I arrived in Thailand with a head full of ideas about religion based on years of reading and academic study, an on-again/off-again meditation practice for over 20 years, an equal amount of time as a Catholic convert and disciple of Thomas Merton, and several visits to a Christian ashram in southern India where I experienced popular piety up close and personal in smoky, crowded Hindu temples. But I was not yet prepared to understand the many everyday cultural symbols, practices and beliefs in this country that fall under the heading of sasana (teaching of) Buddha: Spirit houses in the shape of miniature temples full of Hindu gods and various animals (zebras are popular), amulets featuring images of popular monks traded like rare stamps, sacred string around wrists and buildings and tattoos that guarantee protection, royal rituals from India, sacred trees wrapped with colored cloth, political demonstrations led by a Brahmin priest, penis icons that promise fertility, a temple in the shape of a Chinese junk, altars with offerings of red soda and incense in every store, shop and taxi, superheroes (and David Beckham) portrayed in temple art, horrifying "hell gardens," and the liberation of birds and fish to earn merit towards a good rebirth. And that's far from a comprehensive list.
Religion in Southeast Asia is polylithic rather than monolithic, Prapod argues. The attempt to identify any one school as dominant "seems pointless, since both epigraphic and archaeological data reveal that in actual practice different beliefs were held at the same time." In fact,
There was no need to subscribe to one particular religion. Insofar as religions had something beneficial to offer, Southeast Asians might think, "the more, the better." In the later period, if Christianity had not been so insistent on one God and one faith, it took might have been accepted more readily into Southeast Asian religious life.
For companion volumes, I can highly recommend both Richard Gombrich's Theravada Buddhism (recently reissued) and The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia by Donald K. Swearer. Prapod's book is particularly important as it is written by an Asian.