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Thai Monks in Rural Development

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image of Asian Journal of Social Science

During the period April to September 1980, an investigation was carried out into the role of Thai Buddhist monks in rural development in the north of Thailand. The investigation, which was supported by the Nuffield Foundation, was conducted by means of interviews and questionnaires, and by a process of participant observation similar to that used in previous studies of Thai scientists at secular universities and scholar monks at the two Buddhist universities in Bangkok (Gosling 1980 and 1976). Among the development activities centred on Chiang Mai it was hoped to study the government-sponsored Dhammajarik and Dhammatuta Programmes and the work of wats such as the Wat Phra Singh, which is well known for its progressive outlook and high standards of education. It was hoped to survey the range of development activities being undertaken by monks and novices at these centres, and to interview them in order to ascertain their role as they understood it in the light of the Buddhist tradition. In particular the appropriateness or otherwise attributed to certain actions in the light of the Pdtimokkha was expected to be a significant indicator of the extent to which the role of the Thai Sangha is changing. In the course of preliminary informal discussion with abbots at several Chiang Mai wats and academics at Chiengmai University, it quickly became apparent that a great deal of development work is being undertaken by individual abbots and wats independently of the government-sponsored programmes. In particular the Wat Chedi Luang and the Wat Bupparam were felt to be important centres for development, and it was therefore decided to spend some time at each. These two wats are fairly similar in that both are roughly in the centre of Chiang Mai city and approximately the same size. The Wat Chedi Luang is Dhammayut, and the Wat Bupparam is Maha Nikai. Interviews were conducted and questionnaires distributed at both these wats.


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