A Short Story
Thailand is almost exclusively a Buddhist nation. It has been the religion of the country for centuries because it resonates with the spirit of the Thai people. “Thai” is a word that means freedom, and most people in Thailand treasure freedom, and Buddhism blends well with that spirit of the Thai people. Unlike most religions, Buddhism focuses on achieving self-liberation based on an individual’s efforts to find their own individual spiritual path. There is a strong bond between Buddhism and the life of Thai people to the extent the two cannot be separated.
A couple of years age we spent time with some delightful people in Thailand who were introducing us to life in their country. The first thing you realize is Thai people are incredible friendly, respectful and completely devoted to their religious beliefs.
After a couple of days you realize there is a wide divide between the foundational principles of Theravada Buddhism (the Thai form of Buddhism) and the faith of the common people. Theravada Buddhism prohibits the belief in supernatural beings or solutions, and encourages the use of meditation to find worldly solutions to practical as well as spiritual problems. It also teaches that the only way to have contact with the Buddha is through studying his teachings, and understanding his teachings will allow one to reach the enlightened state.
While a devout Theravada Buddhist our Ms. Mam lived with a direct and personal relationship with the Buddha. She also had a patron Buddha that she believed carried her needs to a supernatural power. Hers was the Jade Buddha inside the Grand Palace grounds in Bangkok and she always found time to pray at his temple.
Shortly before we arrived her sister and her family had taken a holiday to a resort beach. While there her sister had lost her purse that contained a store of important items. After telling Mam of the disaster Ms. Mam went immediately to the Jade Buddha seeking help. Within hours her sister had her purse returned with everything inside. While it is easy to explain this as a coincidence Ms. Mam truly felt is was a miracle provided by the Jade Buddha.
In addition to the power of Buddhism in Thailand it is also incredible the respect and faith the Thai people have for their king. A common element in almost every Thai home is an image of the king hanging in a prominent place and many homes also have an alter showing the respect for the king and his family.
While in Thailand we were told a story about a tourist that dropped some Thai currency and to keep it from blowing away stepped on it. People around him got upset because he was showing disrespect for their king, who’s image was on the bill he had stepped on.