The Meaning and Contribution of the Wai Khru (ไหว้ครู) for the Preservation of Thai Traditional Medicine Wisdom in Modern Times

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Barbara Batista Santos


Since the modernization of the world, Thai traditional medical knowledge has undergone vast changes that may compromise its authenticity. However, this paper identifies that a modern version of a traditional Thai rite called Wai Khru (ไหว้ครู), can be the key to preserve the legitimacy of the Thai traditional medical wisdom. The Wai Khru is a tradition of paying respect and honor to teachers in Thailand, and this research shows that it is a way to link individuals to teachers of many forms, physical and spiritual, allowing the preservation of the relationship in traditional wisdom lineage. Some Thai traditionalists assert that Wai Khru is the most important element in the traditional knowledge itself. Therefore, in order to investigate the meaning and the function of the Wai Khru in Thai traditional medicine, this paper will ask: what is traditional knowledge? Why is it transmitted through a specific manner? How does traditional knowledge differ from the knowledge of scientific or religious order? Why do Thai practitioners of traditional arts pay respect to those who have gone before? Lastly, what are the challenges and changes to traditional knowledge in modern times and its future? To answer these questions, this paper uses works by the perennial philosopher René Guénon, and field research into the Wai Khru ceremonies, as well as interviews with Thai traditional doctors, teachers and experts about the Wai Khru in Thai tradition, which explains why the Wai Khru rituals allow the preservation of the Thai traditional medicine wisdom in modern times.


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