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– Pathom Asoke: a Buddhist Community in Thailand

There are quite a few Buddhist Communities in and outside Thailand that I know of.

However, my 2006 trip to Pathom Asoke has brought me a very fresh idea of how the original Buddhism is applied in this community.

Pathom Asoke is located in Nakhon Pathom, just about an hour drive from Bangkok. Pathom Asoke contains the Santi Asoke Temple and a Buddhist community living in the whole compound.

With many social development and conflicts in many nations in the 20th century in which people seemed to lose track with their Buddhist ways of life, the temple and the community in Pathom Asoke were born to preserve and apply the original Buddhist teachings into life. Therefore, the birth of Pathom Asoke has contributed changes in both Buddhism and Thai society at once. And also in the world with the movements made by other monks such as The Dalai Lama and the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Socially Engaged Buddhism has become a new topic that has renewed and modernized Buddhism as well as preserved social Buddhist values in society.

The first thing I can remember of is that my three days of staying in Pathom Asoke also had to follow some restrictions which means I had to wake up earlier than other people to walk far outside of the community to buy a coffee and to smoke a cigarette. Well, that’s true, but not important. Here are the facts:

About the community, all of the people living in this community have their own houses and some have families too. But all of them work not for their own money or any selfish material wealth. 

They study the making of herbal medicine and produce them to serve people and to sell. Many Thai drugstores sell these medicines very well. Many other Thais also come here for that. Herbal medicine is the main product of the community and I think that’s a lot of work. 

They also raise anything they can, mushrooms, vegetables, etc… to support the whole community and outside.

Some other people operate trash recycling mechanism and study chemistry. They also use organic oil to run machines. Children have their own classrooms and teachers. Other children from outside can also come to study.

They have an open house for people to open meetings.

They have guest houses for people to come for a few days (separate male/female).

Besides, people here always take part in planting trees for the surrounding areas (it’s a huge forest I think).

In this community, the Buddhist ideas are basically seen clearly in these spots: no selfishness, no fighting/arguing, helping the community and the surroundings, only vegetarians, and meditation is a very important activity.

I had quite a few chances to discuss with the monks here but I don’t have enough space here to write.

I asked the monk: Why does everybody walk barefoot?
The monk said: To be closer to the earth, to make us more healthy too.
I asked another question: Why don’t I see any incenses in our temple?
The monk said: Just like Western people shake hands and Thai people wai to each other, an incense is just a way to communicate. We believe that the original Buddhism doesn’t mention that using incenses is a must. And being like this, the air is always fresh.

Now the idea of keeping original Buddhism is clearer to me. How interesting!
There are actually a lot more to talk about Pathom Asoke as well as Socially Engaged Buddhism but this page is not just for that research. Here are some photos I took at the community:

The huts for the ordained people to stay:
Preserving the nature:
A people’s house in the community:
In front of the canteen (only vegetarian food for everyone, including guests, ah you can see people walk barefoot):
The Crematory:
– Photos by: Nguyen Truong Tung



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