A distraction from Thai politics last week has been the incident at Wat Sing School. The intrusion into the school outraged many and ignites a debate about how Buddhism should be practised.
The easiest Buddhist critical-thinking skill-set to recollect is found in the Visuddhimagga, a fifth-century treatise which borrows from the Abhidhamma. This expresses a coherent framework and structurally examines sila (moral regulations), samadhi (calming meditation) and panna (wisdom), through a fourfold-scheme to determine the characteristics, function, manifestation and proximate cause of the threefold-training.
While the junta thinks that Thai Buddhism will be purified by arresting the former abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, experts point out a lack of secularism and political tolerance is a real threat to the dominant religion. On 10 March 2016, Chiang Mai Univeristy’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology hosted a seminar “Dhammakaya Crisis, Social Crisis?” The panel discussed the ongoing harassment of Wat Dhammakaya and tried to propose a proper solution for society.
The appointment of a new supreme patriarch is an opportunity to better politics and Buddhism in Thailand. In what could be described as one of his earliest exercises of power, King Rama X has appointed Phra Somdej Maha Muneewong as Thailand’s newest Sangha Raja. After three years of vacancy, Thai Buddhists and the nation’s order of monks have got their long awaited Supreme Patriarch. But despite much celebration and fanfare, will the new Sangha Raja rescue Thai Buddhism? And what does the whole appointment process say about contemporary Thailand and its broken politics?
Exercising his royal power under a recently amended law, His Majesty the King Tuesday named a new leader of Thai Buddhist authorities, ending years of vacancy on the ecclesiastic throne. Phra Maha Muneewong, the 89-year-old abbot of Wat Rajabopit, was named the 20th Supreme Patriarch by King Vajiralongkorn, junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters after his weekly cabinet meeting. Muneewong replaced the previous patriarch who died in 2013 at 100, and the issue of his succession has been hotly debated ever since.
After being barred from paying their respects to the late King at the Grand Palace, Bhikkhunis — female Buddhist monks in Thailand — have urged the junta leader to amend laws discriminating against female monks.
Soldiers and police officers have stormed into a press conference on the crisis of Thai Buddhism to force its organisers to cancel the event.
Within Thailand’s overwhelmingly Buddhist population, the Dhammakaya version of Buddhism has amassed a huge following but also created enormous controversy, Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang writes.
Thai soap operas play a crucial social role in constructing political ideas of nationalism, Buddhism and morality. This mechanism, however, is not a stagnant process. The recent airing of a nationalistic soap has shown how Thai soaps adapt to changing political contexts.
The recent disrobing of Venerable Sermsak Thammasaro or “Monk Ti” for his dwarfism has spurred discussion about Thai Buddhism and discrimination. According to liberal Buddhist monk Venerable Phramaha Paiwan Warawunno, Monk Ti was disrobed because ordination of the disabled is against the Buddhist Vinaya. According to well-known religious scholar Surapot Thaweesak, Thai Buddhism tends to rule in favour of the clergy, and under the power of the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC), does not allow other parties to pass judgement on cases or issues that crop up.