The Future of Buddhism in Thailand: Contested Views Donald K. Swearer, Harvard Divinity School Contemplating the future of Buddhism in Thailand reminds me of the parable of the elephant and the four blind men. That the parable appears in several versions suggests that predictive characterizations of Thai Buddhism in the 21st century will be as diverse as the scholars making them. As the story goes, four blind men encounter an elephant. The first felt its leg and said it was like a tree trunk; the second touched its trunk and likened it to a snake; the third touched its stomach and thought it was like a wall; and the fourth wisely refused to venture an opinion. Recent developments in Thai Buddhism have been so varied and diverse that the silence of the fourth blind man may be the safest response to the challenge of any generalization about Buddhism's future in Thailand. As in the parable of the elephant and the four blind men, no essentialized generalization can be deduced from recent scholarship on Thai Buddhism. What emerges is a picture of a highly diverse, pluralistic entity whose various parts may be said to constitute a collective but not an organic, integrated whole. Thai Buddhism, like the nation-state and Thai society more generally, faces the challenges of an increasingly diverse, globalized and, as some have observed, fragmented world. This paper will examine selected aspects of contemporary Thai Buddhism ranging from studies of Buddhism and the state to the socially engaged Buddhism of Thai Buddhist NGOs in an effort to evaluate the nature of its 21st century future.
Pages to are hidden for
"The Future of Buddhism in Thailand Contested Views"Please download to view full document