Our colleague, Adra, recently returned from her trip to Thailand and shares a bit of insight on Theravada Buddhism, temples and incense.
Did you know that 95% of religious Thais practice Theravada Buddhism? All young men are required to spend at least one week of their late teens/early 20s at a temple, learning the ways of the monk-hood.
Temples are peppered all over Thailand, as well as stores that sell decorative offerings and offerings to the monks, most popular of which is a pre-packaged bucket. Buckets are offered to monks as a way to get merit. In buckets,many items such as rice, washing powder, medicine, monk clothes, fruit juice, candles, matches, soaps, umbrellas, sandals, lights, milk, tins, toothpaste and brushes, water, toilet paper and noodles can be found. Bulks are wrapped with transparent paper.
When praying and requesting a favor to Buddha, Thai people take three incense sticks (ธููป), i.e one for the Buddha, one for the Sangha (สังฆ – Buddhist community), one for the Dharma (ธรรม – teachings of the Buddha), a flower (ดอกไม้ – orchid or lotus, which symbolizes the Buddhist teachings purity) and a small candle (เทียน – it symbolizes comprehension enlightenment). They lit the incense sticks and kneel three times and put the incense sticks in front of the statue. For Buddhists in Thailand, incense is an important element of worship to pay respect to Buddha.