Q & A With @isaanlife about Buddhism in Thailand




How long have you been living in Thailand and practising Buddhism?


I arrived in Thailand in August of 1995 and have been in Northeast Thailand, with the exception of a few trips to Laos and Bangkok, been here without break since that time.

Practicing Buddhism? Well what time is it? I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I was first introduced to Buddhism during the war in Vietnam. Through my adult years I read about Buddhism in its many forms, as well as people like Thomas Merton, Thomas Aquinas and others.

Hearing about Ajahns Chah and Sumedho, as well as a couple Bhikkhus who were Vietnam vets I arrived at Amaravati in 1985. So in a sense you might say I have been practicing Buddhism since then. Of course I would disagree. Let’s put it this way I have been eating since I was born, but not constantly. To my mind Buddhism is something that should be like breathing, done constantly, without thought, not doen from time to time when the mood hits. 

It gets even more complicated, or perhaps easier than that. It is a bit like trying to explain what orange tastes like.



Is Buddhism a religion or a way of life? Or both? What are your thoughts about this?


There is absolutely nothing to believe in Buddhism and there is NO deity. There is plenty to investigate. To see for yourself The Noble Truth of Suffering, The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering, and the Noble Truth of the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering. 

http://www.buddhanet.net is a good place to look at what Buddhism is about (I am going to use links when answering questions, when it seems useful) People need to create “religion” People need to put the, old man, face on God. People suffer and need to do those things that are human and In Buddhist teachings, greed, hatred, and delusion are kilesas and are the root of samsara. 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ is another good and accurate source of information. 

Religion is a man-made thing, so if man wants to make Buddhism, gold, greed, goodness, or even mickey mouse a religion it is up to him. A way of life, if you mean that through investigation and awareness on conducts themselves in a certain manner, then I guess so. My thoughts are I do not have a clue as to what is going on in other people’s minds, as a matter of fact I often wonder what the hell what I call my mind is up to. 

Here’s a little exercise for your readers. Where do your thoughts come from? Why are they born, have a life of their own and then are gone? And where do they go? 



Your blog talks about Buddhism in Isaan. Is there a difference to the beliefs and practices in other provinces? Is Thai Buddhism different than in other countries in this region? If yes, where. If no, why?


I talk about Buddhism in Isaan because I have been here 17 years. I can read about or see things from other places, but I only write about what I see and experience here. 

The Tripitaka (Tipitaka in Pali) is Theravadan Buddhism. Read that you know what Buddhism is about. Sure any area might have its own customs and things to add, but can have nothing that contracts the vinaya. I already provided a couple links to the vinaya. 

Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and whatever else are governed and filled with humans so they all end up humanized. That is not a pretty sight but that is the conventional reality of it all.



Why do adults become monks for a short while before leaving the monastery? It’s a thai thing more about face than anything to do with Dhamma. Is there a local misconception of monks and what is expected of them (role in society)?


Who cares what people think monks should do? Monks should only be aware of what the Buddha would do!



You can find Tom on his twitter https://twitter.com/isaanlife and his blog http://isaan-life.blogspot.com/

At times he’s a grouchy old bugger but honest with his thoughts and a steadfast intelligent, funny friend who is in love with Isaan. 





An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at zashnain.com and @bedlamfury

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