Wat Thai was established to promote the teaching of Lord Buddha or the religion known as "Buddhism" primarily to the Thai people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The Thai people come to Wat Thai for all religious ceremonies that follow the same traditions that have been followed in the past by their Thai ancestors in Thailand. At the temple, the people have the opportunity to receive instructions from the monks on the teachings of Lord Buddha.
The monks have done an excellent job in promoting the teachings of Lord Buddha both through practice and their instruction. All of these activities are under the guidance and leadership of PhraMaha Surasak Jivananta, the Abbot. Phra Maha Surasak is well-known for his teaching and is extremely knowledgeable of the Buddhist doctrine. His teachings include numerous lectures and meditations on the teachings of Lord Buddha (Dhamma), written articles in the Saeng Dhamma (amonthly publication of Wat Thai), and the publication of numerous books. He has also overseen the publication of a several special publications to mark events such as the New Year andSongkran, a traditional Thai holiday held in April. He has also done a special bilingual prayer book in Thai and English for use during morning and evening prayer sessions. His works cover a wide scope to promote the Buddhist philosophy. He has participated in lectures in Buddhist philosophy to students at numerous schools and universities throughout the United States. Hewas a delegate to the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions held in 1993 in Chicago. Phra Maha Surasak received an honorary Doctorate Degree in Education from Maha Chulalongkorn Ratchawittayalai Buddhist University in 1996.
The teachings and publications of Phra Maha Surasak Jivananta are made available free of charge. Many of his lectures are also available on audio cassettes. All of his teachings have been well received by the Thai people here in the US and in Thailand.
Wat Thai also has a sizable collection of audio cassettes on Buddhist teachings done by many well-known monks in Thailand. Videotapes of Buddhist teachings are also made available to the public.
Traditionally, the temples in Thailand have been the center of education in every subject since ancient times. Wat Thai has followed this ancient tradition by providing education. Under his leadership and keen vision, Phra Maha Surasak created a Sunday school to teach Thai language and Thai culture to the Thai children in the local area that were born in the U.S. With his initiative, the Temple together with volunteer parents and committee members decided to open a Sunday school and classes were first established for the Thai children when the temple was located on Wayne Avenue.
Today's curriculum covers the Thai language, elementary level Buddhism, Thai custom, and Thai culture. Through Sunday schools classes, the temple helps the younger Thai generation to have a basic understanding of their Thai ethnic origin. Today, the Sunday school program is very successful.
The summer school program at Wat Thai, established in 1989, concentrates on teaching the Thai language, Thai custom, Thai culture, Thai music and dance, and basic Thai sports. The development of the curriculum has progressed and the number of the students has increased substantially since the origin of the program. The summer school program is conducted by teachers from the Faculty of Education of Chulalongkorn University. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, and in coordination with the Department for Independent Studies, WatThai administers the equivalency exams to students in the summer school program.
OUTREACH EDUCATION PROGRAMS
Meditation workshops have been offered through Wat Thai. The practicing of meditation and sessions in the study of Buddhist philosophy are conducted by Phra Maha Surasak Jivananta and other resident monks.
Wat Thai was a participant in the celebration to honor His Majesty's 50th anniversary of his accession to the throne.Together with the Thailand Social Welfare Department, the temple hosted a special program dedicated to honor the Queen's 60th birthday. There was a symposium and an exhibition related to Her Majesty the Queen's projects and activities.
In conjunction with Thailand's Cultural Department and the Smithsonian Institution, the temple participated in an exhibition of Thai culture called 'Satid Chevit Thai' at the Smithsonian festival during July 1994. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol officiated the opening of the exhibit in conjunction with Mr. Sumpun Tongsamuk, the Education Minister.
Wat Thai participates in local community events such as the annual Layhill Community Parade and Festival held each year to promote friendship with its neighbors and the local community.
THE TEMPLE TODAY
Wat Thai in Washington, D.C. was built from the collective body and strong faith of the Thai Buddhists, especially those who live in the Washington metropolitan area. The temple is common property to all. To be able to successfully build a Thai temple outside Thailand demonstrates and confirms the togetherness and unity of the Thai people and Thai society with common goals and a strong Buddhist faith.
Wat Thai currently serves over 2200 families in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and neighboring states. The temple has continued to grow and has now become an integral part of the Thai and American communities.