The History of Buddhism

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In Union of Myanmar majority of the population are Buddhist, Theravada Buddhism is professed widely. Religious intolerance or discrimination on grounds of religion is non-existence in the Union of Myanmar throughout it's long history. The main religions of present day Myanmar are Buddhism (89.20%), Christianity (5.05%), Muslims (3.78%), Hindus (0.55%), and Animism (1.27%) and other faiths such as Bahai Sikhs, Lipian fujianhal, Chinese, etc.(0.61%).


Theravada Buddhism flourishes in Myanmar .With reference to stone inscriptions, palm leaf inscriptions and court chronicles tell us that Buddhism arrived in Myanmar not once but many times.

The first arrival of Buddha Sasana
The first arrival of Buddha Sasana was associated with the legend of the Shwedagon Pagoda. In accordance with this legend, Buddhism arrived in Myanmar in the lifetime of Buddha. In the Maha Sakarit year 103,while the Buddha. was in a phalasamm apatti meditation at the foot of Rajayatana Lin Lun tree in the Uruvela Forest near the Nerajara River, two merchant brothers Taphussa and Bhallika of Ukkalapa village of Ramannadesa came to worship the Buddha .The brothers offered the Buddha honey cakes and the Buddha preached the Dhamma to them. At their request the Buddha gave them eight sacred hairs of His Head as His relics to venerate. On their return home, they enshrined the Sacred Hairs in a ceti (pagoda) they built on the hill then called Tampaguta. That ceti was we now call Shwedagon Pagoda. This legend is mentioned in the Shwedagon stone inscription, set up by King Dhammazedi (AD 1472-1492) of Hanthawaddy Kingdom.

The second arrival of Buddha Sasana
In the Maha Sakarit year 111 , in the 20th Vasa of Buddha, Arahat Maha Thera Shin Gavempti entreated the Buddha to visit Thaton (Sudhammapura) in the Kingdom of Ramannnadesa. The people in that place become Buddhists after hearing the Dhamma.

The third arrival of Buddha Sasana
In the Maha Sakarit year 123 in the 20th Vasa of the Buddha, Maha Punna came and requested the Buddha to visit Sunaparanta Vaniccagama. When Buddha came to that place with 500 disciples, a monastery built of sandal wood was offered to the Buddha to reside. Namanta Naga and his friend Hermit came to pay homage to the Buddha and requested to leave some kind of his Representative for them to worship. Thus, the Buddha left two footprints, one at the foot of the Minbu Hill Range and the other on a little higher up on the hill. These Buddha footprints are well known far and wide as Shwe Set Taw( literally Golden Footprints).

The fourth arrival of Buddha Sasana
When the Third Buddhist symbol was held during the regime of Emperor Asoka in Buddhist Era 235, foreseeing that the Buddha Sasana would spread to far off places and flourish there, Buddhist missionaries were dispatched to nine countries and nine places. Maha Thera Sona and Uttara accompanied by three arahats came to Suvannabhumi ( Thaton ) in Ramannadesa to carry out missionary work there.

The fifth arrival of Buddha Sasana
In the Buddhist Era 930 or A.D.386(circa) during the reign of King Mahanama of Sri Lanka who was a contemporary of King Thiligyaung of Bagan of Myanmar Mahar Thera Buddhaghosa who was a native of Gotha village in the Kingdom of Rajagahan came to Sri Lanka at the invitation of his mentor Maha Thera Revata. Mah Thera Buddhaghosa resided in Maha Vihara and he translated into Magadha, Tipitaka written Sri Lankan language. He brought to King Dhamapalla of Thaton in Ramannadesa his translated work. That is the arrival of the Buddha Sasana in Myanmar in the form of written tipitaka.

Arrival of written Tipitaka in Tampadipa ( Bagan )
Buddha Sasana flourished in the Pyu City Kingdoms. By virtue of the artifacts excavated from archaeological sites such as Sri Kestra, Beikthano, and Hanlin show that at that time Mahayana Buddhism co-existed with Theravada Buddhism. Other places where Buddha Sasana flourished were Rakhine Vesali and Ramanna Desa. When Anawrahta became king in A.D. 1044, he was intent upon purifying Buddhism which was prevalent in Bagan. After he met Venerable Shin Arahan and achieved Tipitaka from Thaton Theravada Buddhism flourished in Myanmar.

Other Religions
Among non-Buddhist Myanmar citizens, 1.21% are animist, Christian 5.06%, 3.78% Muslim and 0.51% are Hindu. Most of the Muslim and Hindu, as well as many of the Christians, are of Indian descent. Majority of the tribal minorities are animists, where as there are some Christians among the tribal minorities.

Supporting and Providing for other Religions
Department of Religious Affairs makes necessary arrangements and requirements for other religions to attend their religious seminars, conferences and meetings at abroad. Members of other religions who visit Myanmar are recommended to obtain their further stay-permit. Moreover, Islamic believers from Myanmar are sent to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their Hajj pilgrimage.

Here are some more topics on Religion and beliefs of Myanmar.



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