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BUDDHISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

As being defined by various dictionaries and other sources, religion is a system of


beliefs professed by an individual due to his natural inclination or awareness of some
divinities or spirits who even controlled his life. Naturally speaking, man is always seeking
his Creator wherever and whenever he goes. That’s the main reason why and how
religion develops throughout the study of history.
In Southeast Asian region, there are religions professed by the inhabitants of the
countries belonged in this area. One of the widely-supported religion is Buddhism along
with Islam and Christianity. Starting with Burma, it was happened during the time of King
Ashoka of India wherein monks were sent to Thaton of southern Burma in order to lay
down the teachings of Gautama Buddha. From this time, internal relations between
Burma and India were greatly increased and expanded until another form, Vajrayana
Buddhism was introduced to the people in northern Burma which is a mixture between
Hinduism and local folk beliefs. On the other hand, Buddhism in Thailand has been
flourished because of the introduction of 13th century through the support of King
Ramkham-haeng who internalized Theravada Buddhism in his kingdom. He invited
Buddhist monks to teach in his capital city of Sukothai as well as establishing relations
with Sri Lanka by sending monks to study there.
In the part of Cambodia, Mahayana Buddhism became a dominant religion of the
kingdom during the reign of King Jayavarman VII who ruled from the end of 12th century
to the early years of the 13th century. He even initiated the construction of a new city of
Angkor where a temple is erected and named as Bayon. Later, the same king instructed
his monks to teach another form called “Theravada Buddhism”. Furthermore, Cambodia
has also influenced Laos for the introduction of Buddhism. It was Fa Ngoun, a descendant
of a royal family in Laos, learned from a Cambodian monk and later, he came back in his
native country. With the request of his wife who is a daughter of the Cambodian king, he
invited monks to teach in his country in order to popularize the said religion. Lastly,
Buddhism in the other countries of Southeast Asia has been also introduced with the help
of Indian monks and from this, various forms of Buddhism came to develop as these have
merged or mixed altogether with the norms of Hinduism.
Lastly, we have imagined already how vast is the influence in the history and
cultures of Southeast Asian nations. This is because of the strong support of their kings
who had never failed in giving whatever they can contribute so that the said religion must
be practiced and adhered by the people in their localities.