Gerontocracy of the Buddhist monastic administration in Thailand

Jesada Buaban


This paper examines the monastic administration in Thai Buddhism, which is ruled by the senior monks and supported by the government. It aims to answer two questions; (1) why the Sangha’s administration has been designed to serve the bureaucratic system that monks abandon social and political justices, and (2) how the monastic education curriculum are designed to support such a conservative system. Ethnographic methodology was conducted and collected data were analyzed through the concept of gerontocracy. It found that (1) Thai Buddhism gains supports from the government much more than other religions. Parallel with the state’s bureaucratic system, the hierarchical conservative council contains the elderly monks. Those committee members choose to respond to the government policy in order to maintain supports rather than to raise social issues; (2) gerontocracy is also facilitated by the idea of Theravada itself. In both theory and practice, the charismatic leader should be the old one, implying the condition of being less sexual feeling, hatred, and ignorance. Based on this criterion, the moral leader is more desirable than the intelligent. The concept of “merits from previous lives” is reinterpreted and reproduced to pave the way for the non-democratic system.


dhamma studies; gerontocracy; Sangha Council; secularism; Thai Buddhism

Full Text:



Atella, V., & Carbonari, L. (2017). Is gerontocracy harmful for growth? A comparative study of seven European countries. Journal of Applied Economics, 20(1), 141-168.

BBC Thai. (2018, June 15). Students prohibited wearing Hijab: Preserve the Buddhist place or not to respect Muslim.

Berton, R., & Panel, S. (2018). Alternation through death: Is gerontocracy an equilibrium? Political Research Quarterly, 71(4), 975-988.

Buaban, J. (2020). Islamophobia as represented by Thai Buddhist organizations. Journal of Social Sciences, 50(2), 125-147.

Bunnag, J. (2007). Buddhist monk, Buddhist layman: A study of urban monastic organization in central Thailand. Cambridge University Press.

Bytheway, B. (1995). Ageism. Open University Press.

Chandaeng, P. (2019). Civil rights of Thai monks in the constitution. Journal of Religious Anthropology, 1(3), 96-105.

Doungkaew, N. (2016). Image and selfpresentation of neo-Khruba as a product of Belief. Thammasat Journal of History, 35(3), 1-19.

Eaiwsriwong, N. (2003). A sect of the king Rama V. Silapa Wathanatham. (in Thai).

Gornall, A. (2020). Rewriting Buddhism: Pali literature and monastic reform in Sri Lanka, 1157–1270. UCL Press.

Helbardt, S., Hellmann-Rajanayagam, D., & Korff, R. (2013). Religionisation of politics in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar. Politics, Religion & Ideology, 14(1), 36-58.

Jory, P. (2002). The Vessantara Jataka, Barami, and the Bodhisatta-kings: The origin and spread of a Thai concept of power. Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 16(2), 36-78.

Julia, C. H. (2005). The compassion relief diaspora. In L. Learnman (Ed.), Buddhist missionaries in the era of globalization. University of Hawaii Press.

Kamjaiboon, A. (2019). The competency development of the royal Thai army’s chaplains based on Buddhist integration. Journal of MCU Nakhondhat, 6(4), 2155-2173.

Kirsch, A. T. (1977). Complexity in the Thai religious system: An interpretation. The Journal of Asian Studies, 36(2), 241-266.

Kitiarsa, P. (2007). Buddha Phanit: Thailand’s prosperity religion and its commodifying tactics. In Kitiarsa, P. (Ed.), Religious commodifications in Asia: Marketing gods. Routledge.

Kulabkaew, K. (2019). The politics of Thai Buddhism under the NCPO Junta (No. 8). ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Kulabkaew, K. (2012). In defense of Buddhism: Thai Sangha’s social movement in the twenty-first century. [Ph.D. Thesis, Waseda University, Japan].

Larsson, T. (2020). Royal succession and the politics of religious purification in contemporary Thailand. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 51(1), 1-21.

McCargo, D. (2004). Buddhism, democracy and identity in Thailand. Democratization, 11(4), 155-170.

Metraux, D. (1996). The Soka Gakkai: Buddhism and the creation of a harmonious and peaceful society. In Queen, C. S., & King, S. B (Eds.). Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist liberation movements in Asia. SUNY Press.

Na-Rangsi, S. (2002). Administration of the Thai Sangha: Past, present and future. The Chulalongkorn Journal of Buddhist Studies, 1(2), 59-75.

Nicholas, T. (Ed.). (1999). The Cambridge history of Southeast Asia, Vol. 2, Part. 2. The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Puntarigvivat, T. (2003). Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and the theory of Dhammic Socialism. The Chulalongkorn Journal of Buddhist Studies, 2(2), 61-96.

Rotilă, V., & Celmare L. (2017). Analysis of a major inequity in the budgetary wage system: Gerontocracy, arguments and solutions. In Ignatescu, A., & Ciulei, T. (Eds.). Rethinking social action: core values in practice. LUMEN Proceedings.

Thirapanyo, N. & Pipitkun, K. (2018). The Sangha Act, 2505 (Amendment No. 3, 2017) concerning political law. NEU Academic and Research Journal, 8(3), 54-60.

Office of National Buddhism. (2016). Handbook of Dhamma study grade II. Office of National Buddhism Press.

Pansa, B. (2018). Teaching and learning of Pali as traditional system of Phrapariyatidhamma in Thailand. International Journal of Multidisciplinary in Management and Tourism, 2(1), 30-37.

Rabassó, C. A., & Rabassó, F. J. (2018). Holistic learning in “Maternalistic” management educational environment as a way to close the gender gap in Southeast Asia [Paper presentation]. Conference Proceeding on Business and Human Rights Holding Government Accountable in Asia.

Reynolds, C. (2015). Applied sciences for hedging risk and anticipating outcomes in police work. The Thammasat Journal of History, 1(2), 14-51.

Reynolds, C. (2016). Magic and Buddhism. In Powers, J. (Ed.), The Buddhist world. Routledge.

Sangkhawijit, N. (2017). The Sangha administration in contemporary: Problems and solutions. Journal of MCU Social science Review, 6(1). 27-40.

Sairarod, P. S., & Kumar, M. S. (2020). The contribution of prince priest Vajirananavarorasa to the Dhamma studies in Thailand. International Journal of Multidisciplinary Educational Research, 9(1), 121-125.

Sirimangalacariya. (1987). Maggalatthadipani Part I. Mahamakut Buddhist University.

Scott, R. (2009). Nirvana for sale?: Buddhism, wealth, and the Dhammakaya Temple in contemporary Thailand. State University of New York Press.

Tambiah, S. J. (1984). The Buddhist saints of the forest and the cult of amulets. Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, J. (1993). Forest monks and the nationstate: An anthropological and historical study in Northeastern Thailand. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS).

Tiyavanich, K. (1997). Forest recollections: Wandering monks in twentieth-century Thailand. University of Hawaii Press.

Tuan, N. A. (2018). A Comparison on the structure of Buddhist Sangha administrative system between Thailand and Vietnam. The Journal of International Association of Buddhist Universities (JIABU), 11(3), 65-83.

Visalo, P. (2003). Thai Buddhism in the future: Tendency and solution. Sodsri-Saritwong Foundation.

Voyce, M. (2016). Foucault, Buddhism and disciplinary rules. Taylor & Francis.

Wilkinson, J. & Ferraro, K. (2002). Thirty years of ageism research. In Nelson, T. (ed). Ageism: Stereotyping and prejudice against older persons. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Winichakul, T. (2015). Buddhist apologetics and a genealogy of comparative religion in Siam. Numen, 62(1), 76-99.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Jesada Buaban

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Simulacra has been indexed in these prominent indexing services:

Sinta 2DOAJIndex CopernicusEBSCOGoogle ScholarCrossrefDimensionsWorldcatHarvard LibraryOxford LibraryUniversiteit LeidenDRJIScilit MDPIPKP IndexROADBASEMorarefColumbia LibrarySheffield LibraryCORE


 Simulacra is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA and published by the Center for Sociological Studies and Community Development, Department of Sociology, Universitas Trunojoyo Madura, Indonesia.