Spread And Development Of Buddhism In Burma, Cambodia, Thailand And LaosSpread And Development Of Buddhism In Burma, Cambodia, Thailand And Laos

Development in Burma
In Burma, Buddhism reached its golden era in the reign of King Anurudh (or Anawrata; B.E. 1588 -1621 or 1044 - 1077 C.E.), when Burma was first united into one country and its capital city of Pagan became a great centre of Buddhist culture. After the end of the Mongol occupation under Kublai Khan (from B.E. 1831 to 1845; 1287 - 1301 C.E.), Buddhism flourished again under King Dhammaceti (B.E. 2004 - 2035; or 1460 - 1491 C.E.). During the next centuries, Burmese Buddhism contributed much to the stability and progress of Buddhism. Some monks came from Ceylon to be reordained and took the ordination procedure back to their country. The study of Abhidhamma flourished. Pali texts were translated into Burmese and a great number of Pali scriptures and books on Buddhism were written by Burmese scholars. A council called the Fifth Great Council was held in Mandalay under King Mindon in B.E. 2415 (1871 C.E.) and the Tipitฺaka was inscribed on 729 marble slabs enshrined at the foot of Mandalay Hill.

The British rule from B.E. 2430 to 2492 (1886 - 1948 C.E.) caused in the Burmese a strong feeling of nationalism which combined political independence with the protection of the national religion. After the independence, national and religious leaders were very active in supporting and encouraging the Buddhist causes and activities. In B.E. 2498 (1954 C.E.) the Burmese government in cooperation with the Burmese Sangha invited representatives of all neighbouring, Buddhist countries and of Buddhist groups in various countries to participate in the Sixth Great Council which met in Rangoon to recite and revise the text of the Pali scriptures and to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Great Demise of the Buddha.

Development in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos
From ruins and art-objects, it is evident that Buddhism must have been introduced into the great kingdom of Founan (modern Cambodia) at least by the 10th century after the Buddha (5th century C.E.). However, little is known about this early period, except that soon after this time it lost ground to Hinduism which flourished under a series of Hindu rulers* from about the 7th to the 18th century after the Buddha (2nd - 13th century C.E.). During this Brahmanical period, Mahayana Buddhism was found existing side by side with Hinduism, and sometime before the end of this period gained ground over Hinduism. The great king who first upheld Buddhism was Yasovarman who reigned in the 15th century B.E. (9th century C.E.).

Three centuries later the ancient kingdom of Founan was at its height of power and prosperity under Jayavarman VII who reigned from B.E. 1724 to 1763 (1181-1220 C.E.). Jayavarman was a devoted Buddhist. Trying to follow the Buddhist ideal of the righteous king, he built numerous roads, 121 resthouses, and 102 hospitals and did other meritorious deeds. The next century saw the independence of the Thais. To this there was a royal reaction away from Buddhism back to orthodox Hinduism.

After the 18th century B.E., however, through the influence of the reform of Buddhism in Ceylon during the reign of Parakramabahu I the Great, Theravada Buddhism returned, first through Thailand and then directly from Ceylon. Within the next two centuries, it replaced Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism and became the national religion of Cambodia. As in Thailand, traces of Hinduism can be found today only in public ceremonies and customs.

In Laos the history of Buddhism followed the same line as that of Cambodia and Thailand. The Laotians have been devoted adherents of Theravada Buddhism since the introduction of the Lankavamsa tradition into these regions, and follow practices which are similar to those of Thailand and Cambodia.
by Arjanyai
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