Religions in Thailand

:: Main religions in Thailand

There are four main religions, Buddhism, Muslim, Christianity, and Hinduism, in Thailand . Most of Thai people are Buddhism 95% whereas Muslim is the second large proportion in Thailand which is 3.8%. Christianity and Hinduism are very important religions in Thailand as well. The percentage of these two religions is 0.5% and 0.1% respectively.

:: Buddhism

Buddhism , the great eastern religion founded by the Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama 600 years before the birth of Christ, first appeared in Thailand during the 3rd century B.C. in the area of the present day provincial capital Nakhon Pathom. Once established, it proved such a durable and pervasive force that some ethnic groups who migrated into that area during the Dvaravati period readily adopted it as their state religion. At its inception, Buddhism had been a reaction against Brahmanism, eschewing Brahmanism's emphasis on caste and dogma regarding sacrifice and ritual. At the same time, it modified Brahmanic concepts of karma and rebirth.


Briefly, Buddhism teaches that one's life does not begin with birth and end with death but is a link in a chain of lives, each conditioned by volitional acts (karma) committed in previous existences. The concept of karma, the law of cause and effect, suggests that selfishness and craving result in suffering. Conversely, compassion and love bring happiness and well-bring. Therefore, only by eliminating desire can one find peace of mind. The ideal Buddhist aspiration is to attain perfection through Nirvana (Nibbhana), an indescribable, immutable state unconditioned by desire, suffering, or further rebirth, in which a person simply is, yet is completely at one with his surroundings. After its introduction into Thailand , Buddhism gained wide acceptance because its emphasis on tolerance and individual initiative complemented the Thais' cherished sense of inner freedom. Fundamentally, Buddhism is an empirical way of life. Free of dogma, it is a flexible moral, ethical, and philosophical framework within which people find room to fashion their own salvation.

Sukhothai's King Ramkhamhaeng (1275-1317 A.D.) established Theravada Buddhism as Thailand 's dominant religion. It reached its height under the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng's grandson, King Li Thai (1347-1368 A.D.), when about 30 volumes of the Buddhist scriptures were studied and rewritten by the king into one volume, the Tribhumikatha, a treatise on Buddhist cosmology and the three planes of existence-Sensuous, Corporeal, and Incorporeal. Not only was this the first Buddhist treatise by a Thai, but it was also the first known Thai Buddhist and didactic literary work. The Tribhumikatha's impact on religious arts such as mural paintings can be seen today in many monasteries in various provinces. Through the centuries Buddhism has been the main driving force in Thai cultural development. Much of classical Thai art, particularly architecture, sculpture, painting, and early literature is really Buddhist art. Then, as now, Buddhism coloured everyday Thai life.

Although Buddhism became the primary and state religion, Thais always subscribed to the ideal of religious freedom. Thai constitutions have stipulated that Thai kings must be Buddhists, but monarchs are invariably entitled " Upholder of All Religions ". Consequently, the government, through the Religious Affairs Department -t; annually allocates funds to finance religious education and to construct, maintain, and restore monasteries, mosques, and churches.

:: Christian

Christianity was introduced to Thailand by European missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. These early Catholic missionaries were later joined by Protestants of the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Seventh-Day Adventist sects. Their converts mainly came from ethnic minorities such as the immigrant Chinese. Despite the small number of Thai converts, Christians have made several major contributions in the fields of health and education.

Thailand 's first printing press was introduced by Christians, and King Mongkut (RamaIV) learned English and Latin from Christian missionaries. Though King Mongkut reportedly told one of his missionary friends "What you teach us to do is admirable, but what you teach us to believe is foolish," during his monk hood before ascending the throne, he nonetheless allowed Christian missionaries to give lectures, even in his own made the first smallpox vaccinations, trained the first doctors in Western medicine, and wrote the first Thai-English dictionaries.