Buddha, Monks, and Thai Temples

Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand. About 95% of the country’s population practices Buddhism.

Unlike Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. This means that Buddhists do not believe in a god. Instead, they study the teachings of a man named Siddhãrtha Gautama, or the Buddha.

In a diverse city like New York City, people practice many different religions. In my neighborhood, there are churches, synagogues, and mosques, all within a few blocks. One thing I don’t see a lot of are Buddhist temples. In Thailand, most temples are open to visitors. This makes them a good place to explore to better understand the importance of Buddhism to the Thai people.

In Thailand, there are more than 30,000 Buddhist temples. These are also called ‘wats.’ One of the most famous is Wat Pho. Built in 1788, this is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok.

Inside Wat Pho, there is a giant golden Buddha that is stretched out on its side. To me, it looks like he is taking a nap. This Buddha statue is over 140 feet long and almost 50 feet high. That’s equal to the length of three school buses and as tall as a five story building! I cannot think of another religious statue or structure anywhere in America that is this large.

Just across the Chao Phraya River from Wat Pho, is Wat Arun. This temple was built in the 18th century. At the center of Wat Arun stands a beautiful 260 foot high tower decorated with brightly-colored pieces of ceramic. This tower is called the ‘Temple of the Dawn,’ but I found the tower’s name to be confusing. I think it looks most beautiful at sunset. Watch the video and see this temple come alive at night.