When you visit Thailand, it becomes clear the presence Buddhism has in the daily life of the Thai people. Some 95% of the population practice Theravada Buddhism, which is the official religion of Thailand, and so it’s safe to say that no visit to ’The Land of Buddhism’ is complete without learning more about it.
At The Sarojin we are passionate about taking all the chances we get to help our guests discover and learn about the local community. And so, when speaking of Buddhism and to help you understand it a little bit better ahead of your visit, we wanted to share a great conversation we had recently with Phrakru Pharadon Santikaro, the current abbot (head monk) at our local temple, the Khuk Khak Temple, as he shares details about his life as a monk and explains keys terms and events…
“I am fortunate to have been the abbot at Khuk Khak Temple since 2003, and a monk for 19 years. I started the process of becoming ordained when I was 24, but Buddhism has been an integral part of my life since I can remember… my mother used to bring me to this very same temple when I was a child, which gave me a huge respect, passion and devotion for the religion.
We are five monks living permanently together here with many ‘in learning’ new monks. Our days start at 4am with one hour of meditation followed by another one of chanting. By 6am we are ready to start our daily walk around the neighborhood to collect offerings (alms). Once we are back at the temple, we all sit to eat breakfast. Whilst timings vary slightly from temple to temple, monks will only have one or two meals per day. Generally, the first meal is between 6am and 8:30am and the second one (effectively our lunch) starts around 11am… all our meals will be finished by noon as we are forbidden from eating after 12pm.
For those new to Buddhism, I would like to run through some key terms. First on the list is ‘Five Precepts’ , the Buddhist version of a code of conduct if you wish. The belief is that they help Buddhists get rid of suffering to achieve enlightenment and live a morally good life. The Five Precepts are: (1) Refrain from taking life, (2) Refrain from taking what is not given, (3) Refrain from the misuse of the senses, (4) Refrain from the wrong speech, (5) Refrain from intoxicants that cloud the mind. ‘Sangha’ is the word used to refer to a community of ordained monks and ‘making merit’ is the action of offerings alms and prayers. There is a popular Thai saying that goes ‘if you do good you receive good, if you do evil you will receive evil’ and so ‘making merit’ is one way to accumulate good deed that may be needed for when reincarnated (another belief of Buddhism).
There are several important dates throughout the year but, the most significant is ‘Visakha Bucha Day’ as it commemorates three defining events in the life of the Lord Buddha: birth, death, and enlightenment… all of which occurred on the full-moon day of the sixth lunar month (known as the Visakha month). Celebrations consist of people making merit early in the morning at their local temples by offering food followed by an evening procession where all those participating will carry flowers, three incense sticks and a lighted candle as we circle the main chapel at the temple three times. Meanwhile, the ‘Novice Ordination’is an annual summer training course that prepares male youths between the ages of 10 and 15 for temporary ordination (20 days) and takes place from March to mid-May.
My recommendation to visitors looking for an encounter with the religion, but who are perhaps tight on time, would be to watch or participate in the morning alms offering, the one I mentioned earlier that sees us monks walk around the town, as it is a truly unforgettable showing of generosity and kindness of humanity”.
Hungry to learn more? Check out our ‘Buddhism in Thailand’ blog here. Keen to visit a temple during your stay? Speak to our team about booking a local tour or joining one of our excursions. Temple tours are available from 5,500 THB per person (approx. £128).