In the few weeks that we've been back in Thailand we've had plenty of reminders of the important role that Buddhism plays in this culture and in the lives of most Thai people.On one of the kids' last free days before the start of the school year we visited the Museum Siam for a refresher course on Thai history and culture. I was intrigued by this explanation of why Buddhism has been so fully integrated into the Thai worldview (Suvarnabhumi is an ancient name for Southeast Asia).
I also recently had a very typical conversation with a chatty taxi driver. He asked if I was a Christian (it's assumed that all Westerners are). He recited some of the facts he learned in school about the different Christian groups and the names of a few popes. I asked him about his background and he told me that when he turned 20 he spent a few months as a Buddhist monk. He has good memories of that time and, in theory, would like to do it again because it brought him peace. I tried to share more personally about what my faith means to me, but his immediate response was, "Yes, that's just the same as Buddhism. All religions teach us to be good and to not become overly attached to this world. We are all going to the same place. It's like when you came from America to Thailand. You rode on an airplane and someone else could ride on a boat. But you'd both end up at the same place."
He did add that he likes the few Christians he's met because they seem to be people who like to speak words of blessing to others.
This conversation reminded me of the need for patience and a very long-term view. Short conversations in a taxi are very unlikely to change anyone's mind!