Myanmar is known as a very spiritual country. More than 90 percent of the Burmese practice Theravada Buddhism, a fact common in this region of the world since Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka report similarly high percentages of Buddhism. Burmese society differs a bit though because they embrace the merit-making tenant of Buddhism. Meaning the religious engage in good deeds, offerings, and charity work to build merit on their path toward enlightenment, a task is not undertaken lightly.
Many Burmese practice meditation. Insight Meditation or Vipissana, “to see things as they really are,” is the most common form in Myanmar.
Buddhism and spirituality is a consistent and daily part of Burmese life. In fact, in terms of ceremonies, merit-making activities, and donations, Myanmar ranks as the most religious Buddhist country in the world according to scholars. Myths, animism, and spirituality form the religious core of Myanmar and none of my pre-traveling research prepared me for the deeply spiritual side of daily life in Myanmar and their faithful fastidiousness.
Devotion of religion suffuses the country and is the most obvious layer of spirituality in Myanmar. But when I looked closer at the temples and shrines, Buddha is but one part to their spirituality. Spirit worship and beliefs that pre-date Buddhism are still alive and fully integrated into modern Buddhist worship, as evidenced by the mythical figures and twisted faces of part-animal creatures standing guard on every temple, in street-side shrines, and throughout the countryside.
Visitors to Myanmar from any faith cannot help but appreciate Myanmar’s beautiful temples, pagodas, statues and monasteries, the reminders of Buddhism’s influence throughout the country since ancient times.
– Ranjit Barthakur, Founding Chairman, Myanmar Matters