◦ A body of knowledge for
rationalizing and sanctioning
certain types of behavior and for
disapproving of others
◦ Serves to induce predispositions
and attitudes in the religious
context which influence activities
in non-religious context
Rituals and ceremonies usually
incorporate abstract ideas, values and
beliefs which mirror religiously
defined world view
Religious values and beliefs are often
incorporated into concrete everyday
behavior and situations and inspire
the motivation of individual
Provides a brief account of the world
view of Theravada Buddhism which
has been predominant throughout
Thai history
Examines the relationship between
Buddhism and Thai world view as
expressed in various aspects of social
4 Noble Truths:
◦ Suffering
◦ Cause of suffering
◦ Extinction of suffering
◦ Path to extinct suffering
Suffering covers both mental and
physical unpleasant conditions
Corporeality (Rūpa) = Body
Sensation (Vedanā) = Feeling
Perception (Sanna) = Recognition
Mental formation (Saṃkhāra) =
Consciousness (Vinnāna) = Nerves
*Some text explains this as volition.
 Impermanence
 Changeability
 Not-Self
*The first two are also found in
Hinduism but the third is
exclusively of Buddhism.
Avoids 2 extreme practices:
◦ Indulgence in sensual pleasures
◦ Self-torture as severe asceticism
 (Common practice among Indian
Nirvana (Nibbanā) through the Noble
Eightfold Path:
“One can attain enlightenment only
through one’s own effort”
 This belief has been thought to have
significant influence on Thai world
view and behavior i.e. individualistic
nature of Thai character
 Lack of rigid structure in Thai society
In Buddhism, action (karma) can be
categorized as:
◦ Physical
◦ Verbal
◦ Mental
Action without volition is considered
as void thus no result.
Nibbanic Buddhism
◦ Deals with individual salvation
Karmic Buddhism
◦ Deals with worldly matters i.e. happinesssuffering, good-evil, merit-demerit, etc.
◦ (In Palī, the word “world-loka” means dual)
◦ To discipline one’s behavior, perform
good acts, accumulate merit, etc.
*Karmic Buddhism must be adequately (and
properly) done before one can proceed to
Nibbanic Buddhism.
Boys can be “temple boys” to serve
monks, learn Dhamma, or get
ordained (novice) and continue studies
 Girls help in household matters or
support family by working
 Men are likely to be practitioners
 Women are likely to be supporters
What is world view?
◦ The sum of ideas and conceptualizations
which individuals in a cultural system have
towards their environment and universe.
◦ It’s manifested in various forms of
behaviors and attitudes and can be seen
as collective characteristics of the people
enculturated in the same cultural setting.
Individual are seen as either higher or lower,
younger or older, weaker or stronger, inferior
or superior, richer or poorer, and rarely
The kinship term “phi” (elder brother/sister)
is often added in front of a person’s name to
indicate that s/he is older than the speaker.
In a more formal situation, the word “khun”
(polite title to call people regardless of age
and gender) is always used esp. in the city.
Age and seniority are sensitive issues for
Thai so that they can use not only proper
terms in conversation, but also appropriate
“Thi sung thi tam” (high place, low place) is
an important concept. Those who do not
recognize and conform to this norm are
frowned upon and disliked in society.
Social status, either high or low, is
considered as a result of bun-bap (meritdemerit) karma (deeds) in one’s past lives.
11 Kama Bhava - Beings consist of form and
sensual desires.
◦ 4 Kinds of low beings: animal, ghost, demon, hell
◦ Human being*(the most suitable for
◦ 6 Kinds of deities and gods
16 Rupa Brahma – Higher Beings consist of form
only, no sensual enjoyment
4 Arupa Brahma – Higher Beings do not have
perceptible bodily forms and sensual enjoyment.
Most Buddhists (monk and lay) prefer
rebirths within the world of sensual
happiness to complete salvation from
 In short, nirvana (the ultimate goal) is
less desirable than worldly happiness
in Thai popular Buddhism.
King Lithai in Sukhothai period
depicted the Buddhist cosmology of
three worlds in this text.
◦ Moral Hierarchy
Gov. official
The Wealthy
The Poor
Unequal in terms of quality and
quantity of individual’s accumulated
karma in past lives (Theravada)
 Equal in terms of everybody has
Buddha Bhava or nature of
enlightenment (Mahayana)
In Buddhism, what one is does not matter as
much as what one does
In Hinduism, what one does does not matter
as much as what one is (due to caste system).
 Jandan (untouchable)
There are some Hindus who converted to
Buddhism b/c of caste system i.e. Dr.Ambedkar
Confusion of term usage
◦ Karma = deed, either good or bad
◦ Būn = merit
◦ Bāp = demerit, but Thais often use
karma for this meaning
A Thai proverb: Bun tham karma tang
means Būn does and bāp directs
Thai names, esp. traditional names are
likely to have būn somewhere in the
first name or even family name
Thai songs, both classical and
contemporary, use of the words
karma, būn, and bāp and many other
related terms.
◦ Suk kan ther rao = Let’s be happy
The world is like a play, we just have to follow each
scene as we are destined. Don’t worry, keep smiling
and we all will be fine.
Let’s be happy, why getting sad for nothing. Don’t
worry, it’s just waste our energy.
We were born as humans so we have to be patient.
Don’t be sad, we just have to bare with it.
The world is like a play, don’t worry. Happiness and
suffering come together.
Let bun and karma(bap) play as they wish. Don’t be
sorrow but keep smiling for it.
Let’s enjoy ourselves and be happy together. Forget
the suffering and refresh your mind and feeling.
Being happy is good, don’t be hesitant. Don’t be
frowned but smile. Lives must go on and we have a
long way to go, renew our lives by smiling.
Either success or failure, is a result of būn
and bāp from past lives
Love and marriage are caused by
◦ 1) both partners had been together before in their
previous lives
◦ 2) assistance and favor done to each other in the
present life
Religious activities i.e. giving food and
offerings to monks and nuns, chanting,
supporting temple, observing precepts,
listening to sermons, practicing meditation,
Social activities i.e. digging communal wells,
building roads, taking care of aged parents,
helping the poor, etc.
Can bring better life in the future according
to law of karma
Law of karma in Buddhist belief may
be compared to the law of motion in
Western science.
 Reynolds (1976), Karma gives order
and regularity to the moral and social
universe much as the Newtonian laws
of Western science give order and
regularity to the physical universe
1. Karma – Law of action/reaction
 2. Mind – Mind manipulates body
 3. Climate – Beings can survive in a
certain temperature
 4. Intake i.e. food, contact, etc.
 Thais don’t explain everything with
law of karma. A Thai saying for car
users: “Accident isn’t bad luck(bāp),
but caused by reckless action”
Help or favor done by someone which
entails gratitude and obligation on the
part of the beneficiary.
 The recipient would feel mentally
indebted, be grateful to the giver, and
supposed to seek an occasion to repay
the favor whenever s/he can.
What parents do for their children is
bun khun so children should repay
them whenever they can.
 Taking care of aged parents is social
obligation rather than option because
of this concept.
 Abandoning parents is considered
 The Buddha said “Mother has more
būn khūn than father”
1) Those who have rendered a favor
 2) Those who show gratitude and
repay the favor done to them (katannū
 This falls under “give and take” circle.
 Buddhism regards such persons as
examplary individuals whose actions
bring harmony and happiness to
Cool heartedness is a typically Thai
value, not that every Thai is a coolhearted person, but its quality is
highly valued in Thai culture esp. in
the crisis situation.
 King Rama VI composed a poem
“…those who should be praised even
more are those who still smile when
facing dangers”
1) Psychological quality of not being anxious
when confronting problems
2) Not getting angry easily when one should
be or expected to be
3) Ability to suppress one’s emotion and not
becoming easily nervous or emotionally
4) Indifference
In short, it is the characteristic of a stable
Chai-yen-yen = to be cool-hearted
 Mai-bpen-rai = does not matter
◦ Phillip(1965) regarded this as “social
Choei-choei = indifferent, stable
Thai social life places strong value on
overt calmness in social interaction.
To express open anger, dislike and
annoyance is considered improper.
 2.
 3.
 4.
Mettā = Loving kindness
Karuṇā = Compassion
Muditā = Enjoy others’ success
Ubekkhā = Equanimity
◦ (Be indifferent after have done everything
one supposed to do)
Equanimity = Indifference
◦ Allow wrong-doers not being punished
Law of Karma
“The mistreat we received is a bad karma
of our past lives. Once we have paid-off,
we should stop this circle of karma”
Most Thai Buddhists forget that “Everything
has a beginning”
Therefore Thai Buddhists have perpetuated
violence and social injustice somehow more
or less.
Buddhism emphasizes the individual’s effort
as the only means for any achievement.
“An individual’s self is his refuge”
“One’s self is the most beloved”
“Winning one’s self is the true victory”
“It’s the maker who reaps his būn, not
somebody else”
“To do as one wishes is to be a genuine Thai”
Comparatively to the West, Thais have not
been very good at teamwork in any level.
*****Social harmony yet individual success***
Unlike Hinduism, Buddhism allows individuals
who occupy any social positions to be free to
move in any direction much as soccer players.
Cool-heartedness is characterized by stability
of personality, control of feeling and emotion,
and the ability to handle situations with care
and prudence.
Buddhist emphasis on individualism seems to
play an important part in shaping up the
individualistic tendency in Thai attitude and