Thailand: Ministry to distribute Tipitaka to general public

The Nation, August 19, 2005

Bangkok, Thailand -- The Culture Ministry is planning to publish and distribute 500,000 volumes of the Tipitaka Buddhist canon to government agencies, private organisations, hotels and hospitals, as well as the general public, as part of its drive to revive faith in the religion. Yesterday, the ministry’s Religious Affairs Department held a seminar to discuss how to prevent people in Thailand from straying further from the Buddhist way of life.

One idea was to publish the Tipitaka and distribute it to the general public, so they would absorb the teachings of the Lord Buddha.

Preecha Kanthiya, director-general of the department, said the government would like to do this and that the project would cost Bt80 million.

?Publishing should start next month. We?ll also distribute the Tipitaka to 4,000 monks who provide religious and moral instruction,? Preecha said.

If the Tipitaka does get published, it would have to be in an abridged form, because the entire work covers more than three dozen volumes.

The Religious Affairs Department also plans to publish the Lord Buddha?s teachings and the different incarnations of the Lord Buddha in cartoon form or produce animated versions to educate Thai youngsters.

The Tipitaka covers the essence of Buddhism and is divided into three main parts: the vinaya, the sutta and the abhidhamma. The vinaya is the rules and procedures that guide the practices of monks, the sutta is the Lord Buddha?s spoken teachings and the abhidhamma is the interpretation of the ultimate reality as discovered by the Lord Buddha.

Recently, the Dhamma Society Fund published three sets of the world?s first romanised version of the Tipitaka. Sweden, Sri Lanka and the Constitution Court have taken delivery of 40-volume sets.

Somdej Phrayanvarodom, the abbot of Wat Thepsirin, expressed concern about the failure of Thai Buddhists to learn and understand the teachings of the Lord Buddha.

?It?s dangerous to the security of Buddhism that people no longer pay attention to the teachings of the Lord Buddha. When they enter the monkhood, they violate the rules. They get into fights after looking each other in the face. There are crimes committed everywhere,? said the abbot.

?We can?t believe that Thais are Buddhists after being beer-drinking champions in Germany for two years in a row now. There are liquor stores in front of temples everywhere. Foreigners question whether we really are a Buddhist society.?