Practice of Buddhism in Indochina countries

Buddhist practice in Indochina countries has both like and different points, coming along with featured values and positive influences on culture and sacred life.
first of all, let know two major branches of Buddhism, which are different expressions of the same teachings of Buddha.

THERAVADA & MAHAYANA

Theravada (Teachings of the Elders, Lesser Wheel School, Southern Buddhism)


As the earliest, oldest teachings of Buddha founded in India and found in Pali literature, Theravada school orients devotees to become an "arhat" (who attained Nirvana) by merit making and obeying Five Percepts of the Buddha.

Mahayana (Greater Wheel School, Northern Buddhism)


This school encourages people to perfect themself based on the six necessary virtues: generosity, morality, patience, vigor, concentration and wisdom, but with aim to protect others.

>> Theravada see Mahayana as a misinterpretation of the Buddha’s original teachings, while Theravada is seen more austere, ascetic and harder to practice.

BUDDHIST PRACTICE IN EACH COUNTRY


Theravada is practiced mainly in burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand while Vietnam is the only country in Indochina following Mahayana.

myanmar - Natives are knowledgeable about their religion.


As the deepest Buddhist-practicing country, burma leads the world in terms of the proportion of monks in its population and the proportion of income spent on religion. That’s why Buddhist constructions are widespread in myanmar with a huge quantity, high density and grand scale, making the country be called “the land of a million stupas”. A stay in Bagan will prove this quote.

Theravada Buddhism is practiced by 89% of the Burmese. Original received by the Mon, Theravada has spread and dominated all the country. It has been practiced in conjunction with indigenous Nat (spirit) worship. Burmese Buddhism is given a featured status. Natives are very proud of their beliefs and keen to discuss them.

Burmese Buddhists
The devotees adhere to Five Precepts of Buddha, which require abstinence from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and intoxicating substances. They attempt for a better future life by merit-making activities such as offering food for monks and donating to Buddhist monuments, and performing regular worship at Buddhist temples. Children will be sent to monastery to receive a Buddhist education.

Every Burmese household contains an altar or shrine to Buddha, with at least one dedicated image of Gautama Buddha. Taking off footwear and shocks are compulsory when entering a Buddhist temple to show homage. Let remember this fact when you go to to myanmar.

Monk ordination
Every Buddhist male is expected to temporarily become a monk and live in a monastery twice in his life: once as novice monk between the ages of 10 and 20, and again as a fully ordained monk after the age of 20. All men and boys under 20 are ordained as monks in the novitiation ceremony (Shinbyu), a very important chance to Burmese families.

Monks dress maroon robes while nuns are identified through pink robes. All things possessed by monks have to be offered by lay community. In the morning, monks and nuns will walk in row to receive offerings of food.

Relation to traditional festivals
There are tremendous important Burmese festivals related to Buddhism, like Full Moon Day of Tabaung (the merit-making day for Buddhists), Thingyan (Water New Year Festival, the time to celebrate Shinbyu), Full Moon Day of Kason (the day watering Maha Bodhi tree), Full Moon Day of Waso (start of Buddhist Lent), Thadingyut Festival (end of Buddhist Lent), etc.
Full moon day of Kason, watering the Maha-Bodhi tree - Myanmar festival
Full moon day of Kason


VIETNAM - The sole country in Indochina practices Mahayana school.


Mahayana Buddhism has played a dominant role in religious life of the Vietnamese, with the most known for sect in the country is Zen (Thien), and the second largest one is Dao Trang, primarily practiced in the South. Vietnamese Buddhism is originally blended with elements of Taoism, Confucianism and Vietnamese folk beliefs, and influenced by matriarchy with existence of female Buddhas like Quan The Am Bo Tat, Quan Am Thi Kinh, Man Nuong Phat Mau, etc. In pagodas (chua), Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are worshiped beside countless Taoist divinities and spirits, local deities, helpers, and historical figures who dedicated to the country.

Religious life of devotees
Buddhism has a good influence on the thinking and behavior of Vietnamese people. They suppose that things a person reaps today is what he or she has sown in the past. They think in rebirth and that their present life is a reflection of actions in their prior life.

The practice of Buddhism is similar throughout the country, with gaining merit is the most common and basic practice. Buddhist pagodas own been regarded by many Vietnamese as a physical and sacred refuge from an uncertain world. Though the majority of the population has a vague notion of academic Buddhist doctrines, they often invite monks to join in their life-cycle ceremonies like funerals.
practice-of-buddhism-in-vietnam
The Vietnamese travel pagoda in the early New Year


Monks' functions
Vietnamese Buddhist monks commonly chant sutras, recite the life of Buddhas (particularly Amit?bha), do repentance, pray for rebirth of the deceased in the Pure Land, predict fortunes, advice where a house should be constructed, perform acupuncture, etc. Most sutras are in Classical Chinese and are merely recited with Sino-Xenic pronunciations, making them incomprehensible to most practitioners. Chanting are practiced regularly at dawn, noon, and dusk, comprising Nianfo (a way of repenting and purifying bad karma), Dharani recitation and Kinh Hanh (walking meditation).

CAMBODIA – Most Buddhists believe in ghosts and spirits.


The history of Buddhism in Cambodia has lasted for nearly 2000 years, across a number of successive kingdoms and empires. Approximately 95% of Cambodia's population follows Theravada school, which has existed side-by-side and intermingled with pre-Buddhist animism and Hinduism. The religion penetrated the country through two streams: the earliest one entered Funan kingdom via Hindu merchants and was influenced by Hinduism; the latter one were diverse Buddhist traditions that Mon citizen (Myanmar) brought to Angkor Empire.

Buddhism and belief in spirits
Most Cambodians go to Buddhist temples for the major Buddhist holidays. Few Cambodians abstain from all of the Five Precepts of Buddha. However, they peaceful trust reincarnation and the idea that which they receive today is derived from past actions, same to the Vietnamese.

The Cambodian identify themselves as Buddhists, but their version of Buddhism consists of forms of ancestor worship, shamanism, and animism. They, whether professing to follow Buddhism or not, think in a rich supernatural world. When being sick or in crisis, they find supernatural help from various spirits assumed to occupy in objects found in houses, Buddhist temples, along roads, and in forests. In almost all Cambodian dwellings, and even Buddhist temples, there are spirit houses and small shrines to appease bad spirits and keep them away their home.
practice-of-buddhism-in-cambodia
Spirit houses in a Cambodian temple

Monks’ functions
Buddhist monks are significant part of Cambodian life. They join in all formal village festivals, ceremonies (e.g. Naming infants), marriages and funerals. They use astrology to notice auspicious dates for important events. They are often healers and practitioners of up to date psychiatrist. For centuries monks were the only literate people inhabiting in countryside. They acted as teachers to temple servants and monks.

Monk ordination
It is common for Cambodian men to become monks for a short period of their life - usually a few weeks or a few months - to take merit to their parents and to become closer to their Buddhist faith. This is usually done earlier in life, starting at age 13. Today less than 5 percent of men become monks. Older women, particularly widows, often opt to reside at the pagodas as helpers in order to not be a burden to their families.

Relation to traditional festivals
such as myanmar, most significant festivals of Cambodia are connected to Buddhism, for instance, Chol Chnam Thmay (New Year festival), Pchum Ben (the memorial day for deceased ancestors), Meak Bochea (commemorates the last sermon of the Buddha), Vissakh Bochea (anniversary of the birth, death, and enlightenment of the Buddha), etc.

LAOS – Buddhism has been a strong force in the culture.


Buddhism in Laos is a unique version of Theravada custom, as it’s based on Laotian culture, and closely tied to animism and beliefs in ancestral spirits, especially in rural areas After Theravada school was officially adopted in the 14th century during the reign of Fa Ngum, Buddhist temples (wats) were progressively built on foundations of former animist shrines, and Buddhism started to dominate the spiritual belief in Laos.

The impact on Lao culture
Buddhism has been a strong force in Lao culture and remains a considerable affect in the local daily life today. Each Lao village owns a individual “wat”, where villagers hold festivities and rituals. Buddhist images are found everywhere in shops, homes and offices.

Buddhism defines the Laotian character: frank, friendly, polite and generous. A typical day begin early with offerings for monks and a trip to the market to buy food. Wats are crowded in mornings and evenings with people chanting Buddhist prayers. In Laos, Buddhism brings peace and joy to the citizen as well as several festivals, which are breaks in an agricultural working year.

Lao Buddhists are very devout. They follow Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha: suffering exists; suffering has a cause, which is the thirst or craving for existence; this craving be able to be stopped; and there is an Eightfold Path by which a permanent state of peace may be attained. Individuals are not expected to reach Nirvana in lifetime. Nevertheless, through their moral actions, they can evolve karma for their following incarnation by obeying Five Precepts of Buddha and gaining merit via support to Buddhist community, usually donating food to monks and nuns.
practice-of-buddhism-in-laos
The Lao gain merit by donating food for monks so as to develop karma for their next incarnation.

Monk ordination
Most Lao men join a monastery or temple for at least a short period of time previous to marriage. Many of them become monks for the sleep of their lives. Induction as a monk brings good merit to one’s family, make progress karma of deceased relatives, and also a way to receive Buddhist education.

The temples of Laos were once seen as "universities" for monks. Lao monks are highly esteemed and revered in Lao communities. Based on Lao Buddhism, Lao women are taught that they may only attain Nirvana after they contain been reborn as men.

THAILAND - Buddha's teachings inclue been supported for a millennium


93.6% of the population in Thailand follows Theravada school. Over various eras, Thai Buddhism contain had influences of its neighboring Buddhist countries: Mon (Myanmar), Khmer (Cambodia), India, Sri Lanka and China. There are three main forces affecting the development of Buddhism in Thailand: Theravada school imported from Sri Lanka, Hindu belief received from Cambodia, and the folk religion of the country.

Buddhist life
Thais have followed and supported the Buddha's teachings for more than a thousand years. Every Thai community, no matter how small or how poor, pools its resources to build an ornate temple to ensure everyone has a destination to practice. Tremendous men experience a short period as a monk, commonly in their childhood. The locals also donate food for monks every day.

Much of Thai life takes site around temples or monasteries, where they come for worship, praying, sermons, meditation, ceremonies, receiving advises for family matters, schooling children, customary medicine, and finding peace in mind. Brightly colored garlands and bits of scripture, which are Buddhist offerings, are often hung in front of boats, buses and tuk tuk so as to carry wonderful luck and ensure safety on each trip. Like Cambodians, Thais also believe in ghosts and spirits, and build spirit houses in front of their dwellings, even shopping malls, office buildings, etc.
practice-of-buddhism-in-thailand
Garlands, also used as Buddhsit offerings, are hung in front of boats so as to carry great luck and ensure safety.


Thais think the Buddha's teachings to be priceless, so no money is asked or expected in return for meditation instruction. In many mediation centers, such things as accommodation and food are free.

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