Religion has always been part of the everyday life of the Thai people so it’s little wonder about 95% of the population follows Theravada Buddhism, which is the official religion of the country. It has as its basis the teachings of Buddha, who is also known as “the enlightened” or “nee Siddhartha Gautama.”
Buddhism is considered not only a religion, but also a philosophy. In it several other spiritual beliefs that originated from Hindu centuries ago are merged together. In the majority of Thai houses and temples “Spirit Houses” are built outside, which are places where offerings are placed to ward off evil and ask for blessings.
The Thai Buddhist population has a lot of respect for other religious beliefs and is always open to discussing their Buddhist values with foreigners or people of other faiths. Buddhism is so present in daily life that there is an almost never-ending number of temples to be visited in the country, providing an opportunity to not only learn more about the religion, but also to meditate.
Meditation is in fact one of the main tenets of the religion. It is a form of self-reflection, which has as its objective to help the individual, but also serves to alleviate his/her suffering. Tourists can learn about the fundamentals of this practice in any temple. Some of them, especially in the city of Chiang Mai, the spiritual capital of the north, allow visitors to speak to the monks as a means of learning about Buddhism or to eventually adhere to the religion.
The importance is such that Buddhist monks are revered by people of all ages. There is a custom of inviting them to family homes to bless not only relatives, but the place where they live. In addition, it is common to see religious images decorating companies, taxis, restaurants, and many light incense to offer prayers not only to Buddha, but to Hindu gods as well.
In many cities, especially in the countryside, temples are a meeting place, serving as places not only for practicing religion, but also as a way of socializing. Another example of their importance are the ceremonial Buddhist holidays which occur regularly throughout the year and always fall on full moon days. On these festive days, Thai people usually go to the temples to pay homage to Buddha and give alms to monks.
Buddhism is an important aspect of Thai culture, which is rich in values and also in art.