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Shwedagon

Photo: Myanmar, the land of pagodas; the population is deeply religious.






Buddhism is the national religion of Myanmar and consequently about 85 % of the population are Buddhists. But like Thai Buddhism Myanmar Buddhism is strongly intertwined with spiritism.

Myanmar was the first country in Southeast Asia where the words of the Buddha were spread. Buddhism has been taught since the first millennium of Christian reckoning by Indian merchants, who entered the Ayeyarwaddy delta for trade purposes.

But Buddhism became the dominant religion of Myanmar only after King Anawratha ascended the throne of the Burmese Kingdom in Bagan in 1044. King Anawratha was converted to Buddhism by a Mon missionary by the name of Shin Arahan.

As in Thailand, which was considerably later converted to Buddhism by Mon missionaries, in Myanmar a Buddhist temple is always the center of the village community. Like in Thailand, Myanmar Buddhist temples are the traditional places for education; and again like in Thailand, every male Burmese is expected to temporarily don the monk's robes at least once in his lifetime usually as adolescent.