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CIA Archives: Buddhism in Burma – History, Politics and Culture



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.

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39 Comments

  1. How does one BEST protect fledgling democracies from strongmen while allowing some degree of sovereignty?

  2. Jakie to jest gupie

  3. pdes is nto mesink

  4. Arajan p

  5. Burmese Politicians were the most foolish guys in world politics. What Burma was suffered for so many decades was for whom? For china ,No , Burma was not as pro china even as Cambodia. Pro Western , no. Just pro Indian for so many decades. Those politicians think India was neutral.Nope. India was seeking its own interest by taking cover from USSR. If Burma was anti India .Burma would have get support from USA as Anti USSR (because India was allied with USSR). By anti India -they will get support from china or at least not getting pressure by supporting communists.Burma had to deal 3 , not 2 powers. You had to against one power and ally with other 2. In which India was the weakest of 3.

  6. The British forgot about Karen and

  7. The statement that a monk cannot drink tea or coffee after noon is not correct. Liquids are permitted. This became a point of dispute early in the history of the sangha, when monks who took yoghurt (on a the grounds presumably that it was a liquid) were criticized.

  8. Hate this video

  9. thanks to see it

  10. The first thing Burma must have achieved is security. In order security can be attained is through economic development. Without effective economic reform the government can not be capable of promoting social services for whipping poverty

  11. Myanmar probably has suffered the worst and has faced the longest tragic end & isolation among colonies under thievery British empire. It was said that British snapped her just before France was planning to do the same, from next door Laos, a French colony. Under the French the lesser evil, homogeneous tiny Burma, at least, would have been spared from onslaught with millions of immigration of muslims & others from giant British India subcontinent, while Laos has no foreign immigration.

  12. The reason "It is the most religious Buddhist country in terms of the proportion of monks in the population" is that orphan boys and poor boys end up being monks as the country became poorer and poorer. There should be social programs to help the orphans and children in poverty to have options other than becoming monks to get food in their plates.

  13. If wanna stay peacefully stop producing more what the point of shit religion ! Women must cover head whereas men eligible of having four women what a non scence

  14. But Bamar people are not.

  15. Keep talking trash, the world will respect you more.

  16. Dr.Gordon seagrave is a good Man indeed.

  17. kiitos

  18. Fanatic U Nu neglected his duties.

  19. Sure your propaganda is more reliable than AP and Reuter's news.

  20. Even though you are a Muslim? sure I believe your lies.

  21. You talk as if Burmese people know true Buddhism.

  22. From 1957

  23. If you have been trying to burn fat, you should do a google search Mimmu Fat Blast. You are bound to get the body you deserve.

  24. Great video, I love these people and their peaceful loving unity; it resembles to Jesus’ teachings.

  25. You will reap what you sow and you are held responsible for what you do in your life.

  26. U jokers

  27. Muslims are good at propagandizing? LOL
    Is that why Muslims enjoy the worst, most unfair reputation of all people in the media these days?

  28. under this world order u cant be fair until the mahdi peace upom him come

  29. I zamiast Robert i kobieta w ciazy to mieli wdychac to wlasciciel to wdychal.
    Teraz wlasciciel powinnen tego gnojka, te gowno to swini, znalesc, co mu nagadal, ze Robert sie nic nie domysli i mu korwa noz i w jedno i w drugie ploco wbic!

  30. Jak oczy wyracza, czy dobrych katolikow udaja, to trzeba palka miedzy oczy az sie krwia im oczy zaleja!
    To nie Polacy! Niech sie nie przyznaja i powinni z kosciola wygranac!
    Pan Jezus mial wymiesc koscioly!
    Wez i Mu Pomorz!

    Roberg zablokowal otwory–dziorki tynkiem, klejem i papierami. Polowica wyciagnela papiery, ale kleju ale tynku nie zobaczyla!

  31. Dlaczego dostal raka?
    Bo pan Robert dowiedzial sie od pana profesora V. geologa Greka, ktory studentki ruchal, a mogly byc jego bachora bachorami, ze Polacy sa madrzy na odwrot, debile, i wieksi socjopaci od Cyganow (dzieci poswiecaja i galy wyraczaja w niedorozwinietym glupawym zbrodniczym spojzeniu glupka wiejskiego)…podpowiedzial mu, ze beda na nim testowali Radon!
    I nie mialo znaczenia, ze tam byli inni ludzie i 20–pari letnia dziweczyna w ciazy!
    J

  32. De forma camuflada,los que no son, se dedican a cargarse el mundo.Con el consumo de bienes y servicios,derrochando recursos y tiempo¿A que no se les nota que provoquen males?Dije que tenían relación directa con el calentamiento global.Habido dos terremotos cerca de mi pueblo.Se comportan como personas siempre que hay una mujer u hombre,sino ya estarían en guerra como animales y ellas les dejan.Son creadores de males aunque les den lo que pidan.Sus ídolos deben ser los que dan a hombres

  33. Burma was once a beautiful country… Long ago before the military junta takes over the power.

  34. An armed rebellion against a constituted authority. Washington teaparty hmmmm. Just thinkn out loud as they say

  35. I see insurgent is an old term huh

  36. This video is about what happened to a promising land of post WWiII. Why are people commenting about religion?

  37. So you are blaming all Muslims for the what is happening at local levels by extremists? You are dumber than I realized.

  38. Today's cabinet ministers do not know how to run the administration.

  39. Yup, that monster Ne Win painstakingly promoted the most uneducated people form the society and out them in high military position. They do not know how to do anything. Today's cabinet ministers do not know how to run the administration.

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