Thailand Slide Lecture Set #1

4 May 2515

[Based on the content of my slide lecture, the accompanying notes were prepared by an officer of the University Museum and handed out together with the set of the slides shown to the students after the lecture. Copies of the slides and notes were also distributed to other institutions of education as a community service.]

Slide 1 — Buddhism first appeared in India as an opposition to some of the beliefs of Brahmanism and its caste system. Although Buddhists believe that there were earlier Buddhas, the Buddha whose teachings form the basis of the existing Buddhism died in India in 483 B.C. (or 543 B.C. according to Theravada Buddhist tradition). Since his clan name was Gautama, he is sometimes called Gautama the Buddha.

As a young prince, he became disturbed at the unhappiness and unfairness he saw in life. At 29 years of age, he began to search for an answer. After six years he at last found enlightenment, and became the Buddha or the Enlightened One. This slide shows a bronze statue of the Buddha seated in a special pose of concentration, having conquered the Mara the Evil One. It was made about 600 years ago.

The teachings of the Buddha offer instructions for those who will follow the Middle Way to Enlightenment. The Middle Way is one of the basic concepts of Buddhism. The extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, or asceticism, are to be avoided.

Slide 2 — The Buddha taught for 45 years and died at the age of 80. He offered the new principle that all people were equal and could develop themselves socially and spiritually. This is the belief in karma or action, the law of cause and effect. The Dharma, or the Truth, is one of the three principles of Buddhism; the others are the Buddha and the Sangha, or the monastic order. Karma itself is one of the main concepts of the Dharma. The Buddha of course had disciples who continued his teachings. These teachings were merely guidelines, not a dogma to be believed in implicitly. Nor was the Buddha a god to be worshipped.

Under the famous King Asoka, who died about 232 B.C., one group of Buddhist missionaries was sent by him from India to Thailand. Today 95% of the people in Thailand are Buddhists and there are many Buddhist monasteries throughout the country. In this illustration is shown the gate, with huge guardian giants, of the Temple of Dawn in Bangkok. In the left foreground stands a monk in his saffron-colored robe.

Slide 3 — Although monasteries in the provinces are often quite small, those located in big cities, like this one in Bangkok, are quite large. Here are many structures for monk use and sacred buildings containing statues and paintings of the Buddha for public use. Since Buddhism teaches the concept of social responsibility, a monastery is not a place where monks shut themselves off from ordinary life and its problems. In towns and villages the monasteries serve as important social centers for such functions as funerals and meetings between the monks and the people. In a special hall the people gain religious merit such as making offerings to the monks.

This scene shows some of the buildings in Wat Pho in Bangkok. The great building in the center distance is a large pagoda covered with ceramic tiles and housing a great Buddha statue.

Slide 4 — The great stupa seen here represents an architectural form peculiar to Thailand, although stupas occasionally show architectural influences from Ceylon and India. There are many stupas throughout Thailand. They house such things as images of the Buddha, portions of Buddhist scriptures and the relics of the Buddha or his disciples.

This particular stupa is called Phra Pathom Chedi and is covered with glazed tiles. It was originally built when Buddhism first came to Thailand but has been renovated on several occasions since then. It stands in a neighboring province of Bangkok.

Slide 5 — Not long after the death of King Asoka, Indian Buddhism split into two schools: the Theravada or Southern School, and the Mahayana or Northern School. Theravada Buddhism is found today in such countries as Ceylon, Thailand and Cambodia. The monks of Thailand wear a robe dyed to a warm saffron color. Their heads are shaved at monthly intervals. Monks form the Sangha, the third of the Three Jewels. They follow the Buddha in cultivating the three main virtues: wisdom, purity and compassion. Compassion may also be interpreted as social responsibility.

This picture shows the Venerable Phra Srivisuddhimoli lecturing at the University Museum in Philadelphia. Aside from those who commit themselves to a life of monkhood, in Thailand it is usual for a man to enter a monastery and become a monk early in his adult life even if only for a few weeks.

Slide 6 — People in the Thai village feel very close to monks in the local monastery. For them it is an honor and a means of gaining merit to do such a thing as feeding the monks or giving them clothing and other necessities of life. Usually each morning the monks leave the monastery for the morning almsround. Occasionally, however, the laypeople come into the monastery to offer their gifts of food. For other purposes, of course, they enter the monastery on a great many occasions.

In the gold lacquer painting shown here can be seen a Buddhist monastery. Toward the top of the scene, monks are receiving food from the people. At the lower right, a monk is sweeping the floor. This decoration is on the front of a cabinet holding a copy of the Buddha’s teachings. In a monastery the monks study these teachings written in Pali, the scriptural language of Theravada Buddhism. Through concentrated study of these teachings, a person can understand more clearly the Buddhist principle that the final goal of Buddhism—nirvana or enlightenment—is attainable in this world.

Slide 7 — Meditation in Buddhist practice is a means of preparing the mind for greater awareness and sharpening its perception of the true nature of life. It is unlike mystic meditation in which a person seeks to remove his awareness of life and its problems. Buddhist meditation offers a true internal freedom where the mind is free, not tied to material things. This leads to true happiness and a healthy mind.

The gold lacquer cabinet front shown here represents a peaceful forest scene with a pond, deer and roosters. At the right is a special little hut where a holy man could stay and meditate. Below it sits the holy man himself receiving food from monkeys.

Two types of Buddhist meditation are practiced. Tranquility meditation, the initial type, makes the mind clear and calm. It is for the purpose of concentrating so that one can move on to insight meditation. Insight meditation, the more advanced type, offers the means of gaining a true knowledge of the nature of existence. It is the highest form of Buddhist meditation, leading to the ultimate happiness and freedom.

Slide 8 — In early times the monks were the only teachers and the schools, therefore, were in the monasteries. Now the classes are taught mostly by lay teachers, but in the provinces public schools are still located in the monasteries. The government is encouraging the revival of the monk’s role in education.

This illustration shows a variety of buildings in a monastery in Bangkok as seen from the Golden Pagoda which contains a bone relic of the Buddha.

Slide 9 — Here, in Nakhon Pathom, can be seen a small Buddhist monastery typical of the many scattered throughout the countryside of Thailand. Rice fields surround it and among them stand small houses of local inhabitants. In such a setting it is clear that the monastery does serve as a focal point for the community.

Slide 10 — This old wall painting from the Grand Palace compound in Bangkok shows the Buddha seated in a pavilion.

Among the sayings which he gave his followers are these:

As many kinds of garlands can be made from a heap of flowers, so many good deeds should be done once one is born. (53)

Better than a hundred years of inactivity and idleness is one day of energetic life. (112)

Better than a hundred years of folly and thoughtlessness is a single day of wise and thoughtful life. (111)

It is easy to do what is bad and harmful to oneself. What is helpful and good is hard to do. (163)

Oneself is the refuge of oneself. Who else can be the refuge? Oneself is the destiny of oneself. Therefore take care of yourself even as a merchant takes care of his noble horse. (380)

Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, he who conquers himself is the greatest victor. (103)

Neither father nor mother nor any other relative can do a man so much good as a well-directed mind. (43)

Slide 11 — From one of the palace buildings in Bangkok also comes this wall painting showing the Buddha standing on a lotus flower and talking to angels or holy figures of a higher order.

Here are further sayings of the Buddha:

Having myself discovered the way to the removal of the arrow of suffering, I have revealed it to you. You yourself must make the effort. The Perfect Ones only point out the way. (275–276)

Two things, monks, I have realized: discontent with good achievements and perseverance in exertion. (A.1.49)

As he teaches others, so should he himself act. Being himself well trained, he may train others. It is indeed one’s own self that is difficult to train. (159)

Let him advise, let him instruct, let him prevent wrongdoing. Good men will love him and only the bad will hate him. (77)

One is not a monk merely by a shaven head. How can a man be a monk if he is undisciplined, deceitful, filled with greed and desire? But he who wholly quiets the evil, whether small or great, is called a monk because he has quieted all evil. (264–265)

Calm is his mind, calm are his words and deeds. Thus calm is he who has become perfectly peaceful and wholly freed through true knowledge. (96)

Slide 12 — This lacquer decoration on a clothing chest, showing Chinese influence, represents another tranquil forest scene appropriate for meditation. Here a holy man sits among rocks and trees with peacocks and deer not far away.

The Buddha advised his followers:

Not to do any evil; to cultivate good; to purify one’s mind—this is the teaching of the Buddhas. (183)

Let no man think lightly of good: “It cannot be for me.” Drop by drop is the pitcher filled and little by little the wise man is filled with merit. (122)

If a man commits an evil, let him not do it again nor take pleasure in it, for the accumulation of evil is painful. (117) It is good to train the mind. A mind under control brings happiness. (35)

The faults of others are easily seen, but one’s own is hard to see. A man winnows others’ faults like chaff, but one’s own faults he covers as a fowler hides himself. (252)

Conquer anger by love. Conquer evil by good. Conquer the miser by generosity. Conquer the liar by truth. (223)

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