Read/Search this Article
This paper deals with the new religious movements in Thailand, which represents the conflict between ecclesiastical Theravada Buddhism, Thai Sangha, and its reformist activities, e.g. the rational meditation training by Wat Phra Thammakaay, asceticism of Santi Asok commune, and the development programme by Buddhist monks. So far Thai kingship historically has patronized Thai Sangha, in return Thai Sangha has legitimated Thai kingship (governance). Recently this reciprocal combination is in a critical condition of political legitimacy. Though it is said that the king has the right to govern so long as he governs rightly in dharma-raja Buddhist policy, mass media often discloses the corruption of paternalistic government monopolized by military and business circles. And Thai sangha also cannot meet the rational and individualistic consciousness of the emerging middle class, which contradicts magical rites and festival centered Buddhism. New religious movements carved cultural niche in politico-religious vacuum of social legitimacy.<BR>To consider these movements not only in Thai modernization process but in post-capitalistic society's crisis, this paper discusses the contemporary conflicts in the formation of individual identity. According to A. Melucci, new social movements in post-industrial society tend to unmask the dominant codes produced by complex society and protest against the manipulation of information and cultural code in symbolic collective actions. The third world develops their country and people based on western capitalist and modernization ideology which subjects the ordinary people to the backward-ness on an objective scale. Thai religious leaders refuse this development discourse and want their own identity to utilize their traditional cultures, and sometimes reform them to symbolize their collective identities. This strategy holds to both ethno-nationalism and fundamentalism in other areas, actually they succeeded in mobilizing people to make imagined community with exclusive enthusiasm.