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    New Buddhisms-Buddhadasa Dhammakaya and Santi- Ashoke

    In recent times, there has been a discourse in Buddhism about how Buddhist

    teachings have brought about negative influence in Thai society more or so in the

    case of Dhammakya sect. It is in the light of the emerging new Buddhisms that the

    second chapter will examine as to how the emergence of the new sects have

    reinforced temple economies and its operation. Yet, it is equally significant that one

    has to explore the role of other sects such as Santi Ashoke Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in

    the operation of temples and its influence on Thai society by being adherent to the

    teachings of Buddhism. In this context, the present chapter will discuss the role of

    both the sects and their influence on Thai society. It will therefore be more

    illuminating to study these movements in a broader perspective by placing them

    within the context_ofSangha hierarchy and contextualizing it in the rapidly changing

    Thai society.

    Historical Perspective of Buddhism in Thailand

    Before we go on further to discuss W at Dhammakaya movement, Soun

    Moukh and Santi Ashoke, it is good to understand the original teachings of

    Buddhism (Theravada Buddhism) in Thailand. Buddhism was introduced m

    Thailand some twenty-three centuries ago when the region was inhabited by Mons

    and Lawas. Nakhon Pathom was then the administrative center and after the advent

    of the religion, became ail active seat of Buddhist propagation. Later, the region was

    occupied by the Thais, also followers of Buddhism. Khun Luang Mao, who ruled

    over the Ailao Kingdom about two thousand years ago, was the first Thai Buddhist

    king and the professed upholder of the religion (Hazral982:68-69, Plaintrl994:23;

    Bodhinantha 2005: 12-13). A large number of sects, schools or philosophical systems

    have evolved and all of them, quite rightly, came under Buddhism; for example,

    Falun Gong -Falun Da,. Suma Ching Hai International Association, True Buddha

    Order (Zhen Fo Zhong), Sheng-yenLu, Soka Gakkai, etc, spread across the world:

    They believe on wide ranges of ideas, which are also fall in Buddhism.


  • Then; come to another definition of Buddhism with rituals grown around the

    doctrine of Buddha and the way of life preached by him, and thus becoming e

    religion. The following chart assists in understanding the various major schools of

    thought within Buddhism.

    The Buddha (Gautama) 563-480 BC

    ~ Theravada, the Strict Doctrine of the Elders,"4th century BC

    l South Asia (Spread to Sri Lanka 3rd century BC during King Asoke Era

    l Southeast Asia Burma, Cambodia, Loa, Thailand and Veitnam

    Japan, China Korea, Taiwan

    Source: Schumann, Wolfgang (1973), Bhikshu Sangharakshita (1966:296)


    I ~

    Mahayana, the large vehicle accommodating many different beliefs 1st century B C

    Tibetan Buddhism 7th century AD.


    Pure Land 400AD

    Chan/Zen 7"'~ century AD

    Japanese Schools 1250 AD.

    li Pure Land Mahayana thought expresses itself in the broad Pure Land, Ch'an (Zen) and Tantra movements.

    Figure: 3

    Mahayana Buddhism spread to Thailand in the 9th century during the reign of

    the Srivijaya kings, who ruled from Sumatra and whose territories extended over

    some southern provinces of Thailand. Meanwhile, the Khmer authority and

    influence also spread over the whole of central and northeastern Thailand. The


  • Khmer kings were adherents of Mahayana Buddhism, which had by then absorbed

    much of the Brahmanistic elements into its system. It was around this time that

    Mahayana Buddhism and Brahmanism began to exert deep influence on Thai

    culture. Although neither of them came to replace Theravada Buddhism, their

    cultural influences were considerable, and can be readily observed even today

    (Gellner 2001 :45-46). Buddhists in Thailand believe in the Buddhism of the

    Theravada school which came from Pugam (Burmar) and later from Sri Lankan

    Buddhism. Prior to this there existed both the schools: Theravada and Mahayana

    Buddhism. The difference between the two is in the methods of practicing the code

    of discipline and in the concept of Arahatship.1 Theravada Buddhism, known as the

    "Doctrine of the Elders" strictly observes the teaching of Buddha. It was called by

    the opposite school as the "Small Vehicle." The Mahayana Buddhism or the

    Bodhisattava doctrine, teaches the existence of a Human Buddha or Buddha-to-be,

    (Bodhisattava). Mahayana is sometimes called the "Greater Vehicle"

    (Sangharakshita 1966:220-221 ).

    Theoretical perspectives

    The thrust of the Buddha Dhamma is not directed to the creation of new

    political institutions and establishing political arrangements. Rather, it seeks to

    approach the problems of society by reforming the individuals constituting that

    society and by suggesting some general principles through which the society can be

    guided towards greater humanism, improved welfare of its members, and more

    equitable sharing of resources (Ven:K.Sri Dhammananda1996:494). The relation

    between Buddhism and politics is not quite simple as it is between Buddhism and

    culture. For, being concerned with the individual rather than with the group, culture

    is related to Buddhism as personal religion, but not to Buddhism as institutional

    religion. Moreover, from an institutional point of view, Buddhism comprises two

    groups, the first being the community of common believers of both male and female

    and the second being the noble Order of monks. These two groups need not have the

    same kind of relation to politics. In order to understand clearly the relation between

    Buddhism, both personal and institutional, on the one hand, and politics in the

    1 Arahanta has several meanings. It may be interpreted as "Worthy one' 'passionless one'. Or one who commits no evil even secretly. He has got rid of both death and birth. After death, in conventional terms, he attains parinibbana. Until has death he serves other seekers of truth by example and by precept.


  • various senses of the term, on the other, it would be necessary to investigate the

    relations between (a) the Buddhist doctrine and political theories, (b) Buddhism and

    the State, (c) the laity and the government, (d) the Sangha and the government, (e)

    the individual monk and the government, (f) the layman and practical politics, and

    (g) the monk and practical politics (Sangharashita Bhikkhu et, a!: 2006).

    Buddhism originated at the time when the model of the ruler in the world

    was mostly based on the idea that the state is an organism with the head and other

    supporting parts. In ancient India, four sections/strata of people are mentioned in the

    Hindu social hierarchy: the Brahmin (religious teachers), the Kshatriya (the king and

    his army), the Vaishya (traders), and the Sudra (the slaves). According to this model,

    the King plays the role as the head of the state. The King has a group of higher

    religious teachers as consulting committee whose primary duties are to give moral

    advice concerning administration of the state to the King. Sometimes the Buddha is

    asked to give the advice to the kings (Morgan 1986:44-51; Thapar 1982:32-39)

    As a result, the Buddha usually gives a sermon on the virtues to be practice

  • However, the Buddhist approach to political power is the moralization and the

    responsible use of public power. The Buddha preached non-violence and peace as a

    universal message. He did not approve of violence or the destruction of life, and

    declared that there is no such thing as a just' war. He taught: 'the victor breeds

    hatred, the defeated lives in misery. He who renounces both victory and defeat is

    happy and peaceful.' Not only did the Buddha teach non-violence and peace, He was

    perhaps the first and only religious teacher who went to the battlefield personally to

    prevent the outbreak of a war. He diffused tension between the Sakyas and the

    Koliyas who were about to wage war over the waters of Rohini. He also dissuade

  • violence. This, as we find in the Dhammapada 3 is the understanding of the causes of

    violence and the non- violent solution to it. At some level the intricate mechanism of

    the state for maintaining social order becomes unnecessary or even counter-

    productive. But faced with the actual existence of kings and armies, the Buddhists

    put forward a model of kingship that rules without punishment, legislates without

    enforcement. The problem is that with the preeminence of the king preserved, it is

    all too easy for the old methods to be put in service of the new goal without the

    separation of powers between the political and religious communities (Evans 1996:

    89-113). Thus the king not only defends the Dharma from external threats, but also

    from internal dissension within the Sangha itself, so we have an absolute monarch

    whose use of force is justified only by himself. Thus we find the reversal of

    priorities which gives us the idea of violence, and in