Buddhism and Dynamics of Beliefs in Thai Society

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Surada (Sumalai) Ganwiboon


Buddhism and Dynamics of Beliefs in Thai Society is an academic study that examines the evolution of Buddhist beliefs in relation to Thai cultural beliefs from prehistory to the present. The study demonstrates that since the emergence of Buddhism in Thailand more than 2,000 years ago, this extended period came along with social changes and dynamics of beliefs, which still prevail in Thai society. The paper demonstrates the following four core beliefs predominating in Thai society: i) in the prehistoric era, Thai people's beliefs were oriented toward Animism and Supernaturalism, which remains the primary preference of most marginal populations in present-day Thailand; ii) From the Sukhothai period to the beginning of the Rattanakosin period, Thais believed in Kamma and rebirth, which have been fundamental concepts in Thai society for over 800 years, influencing Thai arts and culture; iii) Emphasis placed on interpreting Buddhist teachings via rationalism and following scientific concepts downgraded the importance of Buddhist Thought in Tribhum Phra Ruang; iv) Consumerism has changed the worldview of people in Thai society and brought about Buddhist Consumerism where practice, spirituality, rites, and rituals became Thai Buddhist commercialization. These four types of beliefs still prevail in the ever-evolving Thai society, corresponding to the environment and background of the followers.

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