Friday, April 25, 2008
Bringing Buddhism to the New Lands
The George Washington University Department of Religion,
Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, and Melvin Gelman Library Present: Bringing Buddhism to Varied Lands: Three Major Buddhist-Studies Events at the George Washington University.
This paper was presented by Ven. Dr. Thanat Inthisan, Wat Thai, D.C. on the topic of “The Development of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism in Thailand and it’s Movement to the United States” on Monday, April 14, 2008 at Marvin Center Room 405. These events sponsored by The Yeshe Dorje Foundation.
Ven. Dr. Ane Kunga Chodron
Part One: The Development of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism in Thailand
I. Introduction of Buddhism to Thailand.
A. King Asoka and the Beginning of Thai Buddhism.
1. “According to tradition, Buddhism was introduced into Thailand more than two
thousand years ago, when this territory was known as Suvarnabhūmi and was still inhabited by the Mons and Lawas. At that time, one of the nine missions sent by King Asoka of India [ruled 270-232 B.C., the third of the Mauryan emperors] to spread Buddhism in different countries came to Suvarnabhūmi. This mission was headed by two Arahants named Sona and Uttara and they succeeded in converting the ruler and people of the Thai kingdom to Buddhism. / Nakorn Pathom was then the capital or one of the most important cities of Suvarnabhūmi and became an active center for the propagation of the Buddha’s teachings. A great stupa was erected there to commemorate this great historic event, the adoption of Buddhism, and it was called Phra Pathom Chedi, which means the first Chedi built in this eastern country”
B. Conversion to Buddhism of the Thai People in the South of China in the Yunnan Province.
1. In the first century of the Christian era, the Thai people were still living in the
South of China. During the reign of the Chinese emperor Mingti, they converted to Buddhism. King Khun Luang Mao, ruler of the kingdom of Ailao, was the first Thai professed Buddhist ruler and promoter of the religion. It is not clear
exactly what brand of Buddhism existed here in this period. Presumably, this
was Theravada Buddhism as opposed to Mahayana Buddhism. However, it is
uncertain which of the original eighteen Buddhist sects it was.
C. Mahayana Buddhism in the Nanchao Period.
1. In 651 A.D. the Thai people in the Yunnan province revolted against the Chinese and set up the Nanchao kingdom (with the capital at Ta-Li-Foo), independent
until the invasion of the Khmers in 1253. It seems the prevalent form of
Buddhism in the Nanchao kingdom was Mahayana Buddhism, introduced from
China during the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.).
a. The Thai people migrated south out of China at two different times, some first
in 255 A.D. when the kingdom of Ailao was conquered by the Chinese, and a
great number the second time in 1253, when the kingdom of Nanchao was
conquered by the Mongol Kublai Khan.
D. The Influx of Mahayana Buddhism from Sumatra into Southern Thailand.
1. About 757 A.D. the Srivijaya king in the capital city of Sumatra began
expanding his empire to include part of southern Thailand. The kings of
Srivijaya were supporters of Mahayana Buddhism, which had been brought to
Sumatra by missionaries from Kashmir in northern India beginning in the fifth
E. The Influence of Mahayana Buddhism upon Thailand in the Khmer Period
(Lopburi Period, about 1002 to 1082).
1. “To the east of Thailand, the Khmer kings became powerful in Kambuja [the
ancient name of Cambodia] from about 1002 to 1082 . . . During this period
(usually called the Lopburi period), the Khmer empire covered the whole of
northeastern and central Thailand. The Khmers were adherents of Mahayana
Buddhism, which came from Sumatra and became mixed with their older faith, Brahmanism. But the Mahayana both of the Srivijaya and of the Lopburi
periods did not succeed in replacing the Theravada, and the two schools
flourished side by side. However, it was during these periods that Brahminism
and the Mahayana had strong influences on Thai culture. Sanskrit, the sacred
language of the Hindus and the Mahayana, took deep root in Thai language and
literature, while the Brahmanic influence can be seen even today in many Thai
customs and public ceremonies”.
F. The Influence of Theravada Buddhism in Northern and Central Thailand during
the Rule of Burma.
1. “In 1057 A.D. King Anuruddha (Anawratha) became powerful in the whole of
Burma, having his capital at Pagan (Central Burma). Anuruddha extended his
kingdom right up to Thailand, especially the Northern and Central parts,
covering areas now known as Chiengmai [Chiang Mai], Lopburi, and Nakon
Pathom. Being a Theravada Buddhist, Anuruddha ardently supported the cause
of Theravada which Burma, like Thailand, at first received directly from India
through missionaries sent by Emperor Asoka. However, at the time under
consideration, Buddhism in India was already in a state of decline, and as
contact between Burma and India was then faint, Theravada Buddhism, as
prevalent in Burma at that time, underwent some changes and assumed a form
somewhat different from the original doctrine. This, at a later stage, became
what is known in Thailand as Burma (Pagan [Pukam]) Buddhism. During this
period of King Anuruddha’s suzerainty [rule of a feudal lord] over Thailand,
Burmese Buddhism exercised great influence over the country, especially in the
North where, owing to proximity, the impact of Burma was more felt”
G. The Movement of Theravada Buddhism from Sri Lanka into Thailand
1. This is a significant movement, since it is responsible for the existence of the
most dominant form of Buddhism in Thailand today. About 1153 A.D.
Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186) ascended to the throne in Ceylon
(ancient Lanka, Sri Lanka today). He strongly supported Theravada
Buddhism. Because of the consolidation of Theravada Buddhism in Ceylon,
monks from various neighboring countries, including Thailand, began to go
there to relearn the Dhamma. About 1257 Thai monks obtained the ordination rite (upasampadā vidhi) from Ceylon; this was the origin of the Lankavamsa sect. It seems that early groups of monks returning from Ceylon first gathered together at Nakon Sri Thammarath in the South of present-day Thailand.
Eventually King Ram Kamhaeng of Sukhothai, the capital of Thailand at the
time, invited monks from Nakon Sri Thammarath to his capital and supported
them. The latter source mentions that King Ram Kamhaeng invited the great monk Mahasamgharaja from Nakon Sri Thammarath to Sukhothai. This monk and the group with him stayed at the Mango Forest (Araññika) Temple.)
II. The Role of the Sangha.
A. The Status of the Sangha in Modern Times.
1. The Sangha Administration Act (1902): a separate government was established
for the Sangha.
2. Additional acts, notably, the Sangha Act of 1962, reestablishing the Sangha
Supreme Council, with the Supreme Patriarch as President.
B. The Sangha Administration Today His Holiness Somdej Phra Nyānasamvara, President of the Sangha Supreme Council and the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand.
D. Two Kinds of Monks (cf. Kamala Tiyavanich, Forest Recollections; Wandering
Monks in Twentieth-Century Thailand, pp. 172-97).
1. The Monastery Monks of the City.
2. The Forest Monks.
a. Ajahn Chah. About 1900 Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Sao reestablished in
Thailand the tradition of forest meditation. The most famous and influential
of the many monks trained by Ajahn Mun was Ajahn Chah. In 1975 Ajahn
Chah began the Wat Pah Nanachat forest monastery in Thailand in order to
train Western Monks. His most important students were Ajahn Sumedo
(important for the development of Theravada Buddhism in England, and
influential worldwide) as well as Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein
(important for the development in the United States of Vipassanā).
b. Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu. In 1943 Buddadāsa Bhikkhu, the great reformist
monk, Buddhist scholar and interpreter, and teacher, started his forest
monastery, Suan Mokkh (Garden of Liberation) near Chaiya, Thailand.
Rejecting superstition, useless ritual, and materialism, his interpretations of
Buddhism attempted to get back to the original meaning of the Buddha’s
message. Buddhadāsa wrote numerous books and gave countless talks and
speeches. He had a great influence not only in Thailand but also abroad.
His students included Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein as well as
Varasak Varadhammo, all of whom became important on the American
E. Government Support of the Sangha.
1. Administrative facilities are provided to the Sangha today through the Minister
of Education. The Department of Religious Affairs is the liaison between the
Sangha and the State. This department is responsible for taking care of the
monks and the monasteries, promoting religious projects, overseeing the
Sangha budget and providing financial support, publishing Buddhist books and
other material, and promoting Buddhist culture in Thailand
III. Buddhist Education.
A. Buddhist Education Program. The education of monks involves three levels of
Dhamma studies and nine levels of Pāli studies. The highest level of
achievement in Pāli studies is equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree. At the behest
of the Thai Sangha, the Ministry of Education established a mandate that
Buddhism be taught to all children in from the first through the twelfth grades.
B. Two Key Universities. Both of these universities are state institutions that get
financial support from the government of Thailand. Both have B.A. and Ph.D.
programs open to both monks and the laity.
1. Mahamakutrajavidyalaya Buddhist University (MBU). This university was
established in the reign of Rama V in memory of his father. It was intended
for the higher education of Buddhist monks.
2. Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University (MCU). This university,
established by Rama V in his own memory, was also intended for the higher
education of Buddhist monks. MCU has ten campuses across the country and
four Sangha colleges. There are four faculties: Buddhism, Education,
Humanities, and Social Sciences. There is an advanced postgraduate
International Program taught in English for Buddhist Studies and Buddhist
IV. The Role of the Monarchy in the Development of Theravada Buddhism.
A. Rattanakosin Period.
1. King Rama I (1767-1808). Ten monks were sent to Sri Lanka. Pra Ajahn Dee
was in charge of them.
2. King Rama II (1809-1824). Eight Thai monks were sent to Sri Lanka. They
stayed three and a half years, returning to Thailand in 1817.
3. King Rama III (1824-1850). “King Rama III sent Thai monks to Sri Lanka
twice. Firstly, Thai monks were sent to search for the Buddhist Scriptures.
They stayed there for one year and returned to Thailand in 1843. Secondly,
Thai monks were sent to return Buddhist scriptures to Sri Lanka in 1844 and
came back to Thailand in the same year with more scriptures and Sri Lankan
monks, novices and laymen” (250th Anniversary of Syamvamsa, p. 47).
4. Rama IV, King Mongkut (1851-1867). “In 1852, King IV sent 10 monks to
Sri Lanka, headed by the Elder who later became Simdej [?] Phrabutthajarn
(Si), Wat Patumgonkga. The king also gave his permission to the delegations
to ordain some Sri Lankans in the Dhammayuttika Nikāya. The Elder
Anomasirimuni could be the preceptor and run the religious activities as he
liked. In the end, the Elder Anomasirimuni did not ordain any Sri Lankans.
The Elder Anomasirimuni and his party came back to Thailand in 1853”
(250th Anniversary, p. 48).
King Mongkut was a monk for twenty-seven years before becoming king.
Because he thought discipline among the monks was lax, he started a new
movement in the Sangha called the Dhammayuttika [Dhammayutti Nikāya]
sect; the original Sangha was subsequently called the Mahānikāya [Maha
Nikāya] sect. Over time there were minor changes in both sects, but today the
two are substantially the same. (Cf. Payutto, Thai Buddhism, p. 28.)
5. Rama V, King Chulalongkorn (1869-1910). Rama V provided financial
assistance to Sri Lankan monks so that a printing house could be established in
Galle in 1862. In 1863 a newspaper, Lankaloka, was published. Rama V
visited Sri Lanka twice, in 1897 and in 1907. In 1907 he made a trip to
In 1878 the third Thai Buddhist Council was held. At the council copies of the
Tipitaka were made using the Thai alphabet rather than the modified Khmer
script. At the command of Rama V, the revised Tipitaka was published for the
first time in the form of books (thirty-nine volumes). (See Payutto, Thai
Buddhism, p. 28; Payutto, The Pali Canon; What a Buddhist Must Know, p.
6. King Rama VII (1925-1934). In 1926 Rama VII gave financial assistance to
Sri Lankan monks. The Supreme Council of Thailand took a deep interest in
the state of affairs in Sri Lanka. The Council, headed by the Supreme
Patriarch Kromluang Chinawornsiriwat of Wat Rajabopit, wanted to be sure
The Siamopala Niakaya (Syamvamsa) was established.
“In B. E. 2468  during the reign of King Rama VII, the Pali Canon was
reprinted by royal command to dedicate the merit to the late King Rama VI.
Known in Thai as phra traipidok chabap sayamrat or ‘the Siamese official
version of the Tipitaka,’ the new impression came in a complete set of 45
volumes, and has ever since served as the standard for volume division of any
Thai-script version in Thailand” (Payutto, The Pali Canon, p. 32).
7. King Rama VIII. Rama VIII made a royal visit to Sri Lanka in 1928 along
with the present king of Thailand.
8. Rama IX, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946 to the present). King Rama IX
made a visit to Sri Lanka in 1950. He was ordained a monk on October 22,
1961, and disrobed on November 5, 1961.
พระธรรมทูตวัดไทยกรุงวอชิงตัน, ดี.ซี. เผยแผ่พระพุทธศาสนาเชิงวิชาการ
ที่ George Washington University ในกรุงวอชิงตัน ดี.ซี.
๑๔ เมษายน ๒๕๕๑ คณาจารย์ของคณะการศาสนา แห่งมหาวิทยาลัย ยอร์จ วอชิงตัน นำโดย Professor Reverend Ane Kunga Chodron ได้จัดให้มีการบรรยาย เรื่อง “การนำพระพุทธศาสนาสู่ดินแดนใหม่” และการจัดนิทรรศการเกี่ยวกับอุปกรณ์ประกอบพิธีกรรมในทางพระพุทธศาสนาฝ่ายทิเบต และนิทรรศการเกี่ยวกับพระไตรปิฎก ภาคภาษาอังกฤษ โดย Dr. Deborah B. Gaspar จากคณะ Instruction and Collection Development Librarian, the Marvin Gelman Library, GWU.
ได้นิมนต์ดร.พระมหาถนัด อตฺถจารี พระธรรมทูตวัดไทยกรุงวอชิงตัน, ดี.ซี. และกรรมการอำนวยการ สมัชชาสงฆ์ไทยในสหรัฐอเมริกา ไปบรรยาย เรื่อง The Development of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism in Thailand and its movement to the United State of America. รายระเอียดขอให้ติดตามอ่านในคอร์ลัมน์พิเศษในหนังสือวารสารแสงธรรมประจำเดือนพฤษภาคม ๕๑ หรือ เข้าเยี่ยมชมเวปไซด์ที่ http://www.thanat.iirt.net/ ในโอกาสนี้ได้มอบหนังสือ Walking on the Path of the Buddha และ หนังสือ The Concise principle of Buddhism และ ดีวีดี Basic Meditation Instruction & Practice ให้ห้องสมุดประจำมหาวิทยาลัย GW. อีกจำนวน ๑ ชุด ด้วย
Posted by Dr.Handy Inthisan at 8:45 AM