If visiting the wondrous nation of Thailand is on your list of things to do, it pays to understand the people who live there and the concepts that are a part of everyday Thai life. Interestingly, a percentage of the male population of Thailand has chosen the life of a monk, and the way the monks live and interact with the rest of the population is a near-perfect exercise in social harmony. Thai people - both monks and others, live full and exciting lives in this exotic travel destination. Here is what you can expect from both groups:
GENERAL THAI POPULATION
Ever since the early 1960s, Thai people have gravitated toward urban areas for work. While not quite 80% live in urban areas at this point, many do come to larger cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai for employment - often on a seasonal or temporary basis. Rural communities still abound, but many now enjoy some of the modern conveniences of the city, such as television, running water in the home, and more. Today's Thai professional may work in a big city, but an increasing number are choosing to work abroad in areas like the Middle East or other countries in Asia.
Most Thai citizens, modern as they are, still engage in traditional cultural and religious practices - the central tenet being Buddhism. Most homes have shrines to Buddha, and spirituality is a key component to decision-making in Thai culture. Business owners still often consult astrologers and mediums prior to making important decisions. Thai people are becoming increasingly modern, with takeout restaurants dominating the big cities, entertainment venues rivaling what you'd find in the West, and infrastructure improvements that are making this destination one that is both enthralling and convenient.
One of the greatest honors available to the men of Thailand is the opportunity to serve in the monkhood, or Sangha. Formally called Pra Piksoo, monks in Thailand are revered by the general population and must follow a whopping 227 precepts to be fully ordained as a monk. Young men must be 20 years old before they can join the monkhood, and the decision is a big one as it reflects deeply on the young man's family. Joining is completely voluntary, and is allowed only if the man can pass an exam that is based on the precepts of monkhood and the rules for novices.
A Thai monk will attend a three-month retreat, where the basic tenets of the lifestyle are delivered. After the retreat, the young man must obey 227 rules for the rest of his life as a monk. If he violates four specific rules - engaging in sexual relations, committing theft, murdering another, or claiming superhuman powers, he will be expelled from the group. An interesting fact about being a monk in Thailand is that it isn't necessarily a pact that must be made for life - some Thai men will become monks to attain a life goal, earn merit for the family, or otherwise find peace through ordination.
If a visit to Thailand is on your agenda soon, keep in mind that becoming a monk requires a rigorous and reverent life. These men have chosen to lead a life of civility, thoughtfulness, peace, and cleanliness. The Thai people respect them greatly, and as visitors we must greet them with openness and kindness, too. The people of Thailand are warm, generous, and quick to assist you in any way. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, and for good reason!