pink_trike wrote:I have many Thai Buddhist friends living all over Thailand in the 25-45 age range, in all economic brackets...from rural farmer to BKK urban sophisticate. About half of them identify as Buddhist simply as a matter of habit and social expectation, and the other half don't identify with any "religion". Nearly all of them laugh at my interest in the Dharma, and call me "monk man"...in humor, but not entirely. Because of my interest in the Dharma, I am regarded as odd to this demographic who are to Thailand what my generation (late 60s - 70s) was to the U.S. - questioning and rebelling against bloated self-serving institutions.
In Thailand, higher education is widespread (here's a bit of history):
http://education.stateuniversity.com/pa ... ATION.html
I think it is safe to say that education (and conspicuous consumption) is the new "religion"...the new "way of life"...more so for each new generation - especially with growing internet access.
The other half of my thai friends that do identify as "Buddhist" think that Buddhism means making donations to a temple or some other kind of occasional merit, or attending various Buddhist celebrations that often seem to have very little to do with Buddhism as many of us here may understand it.
Neither half seem to know very much about Buddhism or the Dharma. Both halves have contempt or indifference for Buddhism, referring to it as "country" or "old-fashioned" or "for old people" - and express scorn or indifference to a Buddhism that lives in fear of ghosts and other non-human beings harming them, practices amulet fetishism, blesses mercedes benzes, and the fairly obvious sexual, intellectual and financial/political corruption that is widespread and spreading fast through the Thai Buddhist institution. Many of them express Western ideas of individualism such as "finding myself", "being myself" and "finding my voice"...emphasis on the "myself".
In sum, in the 25-45 demographic (more so the younger we look), male and female, of all classes, Buddhism is widely perceived as having no meaning - other than a general belief in "be good". When I hear my Thai friend's speak dismissively or angrily of Buddhism I'm reminded of how my generation found nothing of interest in Christianity in the 70s, leading to a major decline in Christianity and Christian influence in much of the U.S.
Personally, I don't think this bodes well for Buddhism in Thailand. Corporatism planted some potent seeds in Thailand about 25 years ago, and the current yournger/middle generations are the flowers of that seeding. They want a Western lifestyle, and have no time for a "religion" that doesn't know how to speak to them (or that they can't hear over the roar of Capitalism).
I also have many Thai friends, and have noticed the same patterns. It's also something I've noticed with many young Japanese, Chinese and Koreans. Along with the corporate angle that PT points to, I'm concerned with the rise of pleasure seeking as a cultural norm around the world. Is this rooted in American individualism, with our ideas of freedom, independence and the individual's pursuit of happiness?
How deep are these problems, and how might Modern Asian cultures best respond?