Monks and Thai Buddhist Temples
I am not an expert on Thai Buddhist monks or Buddhist temples in Thailand, but I have seen hundreds of them and
live close to an active Thai temple which is occupied by monks. However, that is not difficult, living in Thailand,
because every Thai village has a Buddhist temple (called a Wat) in the same way that every European village has a
Monks and Thai Buddhist Temples
Similar to their European counterparts, many traditional villages have more than one Wat,
although there is only one real denomination of Buddhism in Thailand. In Europe, we might have a Catholic
Church, a Protestant Church and a Methodist Church, but in Thailand there are only two active forms of the
Of these two forms more than 95% of Thais are Theravada Buddhists, who believe in the original teachings of
Buddha that no-one can help another along the path to enlightenment. That is that everyone has to get there by
purifying their own life through right actions and meditation.
The other form of Buddhism, Mahayana, teaches that a master can remain on Earth to help his fellow man attain
enlightenment long after he or she has earned the right not to have to be reborn again and that chanting mantras
can also help advancement.
When I refer to Thai Buddhism in the piece, I will be talking about Theravada Buddhism.
The Theravada Buddhist temples, whether in the villages or the cities are maintained on a regular basis by the
monks themselves and maybe a few volunteer temple workers. local women may help out with the cleaning.
Any money needed is donated by the locals living in nearby houses, although the monks do also carry out
religious functions for which donations are expected.
Specialist, private, contractors are called in if structural or specialist repairs need to be carried out on the
Wat. Local businesses, farmers and wealthy individuals will donate money and services to the temple in order to
earn 'merit', which counteracts bad karma.
The names of donators and benefactors are usually read out over the village Tannoy system, if a special project
has been initiated.
The first contact most people have with the orange-robed Thai monks in the morning is when they go around local
houses to collect food. Every Theravada monk takes part in collecting food and some have a lay helper to push the
handcart. They get to our house at about 7:30 am, but each monk takes a different route so as to cover the whole
They make a noise by striking two bits of wood or metal together as they walk. Some households provide a clapper
for the monk to announce his presence. The monk blesses everyone who donates food. Money is not required as a
The food is taken back to the temple and shared by all the monks, but part of the collection is reserved for the
last meal of the day, which has to be eaten before noon.
This is probably why all functions that require the presence of monks like weddings and house-blessings take
place in the morning, because the ceremony involves a feast, in which the monks partake. The recipient of the
monks' services donates upwards of $3 per monk for this and the ceremony requires nine monks.
If the service has gone particularly well, the host may donate a further $30 for the abbot or head monk (or
teacher (ajan)) of the temple.
The initial funeral ceremonies take place at about 6-7 pm, so the monks cannot eat, but these chants and prayers
go on for six days before the cremation on the afternoon of the seventh day. This will cost about $400 or more and
may be raised from the community by donation if the family cannot afford it.
This money is shared by the monks who participate, usually four for a funeral.
Copied with kind permission from 'Package Holidays to Thailand' http://packageholidaystothailand.org
by Owen Jones