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Thai Culture Guide >> Thai Religion

Thai Religion


Thailand is nearly 95% Theravada Buddhist, with minorities of Muslims (4.6%), Christians (0.7%), Mahayana Buddhists, and other religions.[1] Thai Theravada Buddhism supported and overseen by the government, with monks receiving a number of government benefits, such as free use of the public transportation infrastructure.

The Thai Sangha is divided into two main orders, the Thammayut Nikaya and the Maha Nikaya, and headed by the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, currently Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana Mahathera. A recent reformist group, Santi Asoke, is forbidden to describe itself as Buddhist. Buddhism in Thailand is strongly influenced by traditional beliefs regarding ancestral and natural spirits, which have been incorporated into Buddhist cosmology.

Prior to the rise of Theravada Buddhism, both Indian Brahmanic religion and Mahayana Buddhism were present in Thailand. Influences from both these traditions can still be seen in the present day. Brahmanist shrines play an important role in Thai folk religion, and the Mahayana Buddhist influence is reflected in the presence of figures like Lokesvara, a form of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara sometimes incorporated into Thailand's iconography.

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