Buddhist monks to produce video route to nirvana

by John Aglionby, The Guardian, January 25, 2006

Bangkok, Thailand -- If the Thai masses won't come to Buddha then Buddha will come to the Thai masses by video, an alliance of monks, Buddhism experts and a devout businessman announced yesterday.

The group is seeking to arrest the declining popularity of Buddhism and materialism's seemingly unstoppable rise by using 21st-century technology to reach the masses in a way they can relate to.

It will produce a 250-part video CD - a simpler version of a DVD - series on Buddhist teachings in the hope that a generation which has largely given up reading, and thus the religion, will be drawn back to the faith.

"We will translate text scripts into moving pictures to encourage people to practise Buddhist teachings," Phra Rachamethaphon, the acting head of Mahamakut Buddhist University, told the Associated Press.

Buddhism, which teaches compassion for all beings, and achieving inner peace through detachment from desires, is officially the religion of 90% of Thailand's 65 million people but in the past decade the number who see themselves as practitioners of the religion has dropped significantly. "I've been to the countryside and seen abandoned temples. There were no monks," said real estate developer Sanan Sukdi, who plans to produce the videos.

"I was thinking of ways to help people understand Buddhism, and how to maintain religion in Thai society."

Monks will take three months to translate the Tripitaka - the three collections of Buddhist teaching - from Pali, the largely defunct language in which most Buddhist texts are written, into vernacular Thai. Film experts will then adapt them into a video series covering the Tripitaka's 45 books, which have 48,000 sections.

"We want to make that which is deemed difficult easy and accessible to Buddhists," Mr Phra said.

The project will cost some 97m baht (1.4m) and the video CDs will sell for 200 baht (2.80) each.

The first run will take up to four years to complete and will all be in Thai but there are plans to make an English version for the international market.

The videos are being made to celebrate the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne in June. Video production is scheduled to start before the king's 79th birthday in December.