Readers' Submissions

Thais And Responsibility

  • Written by Anonymous
  • December 10th, 2003
  • 4 min read

Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

By Lutz


Ref: The letter published on Stickman's site 12/08/03 by Khao Neeow

I agree some points the reader made. However I think many Thai people would reap tremendous benefit by learning to take responsibility, for personal mistakes and or short comings, from within their own Buddhist belief system.

I am Buddhist, of the Zen form, and in my form of Buddhism taking responsibility for mistakes, is one way to learn from them, as to not repeat them in the future. To say that in Buddhism you do not take responsibility is bullshit pure and simple.

“Insanity is doing the same thing again and again, while expecting the result, or outcome, to be different”

Every religion has a mechanism built in to allow the very behaviors it teaches are wrong. Christianity has confession, forgiveness, etc. So you can rape, steal, and fornicate to your hearts content and confess on Sunday. So things do not get completely out of hand, we throw in a few unforgivable sins.

I find Buddhism in Thailand is a blend or mixture of true Buddhism, and Thai ancient Animist belief systems. The very thing which makes Thailand special (The ability to borrow foreign ways, and maintain its own culture) is also Thailand's downfall in this regard. Thailand seems to accept those parts of Buddhism it likes, but she rejects the rest.

We have the same thing in the west with all the Judaeo-Christian religions; each has its own angle complete with its own unique pros and cons. This result is many different sects of hypocrisy, as they invariably conflict with human nature. In the end however there is some form of absolution or forgiveness in all of them.

In Thailand how many Thais can abide even by the simple 5 precepts of Buddhism??? In the west how many Christians and Jews can honor and live by just the Ten Commandments???

The problem with accepting only part of a belief system is that you end up fragmenting it into a self – serving end result, this is simply human nature.

In all religions there is a spectrum which spans from religious dogma at one end, to pure philosophy at the other. In my experience the closer you are to the dogma end of the spectrum, the more easy it becomes to make your belief system conform to whatever you do, or whatever you wish to do. Under these conditions truth, objectivity, and logical thinking are the first casualties.

A perfect example of this is the lady at the BKK market who cuts the legs off the (live) frogs at the BKK market. If you ask her why she does not kill them first she will tell you; (I am Buddhist and it is wrong to kill) In Zen Buddhism this illogical approach to thought is simply not possible, Zen logic would dictate that by cutting off the legs you are in fact killing the frog, and inflicting suffering in addition.

When you combine and ancient animist belief system with Buddhism, or any other religion for that matter, the end result may no longer follow the philosophy of the original faith.

I know only one man out of 7 Thai friends, who can honestly say he lives his life by the 5 precepts. Thai Buddhism does include taking responsibility for mistakes, any monk will tell you this, the Thai people however often "choose" not to honor this part of their own belief system. Christians here are often Christians only until it interferes with fun and money, then they quickly forget Christian values and ideals, and that Thai's forget all about Buddhism when pleasure and money are at stake.

Thai people are the same this way as Christians, but for Thai people there is only the 5 precepts, for Christians there are 10 commandments, so Thai people should have a more easy time to remember the 5 precepts, instead of 10 commandments.

One important difference since there is no mechanism for absolution or forgiveness in Thai Buddhism this may explain the extreme measures of denial up front when they make a mistake or screw up. For Christians it is easy, you have until Sunday to rationalize your mistake and be forgiven, so it is easy for us to talk about responsibility from within in a society of forgiveness.

Thailand however has a society of responsibility, with no forgiveness. If we grew up and lived in such a society, we would probably behave the same way. We have forgiveness at the tail end of the equation, and the Thais have denial up front. So is the ideal Thai society with western style individual responsibility???

I think bottom line is everyone in the world is the same everywhere, but Thai people could do much better if they put the same energy into being honest and taking responsibility, as they do into being clever.

Stickman says:

I'm fairly ignorant when it comes to religion so cannot comment on the way that Buddhism is practised in Thailand. Failure to take responsibility for one's action is a major problem in any society and smacks of immaturity.