Back to OWR Homepage Back to South-East
Asian Religions timechart


Doctrines Manhanikay monks share the same doctrinal traditions as their Thammayut counterparts. However, their disciplinary practices differ. Whereas Thammayut monks only have one meal a day, the Mahanikay have two. Thammayut monks preach in the vernacular, whereas Mahankikay confine themselves to memorising texts in Pali.

History The Mahankay tradition traces its lineage back to the Mahavihara lineage in Sri Lanka. In 1425 a delegation of Thai monks travelled to Sri Lanka to provide a quorum that would enable the Siamese lineage to continue. The various Siamese orders came to be subsumed within the Mahanikay order.
Toward the end of the 18th century Rama I (r. 1782-1809) began to reform and purify the Sangha by making the laws by which monks had to live more strict. This process was accelerated by Mongkut (Rama IV) when he established the Thammayutika Nikaya.
The 20th century has seen a number of disputes between the Mahanikay and the Thammayutika Nikaya. In 1960 three monks of the Mahanikay were accused of being communists and were disrobed. A leading Mahanikay monk, Phraphimoldham, defended the threemonks and was himself disrobed and arrested in 1963 having been accused of being a communist and anti-government activist. In the same year he was found not guilty of provoking public unrest but was not released from detention until 1966. This period coincided with growing demands on the part of younger monks in the Mahanikay for greater democratic accountability in the Sangha. It was felt by some within the Mahanikay that the governing body of the Sangha, the Council of Elders, there were too many adherents of the Thammayut tradition. In the 1970s some members of the order formed the Federation of Buddhists of Thailand whose aim is to democratise the Thai Sangha. More recently, the order has been pressing for greater political democracy in Thailand and was instrumental in the downfall of Prime Minister General Kraprayoon in May 1992.

Symbols Temples, pagodas, images of the Buddha.

Adherents Of the 28,000 monasteries operating in Thailand 26,694 belong to the Mahanikay. (Harris et al. 1992, 217)

Main Centre
 The largest and most important monastery of the Mahanikay is Wat Mathathat.