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Visiting Temples in Thailand

Posted By Amy Ferguson on 01 Jun 2015
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Thailand is populated with thousands of temples. In Doi Saket, where we live and work, there are at least 12 or 13. Each temple has its own character. Some are forested, reclusive ones that host a single monk. Some are bustling hubs with schools that educate many young novice monks who live at different temples nearby. Some attract many tourists. There are a few centers with Buddhist nuns, who are much more rare in Thailand and are trying to establish more monasteries for women.

The art inside and out of these temples is breathtaking. Many exteriors are decorated with gold leaf and intricate designs. The walls on the interior are often covered in beautiful paintings. Most temples have statues of the mythical snake the Naga lining the staircases. Some, like the main temple of Doi Saket and temple Wat Doi Suthep outside Chiang Mai, have staircases with hundreds of steps that take a commitment to tackle. But once you reach the top, the art, shrines, and Buddha statues amaze and inspire.

Buddhism is deeply intertwined in Thai society, which follows the Theravada tradition. Many Thai men ordain as monks as children or as young men before they marry. Boys from families that are less well off can ordain as novice monks and receive a free education. During the summer break from school, young boys will often ordain in a sort of Buddhist camp. The camp in Doi Saket works a little differently in that the novices travel from temple to temple over the course of the month, learning about Buddhism.

Monks are respected in Thai society and provide spiritual guidance for the lay people. In return, the lay people provide food for them and donations to the temples. Buddhist monks typically attend ceremonies like weddings and housewarmings to offer blessings. Together the monks and lay people form the Sangha or Buddhist community in Thailand.

One of the temples we work closely with has had two litters of new puppies in the past couple months. Day to day this is one of our favorite ones to visit. But no matter where they are, each temple has its own unique characteristics and spiritual and artistic qualities that transport one to another realm.

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