The Spread Of Hinduism And Buddhism In Southeast Asia

1757 words - 7 pages

Hinduism is a very popular religion in India, being that it could possibly be the oldest religion of all time and originated in India, the Hindu population in India is 80%. With Hinduism being such a popular religion, it competes with Christianity and Islam at 900 million followers of Hinduism worldwide (Miksic, 10). As for the popularity of Buddhism, it is not nearly as prevalent as Hinduism is, even in India. A very important attribute to Hinduism is the caste system. The caste system is comprised of five levels that each Hindu is born into and cannot switch out of or marry into another. These levels include the Brahmans, who are the highest caste and include priests, scholars and other professionals, Kshatriyas, who are typically known as the warriors and take authoritarian jobs such as police officers and other law enforcement positions, then are the Vaishyas, who are the merchants and agricultural laborers, Shudras, who are artisans and other providers of service, then we get to the lowest caste, which are the Periahs, also known as the untouchables who cannot look other in the eye and take janitorial jobs and other jobs dealing with filth and death (Miksic, pg 6).
Buddhism was adopted and adapted to in Southeast Asia in various different methods, starting with those of the Tibetans, who developed their own form of Buddhism, after being introduced to it in the centuries before. This new form of Buddhism which will be a widely practiced form of Buddhism in later periods known as Mahayana Buddhism. From Tibet, Mahayana spread throughout the Himalayas and the difference between Mahayana and other forms of Buddhism is that it encompassed India's full history of the Mahayana's development.
In Gandhara, modern-day Pakistan, the inhabitants were mainly Buddhists and converted many Greeks to Buddhism after they assimilated into Gandhara. This is a prime example of how Buddhism diffused throughout Southeast Asia by being assimilated into regions after Buddhist forces conquered them. Another example of this would be that of a prince from Laos who fell in love with a Cambodian-Buddhist princess. Fa Ngoun, the prince of Laos, was exiled to Cambodia and fell in love with a Buddhist princess there, then returned to Laos with newfound political power and diffused Buddhism among his people, though not forcefully (Buddhanet, pg 1). In later periods in Cambodia's history, Cambodia was one of France's colonies while the Cambodians were strongly Theravada Buddhists. After the French left Cambodia unoccupied of their colonial ruler, Cambodians sought education about Buddhism and gained only some progress in their era of Buddhist education.
In Vietnam, Mahayana Buddhism and Hinduism were practiced and the people were open to the culture of India. Vietnam then united and Buddhism became the main religion of the country, with the vast majority of its citizens being Buddhists but got their Buddhist traits from China. In the thirteenth century, Islam became a...

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