Many people who visit Thailand are enchanted by the overwhelming amount of temples found throughout Thailand and how vibrant the Buddhist culture is. Buddhism is interwoven into every single aspect of Thai culture. From the moment you step off the airplane you are absolutely surrounded by it. It’s hard not to stare out the window of your bus it drives through the countryside and marvel at the temples as you pass. Perhaps you’ve walked by a temple and seen the vivid colors enticing you to come inside, or maybe you peered through the gates and saw hundreds of Thai’s with candles chanting along with monks or giving alms as part of a Buddhist festival, of which there are many throughout the year.
Have you wondered what life is like for a monk? Living within the temple walls in peace and harmony with the world? Perhaps you’re curious about the Dhamma (the teachings of Buddha) or simply want to know more about this peaceful and welcoming religion.
There are many ways to explore Buddhism, Fortunately for you, there are people who can answer your questions! Many monks speak very good English and are quite happy to discuss their religion with you, always in a respectful way and never proselytizing. There are many ways one can go about this. You could simply strike up a conversation with a friendly monk and spend hours walking or sitting around the temple grounds asking each other questions. Another, slightly more organized way, is to attend one of the informal monk chats that are held at various temples throughout Thailand.
The first temple is Wat Suan Dok located on Suthep road less than 1km from the old city. Wat Suan Dok is known for its massive golden chedi which is the largest in the city and held within in is what is said to be a piece of the Buddha’s shoulder bone. It is also home to the Chiang Mai branch of Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University, a Buddhist university where monks go to study. Throughout the day one can see many young monks entering and leaving the large temple grounds. This makes it one of the perfect places to inquire about Buddhism and monk life. The monk chats are held in English and you’ll have a chance to ask questions about Buddhism, temple life, or even Thai culture if you wish, it’s possible that the monk will be curious about the country that you come from as well and may even ask you questions about life in your country!
The second temple where monk chats are held is Wat Umong, about 1.5 kilometers further down Suthep road and slightly south at the base of Doi Suthep mountain. The grounds of Wat Umong are absolutely massive, encompassing 15 acres, almost all of which is under the shade of trees. Wat Umong is over 700 years old and has many ancient secrets within its walls. One area of the temple is a small, peaceful lake where one can see many types of local wildlife. Next to the lake is a small Chinese pagoda where every Sunday from 3-6pm you are welcome to have a seat and join a monk in conversation, feel free to ask anything you wish and the monk will be happy to answer your questions.
Whether you wish to dive headfirst into Buddhism or simply have a friendly chat with a monk whose life is very different from your own, Thailand is the perfect place to do so. All you need to do is say Sawasdee Krop!