Monks usually decide whether to enter a “forest” temple and study meditation or go to a more urban setting and take up the study of the Buddhist curriculum. Of the latter, even those who ordain temporarily for the traditional three-month “lent” or rainy-season retreat (phansa or vassa), are usually required to begin a program of more formal Buddhist studies (naktham). These studies are divided into three grades that not only teach Buddhist scriptures and doctrine but also the rules of the Sangha bureaucratic order. Aside from naktham studies, there are also nine levels of Pali language study (parian) for which annual examinations are given.

The Sangha education system exists as an alternative for those who wish to engage in religious studies or — for geographical or economic reasons — do not have access to the government system of higher education. Because the government system has not been wholly successful in offering education to the masses, ecclesiastical education still serves as a “path of mobility” for many Thai youth. The Thammayut order has its center of Buddhist studies at Mahamakut Buddhist University, Wat Bovornives, and the Mahanikai monks have theirs at Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, Wat Mahathat.

 
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