Development of a Model for Organizing Cultural Activities to Study Buddhist Teachings at Temples in Bangkok, Thailand

Article excerpt

Abstract

Buddhism is an intrinsic feature of Thai culture. With a ninety percent Buddhist population, Thailand has been built around the principles of Dharma. These principles have traditionally been taught to the local community by temples, through a variety of different activities. Recently, however, Thai society has adopted an increasing number of Western cultural features that have caused the importance of traditional Buddhist activities to decline. This research tries to understand the reasons for the decline of community interest in local Buddhist activities in Bangkok, so to propose a model for the organization of such activities and ensure that they are not lost to future generations.

Keywords: Buddhism, temple, activity, culture, society, organization, development

1. Introduction

Buddhism originated in India two thousand five hundred years ago at a time of many religions and doctrines. Each of these religions and doctrines had ancient foundations of belief, making it extremely difficult for Buddhism to occur. The birth of Buddhism caused all other religions and doctrines to revise and reconsider their faith, as Buddhism taught the concepts of cause and effect from the enlightenment of Samyaksambuddha, through the Buddha's five ascetic companions and his Shravaka (disciples). The central doctrine was accepted and called the 'Four Noble Truths'.

After his enlightenment, the Lord Buddha announced his teachings so that his disciples and Buddhist followers could gain access to enlightened conduct, such as in the text Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, or 'the setting in motion of the wheel of Dharma'. This was the Lord Buddha's first sermon after his enlightenment, which was given to his five former companions and teaches his path to enlightenment. The Pratimoksa, a list of rules for Buddhist monks, is another such example. These were the origins of the transmission of Buddhism and their concrete foundation enabled people all over the world to accept the doctrines of cause and effect taught by the Lord Buddha.

Following the adoption of Buddhism by the Thai people, temples were constructed as religious centres for transmission of the faith in the communities and were also the locations of a variety of different activities, as well as being artistic and cultural centers for creation and conservation, and places for teachers to instruct. Youths had an opportunity to meet during events at the temple. They were places of settled and stable community life, where various festivals and celebrations of the local community were held. They were also places of community education, local libraries and resource centres, medical herb gardens, local massage centres and centres of worship and respect. It was the responsibility of the monks to oversee the organization of such ceremonies and events, so they had to be knowledgeable experts in both doctrine and ways to develop the community. The temples were places of trust in the community and, as representatives of the temple, so monks were figures of trust.

Thai culture is derived from the doctrines of Buddhism and there are many activities at the temples that concern culture and religion in the life of a Thai national. However, a number of characteristics of everyday lifestyle have been lost to modern society. When Thailand absorbs other cultures, people neglect virtue and morality, which has caused Thailand problems in the past regarding competition and comparison with other countries. It is for this reason that governmental and private institutions are trying to develop the country in ways to combat past failures. The discipline and ideals of Buddhism have been identified as media with which to aid these developments. Buddhism can help in two ways. The first is by being disciplined in observing the law or constitution and the second is by obeying clerical acts. This is primarily because Buddhists in Thailand comprise ninety percent of the population but also because Buddhism is non-confrontational by nature (Malatong, 1990, p. …