Tag Archives: Thai Culture

Buddhism

By Meghan Garrecht-Connelly , Katie Saad, and Haley Schiek

History and Influences of Thai Buddhism:

There are varying theories about when Buddhism reached Thailand. Some say that Buddhism was introduced to Thailand during Asoka’s (a great Indian leader) reign. He sent Buddhist missionaries to many parts of the world. Others believe that Buddhism was introduced much later. Based on archeological and historical evidence, Buddhism first reached Thailand when it was inhabited by a racial stock of people known as the Mon-Khmer who had their capital city situated about 50 kilometers from where Bangkok is now.

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Thai Food

By: Randi Arnoldi & Jonas Twu

Thai food varies from region to region. In the central region the food is usually hot, salty, sweet and sour; while food in the North is mild-hot, salty, and sour, but it is never sweet. In the South the food is hot, salty, and sour. It is interesting to note that there is not a specific flavor profile for the western part of Thailand.

There are four main sauces that are paired with each meal, every chef will cook the meal to their preferences, then each person can personalize the dish to their personal preferences. At most tables you will see a four small bowls in a ring called Khrueng Phuang or ring of spices, nine out of ten Thai’s eating will automatically reach for one of the sauces before having their first bite and it is not viewed as disrespectful. Continue reading Thai Food

Thai Food

By: Madi Anderson & Dagny Helander

Thai food is usually recognized by its spicy quality.   Thai food however strives to effectively combine the four flavors: sweet, salty, sour, and spicy.  “Virtually every dish is an exercise in balancing these four tastes” (Williams, 738).   In addition to the four flavors, “bitter also factors into many Thai dishes” (Williams, 738).  Most people usually notice or taste the spicy element of Thai cooking, but once someone becomes acquainted with the spicy element of Thai food, one can begin to appreciate Thai food with all the varieties. Continue reading Thai Food

Traditional Thai Medicine

By: Erin Ward & Heather Stuart

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Worms will not eat living wood where the vital sap is flowing;

rust will not hinder the opening of a gate when the hinges are used each day.

Movement gives health and life.

Stagnation brings disease and death.”
– proverb in traditional Chinese Medicine

(“Thai yoga history,” 2013)

The origins of traditional Thai medicine remain as mysterious as the Thai people themselves. One popular theory suggests that the Thai people migrated from China around the 8th century C.E. With neighbors such as Burma, Vietnam, and Laos, their indigenous culture is sure to have been influenced by the outside cultures of their new surroundings.  Consequently, traditional Thai medicine is extremely diverse, and is grounded in two traditions: the Folk tradition and the Royal tradition.

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Thai Cuisine

By: Libby O’Reilly & Ellie Reich

Thai cuisine is a food group that encompasses a wide variety of flavors, ingredients and history all to create a flavorful and historical meal full of symbolism and culture. In a broad sense, Thai cuisine is lightly prepared with strong aromas and spicy undertones. It is a general goal of Thai meals and cuisine as a whole to always combine balance, detail and variety and to involve the four fundamental tastes, sour, sweet, savory and bitter in every dish or in every full meal.

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Buddhism: understanding of self, karma, rebirth, enlightenment, and nirvana

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By: Elise Reckinger & Sarah Gammella

Buddhism is a religion that originated 2,500 years ago in Northern India in the fifth century B.C.E. The origin is traced to Siddhartha Gotama known as Buddha, meaning the “enlightened one.” Siddhartha Gotama observed the suffering of the world and set out to find an antidote.  Through meditation he attained an enlighten state that marked the end of attachments and therefore suffering. The spiritual pathway of Buddhism begins with The Four Noble Truths and it is said that within these truths all of Buddha’s teachings are interwoven: the understanding of self, karma, rebirth, enlightenment and Nirvana.

Thomas Knierim, Webmaster and Editor of the “Big View” blog, describes the Four Noble Truths as a gradual progression. Below he interprets the Truths, giving awareness to those of us seeking relief from the suffering we encounter in life.

The Four Noble Truths

1. Life means suffering.

Human nature is not perfect, nor is the world we live in. Inevitably we endure suffering both physically and psychologically. There are different degrees of suffering; life is imperfect and subject to impermanence; this means we need to learn to accept the ebb and flow of life’s circumstances (Knierim, 2013).

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. It goes beyond objects and includes ideas and all objects of our perception. We create suffering by searching for things outside ourselves to make us happy and holding tightly to those “things” which will inevitably change and cause suffering (Knierim 2013).

 3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

It is said we can end our suffering by attaining dispassion, by becoming devoid or impartial to our conceptual attachments. Attaining and perfecting dispassion ultimately results in the state of Nirvana, freedom from all worry and troubles (Knierim 2013).

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

This is a gradual path of self-improvement, which is also the path to end suffering as described in the teaching of the Eightfold Path listed below. We find relief in seeking out the middle ground between self-extremes; hedonism (self-indulgence) and asceticism (self-mortification). The path in ending suffering can occur over many lifetimes through the cycle of rebirth.

In understanding the Four Noble Truths, Buddha’s first sermon also described the Eightfold Path. According to O’Brien, Buddha’s teachings are to help us understand the oneness of life, end suffering and lead us in the right direction. She divides the eightfold path into three main sections: wisdom, ethical conduct and mental discipline.

8 fold path

Right View and Right Intention cultivate wisdom. The Right View is about seeing the true nature of ourselves and the world around us, keeping us free from prejudice. Right Intention refers to the energy and commitment in our mind to have pure and good thoughts in the world (O’Brien 2013).

Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood are the ethical conduct path. This calls us into action, to refrain from harmful speech and to see that our deeds come from peace and goodwill and that we earn our living in such a way that we avoid bad karma (O’Brien 2013).

The mental discipline is shown through Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. As we practice these disciplines we learn to see past delusions and overcome destructive desires. We cherish clarity or a good mind, for all that we think, and do. We practice the teachings of Buddha to the best of our abilities (O’Brien 2013).

Karma is another important concept of Buddhism. The theory of Karma is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism based on the law of moral causation. The theory of Karma was prevalent in India before Buddhism. However, Buddha explained and formulated this theory in detail. Buddha started to form this theory when he had unexplained questions: What is the cause of the inequality that exists among mankind?  Why should some be blessed and others cursed from their birth? Why should others be congenitally blind, deaf, or deformed? According to Buddhism, this inequality is due to Karma. Karma is defined as any mental, verbal or physical action in past incarnations of life that can determine one’s destiny in future incarnations.  Karma is the result of our past actions and our present doings. We are responsible for our happiness and misery. We create our heaven or hell. We are the architects for our own fate.

Nirvana is the ultimate goal of all Buddhists. Nirvana can be achieved through following the eight noble paths and the four noble truths. It is the path of enlightenment, which leads to the cessation of suffering. Suffering is caused by our desires and expectations of how life should be.  Nirvana is achieved though meditation and the practice of changing our patterns of thought and behavior, so that our mind and mood is not controlled by our desires for fulfillment. Achieving nirvana requires wisdom, ethical conduct, and mental discipline. Once nirvana is obtained, you are in a blissful or peaceful state of mind.  By achieving nirvana, you can escape samsara, the cycle of reincarnation and stop accumulating bad karma because you’ve transcended it.

Currently, in Thailand nearly 95% of the population practices Buddhism of the Theravada school. Theravade is defined as the teaching of elders. It is the oldest surviving Buddhism branch.  More information about Theravade can be found on this website: http://buddhism.about.com/od/theravadabuddhism/a/theravadabasic.htm

APA citations:

Karma. (2013). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1.

Nirvana. (2013). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1.

O’Brien, B. (2013). The eightfold path. Retrieved from             http://buddhism.about.com/od/theeightfoldpath/a/eightfoldpath.htm

Knierim, T. (2013, April 08). The four noble truths. Retrieved from

http://www.thebigview.com/buddhism/fourtruths.html

[Web log message]. (2013). Retrieved from             http://www.manitobabuddhistchurch.org/sangha/dharmaschool/eightfold-     path-for-children.html

 

 

 

 

Grasshopper hunting

By Raychel Hamada and Teal Gibo

The sky was ablaze with bolts of lighting the night we trekked out to hunt for grasshoppers. The seven of us that had singed up for the excursion were prepared, covered from neck to toe and equipped with our headlamps and flashlights. What we weren’t prepared for were the hundreds of insects flying toward the light of the headlamps and into our faces. It took awhile for us to finally decide to remove the lights from our heads and carry them in our hands instead. Once we did, it was an effective remedy, leading us to believe or discomforts were gone..but we were wrong. When our hunting guides led us to the field, we quickly realized our only option for becoming successful grasshopper catchers was to tromp through knee-deep water. With no previous training,  we were clueless as to what proper techniques of catching entailed. At first we were worried about squishing the grasshoppers and used tender approaches, which included a two-handed clasp and/or slowly pinching at the backs of their legs.  After observing the locals and our more talented peers, we attempted different techniques and were finally able to catch some. We found that the best way included 3 steps: 1) spot the grasshopper, 2) reach and grab with no hesitation and 3) while the grasshopper is struggling in your hand, safely deliver it into the insect trapper (aka, plastic water bottle).  Step 4 is presented the following day  and determined upon the hunter herself …to eat the protein-rich, crunchy/fried morsel? Or instead, let fears get the best of her stomach?

Going on a date with a Thai student

By: Joey Garzarelli

Going on a date with someone from a different culture can definitely be an eye opening experience. First off from what I have learned is that dating is not as common in Thailand as it is in the states. You may be taking a Thai college student on her very first date even if she is in her 20s. This was definitely a big shock for me as I am used to most high school girls at least experiencing one date in that time period. You may need to realize that some of these students may have been raised in village like the one we stayed at in Kalasin. This is why you must be prepared for your date feeling like one when you were 15 years old.

The date does not need to be planned out very thoroughly because lets face it you are new to this country. You need to make sure to play it safe because Bangkok can be a very dangerous city especially at night. It is definitely a city that can be traveled at night though, many things to see in a city that never sleeps. I took this experience to definitely show me the differences between dates I the US and dates in Thailand.

Art of Thai Cuisine

By: Devyn Kerr and Katherine Schwei

Food has always been important part of Thai history and culture. There are five basic flavors Thai cuisine balances which include sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty. Rice is eaten at least once a day, preferably twice in order for Thais to feel that they are normal. There are also a variety of fruits found throughout Thailand, some which are different than found in America. When we came to Thailand experiencing these new variety of foods and type of foods was really Interesting and at times a little nerve wracking to y new things. We didn’t always know every ingredient in the dish so it made trying something an adventure. For Devyn and those with dietary and allergies there were some more challenges but everyone we came across seemed to be ale to accommodate everyone even weird allergies such as onions.

There are over 20 varieties of bananas. Other fruits found year-round are coconuts, jackfruit, guava, lime, kaffiflime, tamarind, mandarin orange, papaya, watermelon, and pineapple. Though mostly eaten fresh these are sometimes dipped in salt, sugar or deep fried. Also there are a variety of soups. The fruits were really delightful to try and one of our favorite was sticky rice and mangos with coconut milk over it. Also the fruit was always fresh especially the pineapple, mangos, and coconuts.

Thai soups fall into who categories: Tom Yam, and Kaeng Jeut each having different seasonings. The first is always used with seafood and often translated into “hot and sour Thai soup” in English. Kaffir lime peel and lime juice is used to give its tang. There are also a variety of herbs and spices.

Fish sauce is used like salt in America. Chilies of many types, red and green are often used to spice dishes up.  The soups that we got to enjoy we both hot, sweet, and spicy. Each were different and had their own touch whether Ethan being adding shrimp, fish, chicken, tofu, or just a variety of seasonings. We also got to learn to make papaya salad and it was really cool to learn how it is made and used to balanced all of the sweet, sour, spicy, salty, and bitter.

There is no “proper” time as day to drink alcohol however, women are much more discreet then men in their drinking habits and any festival, wedding or funeral gives an exceptional opportunity to drink. Though, no drinking is permitted in wats or inside shrine buildings. Finally during the months of late July to October many Thai Buddhists give up drinking temporarily as a show of Buddhist faith. Of course, not all drinks are alcoholic and the fruit smoothies and Thai iced teas were amazing. They also make good coffee, and mocha frappes were our favorite. It beats Starbucks.

In conclusion, food and drink makes an important impact and finds its way into nearly every aspect of Thai culture and life in nearly every part of Thailand no matter what region one is located in there are a variety of local delights. We had the opportunity to try so much Thai cuisine and it seemed like every meal was a feast. It was amazing to try new things and learn more about what other parts of the world eat. It really is an adventure to try new foods and it is sad when some of our favorite fruits or veggies are not found or as good quality in America. Also we now have to learn to make Thai food because nothing is better than what we had here.

How the education system in America is lacking creativity

By: Leah Jeglum and Sarah Pierson

When visiting Cabbages and Condoms, a restaurant founded by Mechai Viravaidya, we learned about a new concept in education, where creativity is put at the forefront of a child’s education, rather than memorization and repetition of mathematics and sciences.  He first showed us this picture of colored balls in trees which turned out to be painted coconuts.  He asked us why they couldn’t be colorful and I couldn’t think of an answer of why not. He also showed us bathrooms that were painted in rainbows of colors, even in the boy’s bathroom!

Since that day, we have wondered why the school system in America is lacking in this creativity. I (Sarah) have only had art class in elementary and middle school and had to follow the art teachers exact instructions and wasn’t fully able to excess my artistic talent. In middle school we were able to take band or chorus but had to follow the group songs.  I (Leah) grew up in a very musical household, especially with my mother being a music teacher and my father grew up playing the string bass from a very young age.  My sister and I were encouraged to think outside the box, but Mechai’s concept of school blew my mind on how a child should learn and progress through life, especially in those essential years where a child absorbs so much new information.

Now there are many budget cuts and  the funding for the extracurricular classes are being cut first because they are not being seen as a necessity to a child’s education.  We want to ask you all; when your school district plans on cutting funding to those programs, do you want your children to grow up to be a person who can recite various mathematical and scientific facts, or do you want your children to be a well-rounded person who is aware of different concepts and ideas, rather than just various facts?