Buddhism was introduced into Thailand from Sri Lanka, and nearly 95% of the population is Buddhist. Theravada is the predominant school, though beliefs are often mixed with folk religions. Mahayana Buddhism is also practiced in Thailand, though it is mostly confined to Thais of Chinese ancestry.
Since the 1960s, many foreigners have trained at monasteries in Thailand, and while most have only stayed for a short time, many have also taken monastic ordination. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see farang monks at monasteries, especially those in rural areas. Two famous Thai monks who have enjoyed influence overseas are Ajahn Chah and Buddhadasa.
Thais are pretty flexible by nature and so readily make allowances for foreigners who are not familiar with their customs. However, there are a few rules that should be observed when visiting a monastery:
- Never sit with the soles of your feet facing a Buddha image or a Buddhist monk. The feet are considered dirty, and so it is considered disrespectful to sit with them facing an object of respect.
- Women should never touch a Buddhist monk. If a female wishes to make an offering to a monk, she should place it on a table and allow the monk to retrieve from there.
- Do not climb on sacred objects.
- Do not take photographs of meditating monks as this obviously disturbs their practice.
Below is a list of monasteries offering meditation courses to non-Thai speakers. This list serves only as a "pointer", and more detailed information is available on the city or provincial article where the temple is located.
Temples offering multi-day meditation courses
- Suan Mokkh (Chaiya, 50 km north of Surat Thani).
- Wat Chom Tong (Ban Luang, Chom Tong, about 60 km southwest of Chiang Mai)).
- Wat Pah Nanachat (WPN) The International Forest Monastery (Ban Bung Wai, Warin, 12 km from Ubon Ratchathani)).
- Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (Chiang Mai).
- Wat Ram Poeng (Suthep, 7 km southwest of Chiang Mai).
- Wat Sri Boen Ruang (Fang, 150 km north of Chiang Mai).
Temples offering non-residential meditation courses
- The International Buddhist Meditation Centre (Bangkok).
- Wat Prayong Gittivararam International Buddhist Meditation Centre (Bangkok).
- Wat Suan Dok (Suthep, Chiang Mai, 1 km west of the moat).
- Wat Umong (Suthep, 6 km from Chiang Mai).
- The World Fellowship of Buddhists (Bangkok).