My name is Banaphol Ariyasantichai and I am from Thailand. I was born and raised in a Buddhist family. The most prominent religion in Thailand is Buddhism – approximately 95 percent of the people in Thailand claim to be Buddhists. The two major branches of Buddhism are Theravada and Mahayana. Thailand belongs to the Theravada branch. Rather than having faith in gods or goddesses, Buddhism’s main aim is the extinction of suffering, and to accomplish this aim, Buddhism focuses primarily on rules and practices used to reach nirvana, enlightenment and the general idea of being a good person.

As I stated earlier, I grew up in a Buddhist family, but I attended a Christian high school in Malaysia. This combination of both Buddhist and Christian practices has allowed me to integrate both religions into my life. I think I am blessed to have such an opportunity to live in two separate cultures that embrace two different religions because I am able to encompass both perspectives and choose from these religions what I truly believe in.

Some of the ideas that Buddhism presents I find to be honest and true, but others I do not fully believe in. The preaching’s of Buddhism that I claim to be true to include the following: karma, doing good things, and Ahimsa (not killing).

Along with some of the ideas of Buddhism, I also find many Christian teachings to be true. For example, Buddhism does not believe in the existence of God who created the universe, but I do believe that God did create the entire universe.

In Thailand, we do not have separate denominations; thus, similar beliefs are shared throughout the country. There is rarely conflict in our beliefs or about the way we actively represent what we believe. The very basic beliefs of Buddhism are the ones that matter most, and how an individual carries out other beliefs is not of much concern. There is a united understanding about the basic beliefs of Buddhism throughout the country and therefore, allows for individual preferences and experiences as long as the basic preaching of Buddha are completely grasped. In contrast to Buddhism which requires no separation, I think separate denominations among the Christian faith are necessary due to the conflicts within the church. Although these denominations may be necessary, it is hard for me to see why there is so much conflict and differences among the Christian churches when the basic beliefs are the same.

I think faith is a very individual process, and denominations have a tendency to exclude many people. Forcing somebody to believe a set of rules and beliefs in order to be included in a particular church or denomination is not the way I believe religion should be. The core of religion should revolve around our belief and a God who sent His Son to die for our sins, and we should not be concerned about the minute details.

Banaphol Ariyasantichai is a ___ major from Thailand.