It has been a topic of import lately in Thai Buddhist circles, that Buddhism be declared the ‘State’ religion of Thailand. Apparently this idea has little support amongst regular Thai people, but many monks and Buddhist organisations have been trying to activate each other for it. Perhaps it may have been a useful tool for the military caretaker government to use for their own advancement, and it is a relief that cool heads prevailed on this issue. Following Her Majesty the Queen’s speech on the 12th August, the ambition for state religion has been officially dropped.
I wonder in fact, if the campaigners knew what they even wanted – I recall a few years ago when the old constitution was being written, there was a rally of people with banners such as “Without Buddhism We are Slaves” and such … I wonder if they actually realised that Buddhism was not hitherto the State Religion of Thailand, and that it could continue exactly as it had all the years previous. Discussing the issue with the monks I know, I was careful to check and see what exactly they thought ‘state religion’ meant and whilst they accepted the common position of respect for other religions, it seemed they just wanted some recognition – a matter of face.
Now the groups want to “push for amendments to the Ecclesiastic Act to streamline the organisation of Buddhist monks and better promote Buddhism” since “Buddhism was currently in bad shape and monks and laymen would have to take the necessary steps to revive and strengthen it.”
Now I wonder how exactly Buddhism is in such bad shape. This impression that old times were more pure, and the modern era shows deterioration has somehow always been with all cultures. To my eyes, Buddhism is in good shape; all monks now learn the basic Nak Tam course generating a good general knowledge of Buddhism with the thousands of temporary monks. Media has been able to highlight the activities of meditation groups and worthy teachers … even taxi drivers know a bit about Buddhism and are interested. Or perhaps the groups concerned, now they have formed themselves, just need newer ways to justify their existence and a new angle to agitate for. The only war that really needs to be fought, is the inner one, and there is nothing better any Buddhist can do for the religion.