Observations on Buddhism in the Thai middle class, The power of karma and The Concept of the 5 precepts: From origin to contemporary phenomenon

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Asa Kumpha
Saichol Sattayanurak


The Buddhism of the Thai middle class is a new social and cultural phenomenon that has just emerged during the past few decades. From a broader perspective, the findings of this study are that the Buddhism of the Thai middle class is based on two important concepts: 1) a belief in "the power of karma", which is the traditional core value of Thai people. The belief has had a profound influence on the worldview of the Thai middle-class Buddhists for a long time. This has never been challenged, and has been reproduced and appeared in new forms in the various types of media; and 2) "the concept of 5 precepts", which is the Buddhist ethics (new) that has been used as a criterion to assess “good Buddhists”. The concept is also the moral knowledge that the Thai state and the Thai elites have been trying to impose on the citizens through education systems since the period of absolute monarchy. Later on, this influence was passed onto the Thai middle class. However, “the power of karma" and “the concept of 5 precepts" can be seen clearly in the group of middle-class Buddhists who give importance to concepts in “Vipassana meditation”. This view can be seen in Dhamma books, some of which are "best-sellers", and are written by secular authors. And some of these viewpoints can be seen from the organizations of the new middle-class Buddhist Thais. In addition, it may be observed that that the middle-class Thai Buddhists often give importance to the notions of "true Buddhism" and “artificial Buddhism" can be traced back to find their historical roots.


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Kumpha, A., & Sattayanurak, S. (2020). Observations on Buddhism in the Thai middle class, The power of karma and The Concept of the 5 precepts: From origin to contemporary phenomenon. Journal of Human Sciences, 21(3), 237-256. Retrieved from https://so03.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/JHUMANS/article/view/244322
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