Monday, January 21, 2013


The dominant religion in Thailand is Buddhism.  In much of Isan, though, a special brand of folk buddhism is practiced-  it includes many traditional elements of buddhism, but also some more "pagan" practices, for lack of a better word.  This is something I'd really like to know more about, as it seems to be pretty unique (although I might be very much mistaken there).  Geoffrey is kind enough to point out some common practices and some "folk" buddhist practices to me as we travel around.

Buddhists worship in temples, which, as far as I can tell, are each devoted to one specific deity.  Inside, they look something like this:

This family arranged a meeting with the monk- it appears they've brought lunch along.

In Thailand, most men spend at least some part of their lives as a buddhist monk.  For some, this lasts only a few days, while others may remain a monk for months or even years.  Unlike Christian priests, being a monk is not a lifetime appointment..

The monks are easily spotted by their bright orange robes and bare feet.  Every morning, they ring their bells and go around the village, begging for food.  The food they collect will be their breakfast and lunch; monks are only allowed two meals per day.

A belltower.  Notice the drums on the bottom tier.

The monks hold a special status in society, which comes with some specific rules.  For one, they're expected to be very holy.  They're not to touch women in any way, and there's even a special language to use when addressing them.  They're often invited to local events, and their presence in the community is an honor.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a "merit-making" event last week.  As far as I can understand, Buddhists believe in something a little like karma, in that good deeds improve their lot after death.  Also, at least according to the local buddhist practices, that something is transferable.  This event was to  "make merit" for the deceased grandparents of the host- I'll write a little more about that in my next post.

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