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Buddhism was founded in India over 2,500 years ago and is basically a system of thought or a way of looking at the world that can relieve suffering and feelings of dissatisfaction with life. In Buddhism there's nothing to actually believe in and no discussion of the existence of a God or creator so it's sometimes considered a philosophy rather than a religion. However, Buddhism does consider a person's afterlife and functions socially as a religion in places where it's practiced in groups. People who decide to follow Buddhism seriously use study and meditation to gain an understanding of the teachings. The effort is mostly individual, aided by teachers, writings, and short periods or a lifetime living in temples.
     There are two major schools of Buddhism—the Theravada (or Hinayana) in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, and the Mahayana in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet and Nepal. The Tibetan and Nepalese type is called Tantric Buddhism. The basic beliefs of the two schools are very similar but Theravada Buddhism is considered the more orthodox, following more closely the original teachings of the Buddha. Theravada Buddhism is also called Hinayana which means “the smaller path” or “the smaller vehicle”, contrasted with Mahayana “the broader path” or “the larger vehicle”.
     Buddhism as practiced in Thailand includes many beliefs and customs that originated in the animistic and Brahministic religions that preceeded it and which still exist in the country. Conversely, cultual norms and ideas in Thailand and surrounding countries have been deeply affected by Buddhist thought.

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There's no single book that's the equivalent of the Bible or the Koran in Buddhism. The main teachings as compiled after the death of the Buddha are contained in a collection of scriptures called the Traipitaka—“The Three Scriptures”.
     Theravada Buddhist scriptures are written in Pali, the language that was spoken in northern India at the time the Buddha lived. Mahayana Buddhist scriptures are written in Sanskrit, India's language of learned discourse. In Thailand, Pali is used for chants and formal teachings. Thai language equivalents of Pali terms exist that are used in conversation and informal teaching. An example is karma, the Sanskrit term for an intentional action. In Pali it's kamma and in Thai it's gam.


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