The Future of Buddhism in Thailand Contested Views by mirit35


									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.

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