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Life in Chiang Mai


A case against prolific atheism

By Adam Green
Coming to Chiang Mai was a life changing experience in many aspects, which on its own can easily be attributed to culture shock and the lovely surroundings. This may be true, but for many of us, including myself, this change turned into an exchange; an exchange of values of a society so deeply engrained in kreng jai, politeness, face and evasion of confrontation, sprouting from a deep respect for the teachings of Lord Buddha. Even if they seem to be evasive in everyday street life, they persist deep down in the core of most Thai people I know. Adapting to these values, embracing them and showing respect is the true key to a successful integration according to me.

At the origin of all this lies a venerate belief in the teachings of Lord Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. For a true understanding of this science of conscience as I like to call it, one needs many years of study. A good introduction to it can be found in many books easily available on the internet or in one of the many bookshops in Chiang Mai. May I suggest “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse as a first step?

Another step can be visiting one of the many temples in this amazing city, many of which now host meditation retreats and face to face chat programs with monks in English. Wat Pah Nanachart was the first one in Thailand to engage in this, offering meditation classes in an Esarn forest retreat center under the guidance of the Venerable Ajahn Chah Subbhado. There are also monk chat programs actively running in Wat Suan Dok and Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, score the internet for more information.

Many a foreigner comes here, whether as a tourist or as a permanent resident, working or retired and finds a renewed sense of spirituality now lost in the West. Adversity against religious beliefs has often quickly changed into a deep respect for Thai beliefs, including spirits, ghosts and other entities, superstition and good luck charms.

I have had many a minor altercation with untrusting or should I say untrustworthy foreigners about this topic. Revered atheists in their home abode, refusing to flip to the other side for the life of them, regardless of any promised betterment. But what is there to say against a religion that spreads such messages of peace. We have been deformed in the West by scandals of grotesque proportions in churches of many different denominations while at the same time being confronted with messages of hate coming from these so called institutes of love and understanding. But if we look on an individual level, Buddhist beliefs seem to make us a better person, which should be the basis of any religion from the very outline. Spread messages of love, compassion and peace. This has become my goal and personal change living in Thailand, my life in Chiang Mai.

The Chiang Mai Mail is publishing a series of articles on residents’ experiences of life in Chiang Mai. If you would like to contribute please email [email protected]


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A case against prolific atheism