The Buddhist Wat (Wat is the Thai word for temple derived from Indian Sanskrit Vata, meaning “enclosure”) has played and still plays an important role in Thai society. Not only is there a historical connection with Thai Massage, there is a significant relationship between the Buddhist temple and the village or neighborhood where it’s located.
For instance, the Thai people support the temple and monks materially and financially. The monks on their part provide the people with advice, assistance, and spiritual teachings, and they perform certain required rituals deemed important by the community.
In the past, it was also the place where people came for healing, not only spiritually, but also physically — they received herbal medicines and Thai Traditional Massage from the monks. Today, there are still many temples in Thailand that offer Thai Massage treatments and also training, perhaps the Wat Pho temple in Bangkok being the foremost example.
Additionally, the temples organize many events and charities and they provide the poor with free food and clothing. In fact, temples and monks participate very actively with community development and education in many fields, including English language teaching, agricultural know-how and even sexual education, to name a few examples.
It’s safe to say that the Buddhist temples and monks have kept Buddhism and religion very much alive, in a Thai world modernizing, globalizing and partly also secularizing rapidly.
The temples — currently more than 39,000 across the country — are still a center of stability in Thai society and an inseparable part of day-to-day life in Thailand.