Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bangkok Post: Interesting Opinion Piece Against Making Buddhism the State Religion

Not in need of 'status crutch'

Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Prasong Soonsiri is correct when he points out that Buddhism does not need to be labeled the national religion


The decline in morality and continued disarray of Buddhism over the past several decades have prompted many Buddhists to try to strengthen the religion. One of the measures has been a call that Buddhism be declared the official national religion in the new constitution, whose first draft will be finished today. In the past, Buddhism was an inseparable part of Thai life, history and culture. Today, however, Thai people live a life that is increasingly separated from Buddhist teachings. The proof is in the sharp rise in crime, widespread corruption, domestic violence especially against women and children, proliferation of gambling, promiscuity and the unprecedented obsession with occult practices and talismans.

These "problems" have always existed, long before the modern era.

All these raise the question: Is Buddhism still part and parcel of Thai life?

There is nothing wrong with the campaign to name Buddhism as our state religion. The problem is that we can't make it true by writing a passage down in the constitution.

Suppose we had a new constitution with Buddhism codified as the state religion today, do you believe that crime, rape or corruption cases would go away? Do you believe Thailand would cease to be a paradise for the flesh trade? Do you believe people would stop killing one another?

The only difference would be an increased sense of puzzlement among foreigners or people who uphold different religions: if Buddhism, which preaches compassion and peace, was made the national religion, why were Thais still doing violent and vile things?


I really don't see how naming Buddhism the state religion will change anything one way or another. In the end, it doesn't make a difference. And I think any person analyzing this from a truly Buddhist perspective would argue that the notion of making Buddhism a "national religion" is ludicrous. Is Buddhism really a religion or even a faith? And what does Buddhism have to do with nationality?

Those monks and Buddhist-nationalists who are pushing for this national religion nonsense are actually making a mockery out of the Buddha's teaching.

Thailand has a long history of being a place of religious tolerance. It should stick to that legacy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"unprecedented obsession with occult practices and talismans." This is at first glance quite interesting: as one would suppose that "normal" secularization of a nation leads from further away from religion (or "budhism") but you get feeling that in Thailands case people move more back towards animalistic ways from budhism, not really into secular (or "scientific") way of seeing things...Now, all other matter is that many times budhism is indeed not seen as "religion" in its most common sense, and especially this "true" from the "purest" budhism which is indeed more an ideology, way of thinkin' and way and attitude of life than anything else (now, this is in no way "loaded" statement, nothing against budhism, religions, faiths and so on).