Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
Posts: 1970
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 2:19 am

Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby Individual » Sat Oct 24, 2009 10:03 pm

A while ago, I discovered that Theravada in places like Thailand and Sri Lanka diverges in practice from early Buddhism. Some possible examples might be the tendency towards animistic beliefs ("spirits"), various rituals, and things like fortune-telling. This sort of thing might be denigrated for being doctrinal corruptions, but they might also be appreciated for creating a unique flavor to Buddhism while still retaining the essentials.

Is there anyone here familiar with this sort of thing? And could you talk about it in detail?

It's likely that nobody here is an expert on all Theravada in Southeast Asia, but if you have any experiences with Theravada in one specific country, share them!
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

User avatar
Posts: 1915
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 5:15 am
Location: alaska

Re: Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Oct 25, 2009 3:37 am

some of us have studied in thailand, not sure if anyone has been to burma, cambodia, laos or sri lanka (well maybe the dhamma?)

i would like to know more about sri lankan buddhism, from what little i know, the sri lankans were suposely jain before buddhism came, and jainism ismore strict than buddhism so there shouldnt have been a lot of cultral stuff added to buddhism the way there was in burma or thailand where there was mahyana buddhism, hinduism, animism etc. though i could be wrong, i know they added shiva worship and made shiva buddhist so i probably am wrong.

personally i like the little cultural additions to thai buddhism, but for me theyre little things to collect have aroudn the house etc, it's harmless. however for many thai people the cultural additions are buddhism and they miss the real dhamma.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

User avatar
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:03 pm
Location: somewhere

Re: Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby dragonwarrior » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:32 am

I live in one of the Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia.
Unlike in Thailand / Sri Lanka, Indonesian people are majority Moslems (over 200 million of the population).
Buddhists in Indonesia are mostly Chinese & some indigenous groups of Indonesia (depend on location, e.g. in Borobudur Temple area http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borobudur) Actually there are many Chinese-Indonesian people who confessed themselves as Buddhists (not theradava nor mahayana), but actually they don't really understand about The Buddha's teachings and still equate Buddha with God. Mostly pray with joss sticks and ask for wealth and health, and burn joss sticks as offerings to the devas. Even my Theravadin dad also burn joss sticks in altar, but he did that to respect the devas in my house. I do burn joss sticks occasionally, such as in Chinese new year, pray to my mom & my grandparents, wishing their happiness. In some chinese temple, people burn some giant candles and burn many many joss sticks. Really can't bear with the smoke! I think it's a part of the culture. Don't know if my answer really answering the question :thinking: :tongue: but about Indonesian Theravada, I don't think there's any significant unique things. CMIIW


Posts: 190
Joined: Thu Apr 23, 2009 3:21 pm

Re: Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby vitellius » Sun Oct 25, 2009 6:26 pm

Hi Winny,

But can you describe how Theravada tradition spread in Indonesia in 20th century?

I know that in Malaysia there was a group of Sinhala (Sri-Lankan) emigrants who invited Ven. Sri Dhammananda, who made Theravada popular among Chinese. And then, in 80-s there was a wave of popularity of Burmese vipassana meditation methods. How was that in Indonesia?

Posts: 5670
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby chownah » Mon Oct 26, 2009 2:07 pm

I'm not sure what you are asking. I live in Thailand. The people here don't call themselves "Theravada"....they just call themselves Buddhist. The "official" Buddhism in Thailand accept the Theravada texts but the people generally know nothing or at best next to nothing about these texts. If you are actually wanting to know about SE Asian Theravada then at least as far as Thailand is concerned you are wanting to know what a very small minority of the people accept that is unique because there is only a very small minority of people who are well enough educated about Theravada to be able to make a self determination of this sort. Another alternative is for you or someone else to make the determination as to whether someone in SE Asia is Theravada or not...but this becomes problematic in that how will you or someone else make that determination?....if you decide based on sweeping generalities then you have lost the human quality....if you decide based on individuals then it will take several lifetimes to interview everyone.


User avatar
Posts: 89
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:03 pm
Location: somewhere

Re: Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby dragonwarrior » Tue Oct 27, 2009 12:39 pm

Oleksandr wrote:But can you describe how Theravada tradition spread in Indonesia in 20th century?

Greetings Oleksandr, I tried to sum up the information from some good sources, and here we go..
> 423 C.E. : A bhikkhu from Kashmir named Gunawarman came to Java and spread Buddhism (Theravada).
> Based on the Chinese Script (Tang), in mid 7th century in Central Java, there was a kingdom named Kaling, more popular with the name Holing which was leaded by a Queen, Sima. Holing turned to be a Buddhist centre & many Chinese people came to learn Buddhism, even though Buddhism was an official religion in China in Tang dynasty.
> mid 7th century: the greatest Buddhist Kingdom "Srivijaya" grew & expanded to be an important harbour in Malaccan Strait (traffic between India & China trading).Srivijaya then became a Buddhist centre in SE Asia. Buddhism tradition in Srivijaya was Mahayana and used Sanskrit.
> A bhikkhu from China in Tang Dynasty, Yi Jing (I-Tsing), visited Palembang, capital city of Srivijaya (Sumatera), and reported that there were more than 1000 bhikkhus there. In that era, Theravada tradition was a majority in the whole nation, except in the Malaya area which adopted Mahayana.
> 779 C.E. : Tantrayana and Mahayana were thriving, while Theravada was in constriction because of the entering of the other traditions brought by the Indians.
> 8th century: The Borobudur was made in Sailendra dynasty. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sailendra
> 1365 C.E. : Majapahit defeated Srivijaya, it was the second golden era of Buddhism in Indonesia after Srivijaya.
> 1527 C.E. : The Moslem Kingdom 'Demak', defeated Majapahit, the end of Buddhism golden era.
> 1934 C.E. : The coming of Ven. Narada Thera from Sri Lanka in Indonesia was on March 4th, 1934. He revived the BuddhaDhamma that has disappeared in Indonesia since the falling of the Majapahit kingdom. A Bodhi Tree planting ceremony was organised and few upasakas were ordained as monks. The attempt to bring back Buddhism was further accelerated when a monk called Ashin Jinarakkhita commenced a tour across different regions in Indonesia to spread the Dhamma. This was in the year 1955 and since then Theravada Buddhism began to stage a comeback on the religious scene of Indonesia spearheaded by local monks trained in Thailand.

> 1976 C.E. : The Sangha Theravada Indonesia was constituted headed by Ven.Aggabalo. Presently it is headed by Ven. Sri Pannavaro Mahathera. A young but highly charismatic bhikkhu, he is largely responsible for the tremendous interest in Theravada in the last decade. Through his sermons, which are televised on Indonesian airwaves, a large number of Indonesia's 200 million population have become familiar with the Theravada form of Buddhism. In 1998, he was awarded the title of Chao Khun by King Bhumibol of Thailand. One of the tangible results of Theravada's recent popularity was the construction of the magnificent Vihara Jakarta Dhammacakka Jaya in Indonesia's capital city donated by a local industrialist Mr. Anton Haliman. Today, the Sangha Theravada Indonesia comprises more than 60 bhikkhus ( of both Chinese and Malay ethnic origin ), residing in about 25 viharas mostly on the island of Java. However, there are also viharas on the islands of Sumatra and Bali. The bhikkhus travel widely throughout the Indonesian archipelago to teach. As a result several viharas have also been built on the more remote and distant regions such as the towns of Balikpapan and Banjarmasin on the island of Kalimantan and Manado in Sulawesi.

see also:

Sorry, you might be confused :thinking:


Posts: 82
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:12 am

Re: Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby BudSas » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:07 am

Individual wrote:A while ago, I discovered that Theravada in places like Thailand and Sri Lanka diverges in practice from early Buddhism.
It's likely that nobody here is an expert on all Theravada in Southeast Asia, but if you have any experiences with Theravada in one specific country, share them!

Southeast Asia, as defined in Wikipedia : "... Southeast Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic and volcanic activity.

Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: the Asian mainland (aka. Indochina), and island arcs and archipelagoes to the east and southeast. The mainland section consists of Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia while the maritime section consists of Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India), Brunei, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, and Singapore."

So, we should rule out Sri Lanka, as it is considered as part of South Asia. If we wish to discuss about Southeast Asia Theravada, we should concentrate on the Buddhist tradition practiced in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia (and perhaps, the southern part of Vietnam).


User avatar
Posts: 1906
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:47 pm
Location: Cambodia

Re: Unique aspects of Southeast Asian Theravada?

Postby Hanzze » Sun Oct 10, 2010 2:57 pm

Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

Return to “General Theravāda discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Coëmgenu and 5 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine