This book was written ten years ago. It was originally intended for the beginners and meant to be a general survey of the Buddhist situation, not a scholarly treatment in depth of the matter. Only parts of it have been published by Mahachula Buddhist Sunday School for classes in “English Lessons on Buddhism.” The rest, remaining for years in manuscript, have tended to creep out of the author’s mind as he has for long been preoccupied with other writings.
When the Venerable Chao Khun Phra Thepsophon let the author know of the request of Wat Po, on behalf of the “Thun Phraphutthayotfa” Foundation to have the book published for distribution on the occasion of the cremation ceremony for Police General Prasert Rujiravong, it was only one month and a few days ahead of the scheduled date. Though there were some changes and the official occasion would come many days later than that, time was barely enough even for bringing the book through the process of printing. The author was, therefore, allowed almost no time to make a revision of the work. In spite of that, however, all the necessary changes and additions have, in the author’s hope, been made to bring up to date the data and information contained therein, though it has been impossible to make an ample improvement to the degree of the author’s satisfaction.
Though, due to the urgency of the publication an introduction proper has not been prepared for this first edition. The topics on the Buddha and the basic teachings of Buddhism have been utilized for it and, in a sense, they well serve the purpose.
Besides the “Thun Phraphutthayotfa” Foundation at Wat Po (The Monastery of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok), which has the present book published specially for the mentioned occasion, several individuals and organizations have joined in sponsoring the publication of the same for academic and propagative purposes, namely:
Wat Thai of Los Angeles, through the Venerable Phra Thepsophon, its President and Abbot, (from whom the idea of publishing this book for the mentioned occasion is derived);
Ven. Phra Maha Udom Uttamavlro, Assistant Abbot of Wat Po. on behalf of the Museum Section of Wat Po;
Wat Dhammaram (The Thai Buddhist Temple), Chicago, through its President and Abbot, Ven. Phra Sudhiratanapom;
Vajiradhammapadip Temple, New York, through its President and Abbot. Ven. Phra Visuddhisombodhi; and
Mahachulalongkom Alumni Association, for Mahachula Bookstore.
As a general survey, this work, in an aspect, is a collection and condensation of material drawn from many sources. In other words, it is the fruit of the labors of a host of scholars of different nationalities in various countries. The names of most of these scholars will be found in the bibliography at the end of the book. The author expresses his indebtedness to all these scholars, publishers and proprietors from whose works he has quoted, drawn the material or had the photographs reprinted, and from whom the request for permission to use the material has been rendered impossible through the urgency of the publication.
The author is also indebted to Mr. Stephen E. Edwards, a former lecturer in English at Mahachulalongkom Buddhist University, who read through the original typescript from an English-speaking teacher’s point of view, and most of whose suggestions for improvement he has adopted.
Finally, the author wishes to tender words of special thanks to Mr. Cholathee Dharma-varankura who, out of his good will and courtesy, neatly typed almost the whole manuscript, to Dr. Daviras Dhanagom who removed from the author the burden of translating the words of the sponsors for the publication, and to Khun Chutima Thanapura and Khun Panita Angchandrpen who helped in proof-reading and in supplying and selecting many of the photographs reprinted here. A number of photographs have also been provided by Ven. Chao Khun Phra Thepsophon, Ven. Phra Maha Udom Uttama-vlro and Khun Nidda Hongvivat of Muang Boran Publishing House, whom the author acknowledges with gratitude.
As a Buddhist monk is, according to the Buddha’s admonition, expected to practice the gift of the Dharma for the welfare and happiness of the laity and to depend on the lay devotees for material sustenance, material necessities have, both before and during the period of preparing this book, been provided for the author by many lay supporters to whom he wishes to dedicate the work. Besides his own eldest brother, Dr. Kasem Aryankura, who has always been looking after his health with fraternal tender heart, special mention should be made of some patrons and patronesses who have been rendering regular support during the current period of time, particularly Khun Ying Krachangsri Raktakanishta, who, together with Khun Xom Raktakanishta and her intimate friend, Dr. Charoon Bholanivas, has always readily provided for him with motherly care; and Dr. Kanchana and Khun Prapat Ketsa-ard and Dr. Sumalee Tantivirasut along with their friends, who support him with regular food supply and other facilities.
All the above-mentioned persons and many others have, directly and indirectly, contributed to the completion of this work! May they all share in the merit of this gift of knowledge and flourish in the Dharma.
May whatever merit that may accrue from this work, on its completion and thus also on the fulfillment of the wish of the “Thun Phraphutthayotfa” Foundation under Royal Patronage, be extended to the late Police General Prasert Rujiravong and redound to his spiritual progress and happiness forever.
Phra Rajavaramuni (Prayudh Payatto)
June 1, B.E. 2527 (1984 C.E.)