Buddhism In Thailand
If we were to talk about the development of Buddhism within Thailand, we would need to look into it’s long history which can be divided into four key periods:
- Theravada from the Asoka’s period
- Mahayana’s period
- Theravada from the Bukama’s period
- Theravada from Sri Lanka
A brief description of each of the four periods is detailed below:
1. Theravada from the Asoka’s period
The first ever Buddhism in Thailand was that which was established and introduced by King Asoka at Patalibutta city (218 B.E.- Buddhist Era). After the successful establishment of the third council, King Asoka had sent monks abroad in order to propagate the Buddha’s teachings.
Two monks, Sonathera and Uttarathera went directly to Suwannabhumi (now Nakornpathom province, Thailand) to teach the people there. It was from this period that the first creation of the famous pagoda design becomes obviously evident.
2. Mahayana period
In the year 620 B.E., King Kanitsaka The Great, was the benefactor behind the creation of the fourth council of Mahayana within Jalandhorn city. In having the intension to propagate the Buddha’s teachings even further a field, he encouraged a series of “Missionaries” operations where monks were sent all over Central Asia to spread the word.
Subsequently, when Buddhism had been well established within Central Asia, another royalty, King Mengti then started to spread Buddhism into the areas of China. The chain continued until it eventually arrived into Thailand at the reign of Khunluang Mao, King of Ailao Kingdom. It was widely accepted within the Siamese community and quickly gained many followers. Since then, Mahayana’s Buddhism continued to expand, from the Southern areas of the country and gradually moving its way up to the Central parts and further into the Northeast. Consequently, it has been the result of the extensive multicultural society and the vast array of dialects that exists within the Thai language today.
3. Theravada from the Bukama period
In the year 1600 B.E. Anuruddha The Great, King of Bukama was the head of one of the most flourishing empire. His occupied number of Kingdoms within his reign, which included Lanna, Lanchang, Lopburi and Davaravadi. He himself held a deep faith in the Theravada Buddhism.
During this period, Thailand was invaded by China and so it’s people emigrated down south to Nan Chao. It was there that they established the kingdom of Yonokchaingsan in Suvannbhumi. As time passed, people began to gradually immigrate into other areas and became scattered all around the country. Buddhism was re-established once again at the reign of King Bukama.
4. Theravada from Sri Lanka
The type of Buddhism that had been established within this period is that of the current Thai Buddhism today. Although it had experienced several evolutionary challenges in its time, it has always been able to regenerate itself again even at times of economic down turn and recessions.
Sri Lanka and Thailand in particular has shared a long history and a strong bond in regards to where religious relations were concerned. At times when Buddhism in Thailand was in recession, assistance was offered by Sri Lanka and visa versa if the situation was turned.
The Theravada Buddhism in Thailand is now known as “Lankavamsa”. This is because over 700 years ago King Ramkhamhaeng had invited the Sri Lanka’s leading senior monks from Nakhorn Si Thammarat in the South to teach Sri Lankan Buddhism in Sukhothai. Hence the birth of Lankanvamsa within Thailand.
Such relations still continues to this day and Buddhism has been able to maintain it’s place as the main religion of Thailand.