution specifies that the King of Thailand must be a Buddhist and the Upholder of Buddhism.

Govt. Recognised Organisations:

The National Office of Buddhism (RTGS: samnak-ngan phra phutthasatsana haeng chat) is an agency of the central government of Thailand. It is a ministry-independent department-level government agency, reporting directly to the prime minister.

In Thailand, the government recognizes the Sangha Supreme Council (Mahathera Samakhom) as the highest governing body for Buddhism. The Sangha Supreme Council is responsible for overseeing the administration and regulation of the Buddhist monastic community (Sangha) in Thailand. It consists of senior monks from the Theravada tradition and plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity and standards of Buddhist monastic life in the country.

Additionally, the Department of Religious Affairs within the Ministry of Culture oversees Buddhist affairs and works in collaboration with various Buddhist organizations and institutions to promote and support Buddhism in Thailand. While there are numerous Buddhist organizations and temples throughout Thailand, the Sangha Supreme Council holds significant authority and recognition from the government as the official governing body for Buddhism in the country.

The Wat Phra Kaew

Sangha Supreme Council