Having emphasized that the temple is the center of activity for bikhus, it also has great significance for lay persons, though in different ways. We already mentioned that lay persons show devotion to the Buddha in the temple. There are specific practical ways in which they can do this. One such is to apply a thin patch of gold leaf to a statue of the Buddha. This is usually not the main statue, but one that has been especially designated for the purpose. Once it is completely covered, another one can be substituted.
For lay people the temple is also a place to earn merit by serving the bikhus, particularly by giving them gifts. In return, they will receive a blessing. In Theravada Buddhism one can frequently see women in the temple bringing packages of goods for the monks. An interesting facet of that practice is that the monks, of course, may not show any interest in the women at all, let alone allow for any physical contact. In the slide show below, you will see a bikhu, his lay assistant, and several women bringing gifts. Note the gold-colored piece of cloth on which the women place their items, and from which the bikhu then retrieves them. Each time you click on a picture, you advance the show by one slide.
Offerings in a Thai Temple from Dharma2Grace on Vimeo.
And, of course, there are the many different ways in which people worship at religious sites that are Buddhist in name, but where one looks in vain for anything having to do with actual Buddhist beliefs or practices. The video below, showing some traditional Thai dancing was taken at an open-air site in Bangkok, where the center of worship is the Hindu god Brahma.
Thai Dancers from Dharma2Grace on Vimeo.
HISTORY AND BELIEFS OF THERAVADA BUDDHISM
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2: Derivation and Early Schools
PAGE 3: Contrast to the Mahasanghikas
PAGE 4: Patronage of King Ashoka
PAGE 5: Contrast to the Sarvastivadins
PAGE 6: Contrast to the Pudgalavadins
PAGE 7: Theravada Basics
PAGE 8: Life of Bikhus
PAGE 9: Life of the Laity
PAGE 10: The Laity and the Temple
PAGE 11: Theravada Beliefs
PAGE 12: Theravada Beliefs (cont'd)
PAGE 13: Theravada Beliefs (cont'd)
PAGE 14: A Brief Christian Response