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 Home > About Thailand > The Land and its People > Animism


Animism, with ancestor-worship, is the primitive belief of the Thai and their neighbours as well, and this formed the first layer of Thai religion. Later on came Buddhism and the Thai adopted it as their national religion. Unlike their neighbours the Burmans, the Thai inherited a fair proportion of Hinduism through the influence of the Cambodians who were in former days a highly hinduized people. Whatever cults and beliefs are adopted by the Thai , they are readily modified to suit their temperament and surroundings. When they adopted Buddhism, they gratly modified their basic belief of animism into the fold of Buddhism. Likewise when they embraced Hinduism, they adapted it as a subordinate to the former. As Buddhism and Hinduism were evolved from one and the same source, i.e. Brahminism, there was no hindrance to their assimilation. They became in time intermixed completely, and of course tinged with the former animistic belief. There is a Thai saying, particularly among the Thai of the central area where Hinduism still has some force with the elite class, that "Buddhism and Hinduism usually uphold each other". In the northern and north-eastern areas, Hinduism has become weaker and gradually animism has come to the fore, especially in the folkways of the people, but modified greatly of course, through the influence of Buddhism. To complete the fact, Buddhism as the national religion of Thailand is of the southern school, the Hinayan; but it reveals some traces of the cults of the Mahayan or Buddhism of the Northern School unconsciously practised. This was due historically no doubt, to the influence of the past Cambodian Empire and Srivijaya Empire of the Malay Peninsula, which for sometime adopted the Buddhism of the Northern School. There are traces of Mahayanism too in the northern area; but this is no dout derived from a different channel, namely from Burma and Southern China. There are too in modern times native Christian communities, but they are only minorities. Christianity has never made appreciable progress with the Thai people. Its converts are confined mostly to notifies of alien ancestry and paradoxically most of them, instead of being converted have, converted their Christian belief in terms of their indigenous one. Living outside his community, the converted native, and even his children born in the fold of Christianity, will in time revert to their former belief within a few gears. Such is the potent force that underlies naturally the culture of Thailand. Buddhism in a modified form is the mainspring of the national life. It has developed by slow creation of centuries to meet every new need, formed her ideals and conceptions and safeguard. The problem is how for we can preserve this tradition against the aggressiveness of the new materialistic force of the present civilisation. Thailand cannot neglect or ignore the powerful force which besets her with many dangers if her traditional ideals are not to be uprooted suddenly.


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