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CIA Archives: Buddhism In Burma - History, Politics And Culture Download

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Published: 14 August 2012 (6 years ago)
Author: The Film Archives


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Buddhism in Burma (also known as Myanmar) is predominantly of the Theravada tradition, practised by 89% of the country's population. It is the most religious Buddhist country in terms of the proportion of monks in the population and proportion of income spent on religion. Adherents are most likely found among the dominant ethnic Bamar (or Burmans), Shan, Rakhine (Arakanese), Mon, Karen, and Chinese who are well integrated into Burmese society. Monks, collectively known as the Sangha, are venerated members of Burmese society. Among many ethnic groups in Myanmar, including the Bamar and Shan, Theravada Buddhism is practiced in conjunction with nat worship, which involves the placation of spirits who can intercede in worldly affairs.

With regard to the Daily Routines as Buddhists in Myanmar, there are two most popular practices: merit-making and vipassana (Insight Meditation). The weizza path is the least popular (an esoteric form somewhat linked to Buddhist aspiration that involves the occult).[4] Merit-making is the most common path undertaken by Burmese Buddhists. This path involves the observance of the Five Precepts and accumulation of good merit through charity and good deeds (dana) in order to obtain a favorable rebirth. The vipassana path, which has gained ground since the early 1900s, is a form of insight meditation believed to lead to enlightenment. The weizza path, is an esoteric system of occult practices (such as recitation of spells, samatha meditation, and alchemy) and believed to lead to life as a weizza (also spelt weikza), a semi-immortal and supernatural being who awaits the appearance of the future Buddha, Maitreya (Arimeitaya).[5] This last one is frowned upon by many practicing Buddhists and almost all Monks in Myanmar nowadays.

Burma (Listeni/ˈbɜrmə/ BUR-mə), also Myanmar (Listeni/ˌmjɑːnˈmɑː/ MYAHN--MAR), is a sovereign country in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. One-third of Burma's total perimeter of 1,930 kilometres (1,200 mi) forms an uninterrupted coastline along the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. At 676,578 km2 (261,227 sq mi), it is the 40th largest country in the world and the second largest country in Southeast Asia. Burma is also the 24th most populous country in the world with over 60.28 million people.[6]

Burma is home to some of the early civilizations of Southeast Asia including the Pyu and the Mon.[7] In the 9th century, the Burmans of the Kingdom of Nanzhao entered the upper Irrawaddy valley and, following the establishment of the Pagan Empire in the 1050s, the Burmese language and culture slowly became dominant in the country. During this period, Theravada Buddhism gradually became the predominant religion of the country. The Pagan Empire fell due to the Mongol invasions (1277--1301), and several warring states emerged. In the second half of the 16th century, the country was reunified by the Taungoo Dynasty which for a brief period was the largest empire in the history of Southeast Asia.[8] The early 19th century Konbaung Dynasty ruled over an area that included modern Burma as well as Manipur and Assam. The country was colonized by Britain following three Anglo-Burmese Wars (1824--1885). British rule brought social, economic, cultural and administrative changes. Since independence in 1948, the country has been in one of the longest running civil wars among the country's myriad ethnic groups that remains unresolved. From 1962 to 2011, the country was under military rule. The military junta was officially dissolved in 2011 following a general election in 2010 and a nominally civilian government installed, though the military retains enormous influence.

Burma is a resource-rich country. However, the Burmese economy is one of the least developed in the world. Burma's GDP stands at $42.953 billion and grows at an average rate of 2.9% annually -- the lowest rate of economic growth in the Greater Mekong Subregion.[9] Among others, the EU, United States and Canada have imposed economic sanctions on Burma.[10] Burma's health care system is one of the worst in the world: The World Health Organization ranked Burma at 190th, the worst performing of all countries.

The United Nations and several other organizations have reported consistent and systematic human rights violations in the country, including child labour, human trafficking and a lack of freedom of speech. In recent years, the country and its military leadership has made large concessions to democratic activists and is slowly improving its relations with the major powers and the UN.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma
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