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Theravada Buddhism is the largest religion in Laos , which is practiced by 66% of the population. 85,000 square miles (220,000 km2) and contains a population of approximately 6.6 million. Almost all ethnic or "lowland" Lao (Lao Loum and Lao Lom) are followers of Theravada Buddhism; however, they constitute only 40-50% of the population. The remainder of the population belongs to at least 48 distinct ethnic minority groups. Most of these ethnic groups (30%) are practitioners of Laotian folk religion, with beliefs that vary greatly among groups.Laos has an area of
Laotian folk religion is predominant among most Lao Theung, Lao Sung, the Sino-Thai groups, such as the Thai Dam and Thai Daeng, as well as among Mon-Khmer and Tibeto-Burman groups. Even among lowland Lao, many pre-Buddhist phi religious beliefs have been incorporated into Theravada Buddhist practice. Catholics and Protestants constitute approximately 2% of the population. Other minority religious groups include those practicing the Baháʼí Faith, Mahayana Buddhism, and Chinese folk religions. A very small number of citizens are atheist or agnostic.
Although the Government prohibits foreigners from proselytizing, some resident foreigners associated with private businesses or nongovernmental organizations quietly engage in religious activity. The Lao Front for National Construction is in charge of religious affairs within the country and all religious organizations within Laos must register with it.
Buddhism was introduced to Laos beginning in the eighth century by Mon Buddhist monks and was widespread by the fourteenth century. A number of Laotian kings were important patrons of Buddhism.
Beginning in the late 1950s, the Pathet Lao attempted to convert monks to the leftist cause and to use the status of the sangha to influence the thoughts and attitudes of the populace. The effort was in many ways successful, despite efforts by the Royal Lao Government to place the sangha under close civil administrative control and to enlist monks in development and refugee assistance programs. Political scientist Stuart-Fox attributed the success of the Pathet Lao to the inability of the Lao Loum elite to integrate the monarchy, government, and sangha into a set of mutually supportive institutions.
Popular resentment of the aristocracy, division of the sangha into two antagonistic sects, the low level of its religious education and discipline, and opposition to foreign (i.e., Western) influence all contributed to the receptiveness of many monks to Pathet Lao overtures. The politicization of the sangha by both sides lowered its status in the eyes of many, but its influence at the village level augmented popular support for the Pathet Lao political platform, which paved the way for the change in government in 1975.
The LPDR government's successful efforts to consolidate its authority also continues to influence Buddhism. In political seminars at all levels, the government taught that Marxism and Buddhism were basically compatible because both disciplines stated that all men are equal, and both aimed to end suffering. Political seminars further discouraged "wasteful" expenditures on religious activities of all kinds, because some monks were sent to political reeducation centers and others were forbidden to preach.
The renunciation of private property by the monks was seen as approaching the ideal of a future communist society. However, Buddhist principles of detachment and nonmaterialism are clearly at odds with the Marxist doctrine of economic development, and popular expenditures on religious donations for merit making are also seen as depriving the state of resources. Thus, although overtly espousing tolerance of Buddhism, the state undercut the authority and moral standing of the sangha by compelling monks to spread party propaganda and by keeping local monks from their traditional participation in most village decisions and activities.
During this period of political consolidation, many monks left the sangha or fled to Thailand. Other pro-Pathet Lao monks joined the newly formed Lao United Buddhists Association, which replaced the former religious hierarchy. The numbers of men and boys being ordained declined abruptly, and many wat fell empty. Participation at weekly and monthly religious ceremonies also dropped off as villagers under the watchful eye of local political cadre were fearful of any behavior not specifically encouraged.
The nadir of Buddhism in Laos occurred around 1979, after which a strategic liberalization of policy occurred. Since that time, the number of monks has gradually increased, although as of 1993, the main concentrations continue to be in Vientiane and other Mekong Valley cities. Buddhist schools in the cities remain but have come to include a significant political component in the curriculum. Party officials are allowed to participate at Buddhist ceremonies and even to be ordained as monks to earn religious merit following the death of close relatives. The level of religious understanding and orthodoxy of the sangha, however, is no higher than it had been before 1975, when it was criticized by many as backward and unobservant of the precepts.
From the late 1980s, stimulated as much by economic reform as political relaxation, donations to the wat and participation at Buddhist festivals began to increase sharply. Festivals at the village and neighborhood level became more elaborate, and the That Luang festival and fair, which until 1986 had been restricted to a three-day observance, lasted for seven days. Ordinations also increased, in towns and at the village level, and household ceremonies of blessing, in which monks were central participants, also began to recur.
Theravada Buddhism is by far the most prominent organized religion in the country, with nearly 5,000 temples serving as the focus of religious practice as well as the center of community life in rural areas. In most lowland Lao villages, religious tradition remains strong. Most Buddhist men spend some part of their lives as monks in temples, even if only for a few days.
There are approximately 22,000 monks in the country, nearly 9,000 of whom have attained the rank of "senior monk," indicating years of study in temples. In addition, there are approximately 450 nuns, generally older women who are widowed, residing in temples throughout the country. The Buddhist Church is under the direction of a supreme patriarch who resides in Vientiane and supervises the activities of the church's central office, the Ho Thammasaphat has the 20% of the populations.
Lao Buddhism belong to the Theravada tradition. Theravada Buddhism is also the dominant school in neighboring Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.
That Luang, a Lao-style stupa, is the most sacred Buddhist monument in Laos and the location of the nationally important festival and fair in November.
For the Lao Loum, the wat is one of the two focal points of village life (the other is the school). The wat provides a symbol of village identity as well as a location for ceremonies and festivals. Prior to the establishment of secular schools, village boys received basic education from monks at the wat. Nearly every lowland village has a wat, and some have two. Minimally, a wat must have a residence building for the monks and novices (vihan), and a main building housing the Buddha statues (sim), which is used for secular village meetings as well as for prayer sessions. Depending on the wealth and contributions of the villagers, the buildings vary from simple wood and bamboo structures to large, ornate brick and concrete edifices decorated with colorful murals and tile roofs shaped to mimic the curve of the naga, the mythical snake or water dragon. An administrative committee made up of respected older men manages the financial and organizational affairs of the wat.
Buddhist ceremonies generally do not mark events in a life- cycle, with the exception of death. Funerals may be quite elaborate if the family can afford it but are rather simple in rural settings. The body lies in a coffin at home for several days, during which monks pray, and a continual stream of visitors pay their respects to the family and share food and drink. After this period, the body is taken in the coffin to a cremation ground and burned, again attended by monks. The ashes are then interred in a small shrine on the wat grounds.
Although officially incorporated into the dominant Mahanikai School of Buddhist Practice after 1975, the Thammayudh sect of Buddhism still maintains a following in the country. Abbots and monks of several temples, particularly in Vientiane, reportedly are followers of the Thammayudh School, which places greater emphasis on meditation and discipline.
There are four Mahayana Buddhist temples in Vientiane, two serving the ethnic Vietnamese community and two serving the ethnic Chinese community. Buddhist monks from Vietnam, China, and India have visited these temples freely to conduct services and minister to worshippers. There are at least four large Mahayana Buddhist pagodas in other urban centers and smaller Mahayana temples in villages near the borders of Vietnam and China.[ citation needed ]
Laotian folk religion (Lao: ສາສນາຜີ sasna phi, "religion of the spirits") is an overarching term for the ethnic religions practiced by 30.7%of the population of Laos. These religions are pantheistic and polytheistic, and involve classes of shamans.
The category comprehends traditions of the Lao and other Tai-Kadai people, the Khmu and other Mon-Khmer people, as well as religions of the Hmong-Mien (Hmongism and Yao Taoism), Tibeto-Burman, and other ethnic groups of Laos.Among the Lao, the Lao Loum and Lao Lom are predominantly Buddhist, while the Lao Theung and Lao Sung are predominantly folk religious.
Christianity is a minority religion in Laos. There are three recognized Churches in Laos: the Lao Evangelical Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
There are approximately 45,000 members of the Roman Catholic Church, many of whom are ethnic Vietnamese, concentrated in major urban centers and surrounding areas along the Mekong River in the central and southern regions of the country. Catholicism is an established presence in five of the most populous central and southern provinces, and Catholics are able to worship openly. The church's activities are more circumscribed in the north. Church property in Luang Prabang was seized after 1975, and there is no longer a parsonage in that city. An informal Roman Catholic training center in Thakhek prepared a small number of priests to serve the Catholic community.
Approximately 400 Protestant congregations conduct services throughout the country for a community that has grown rapidly in the past decade. Church officials estimate Protestants to number as many as 100,000. Many Protestants are members of ethnic Mon-Khmer groups, especially the Khmu in the north and the Brou in the central provinces. Numbers of Protestants also have expanded rapidly in the Hmong and Yao communities.
In urban areas, Protestantism has attracted many lowland Lao followers. Most Protestants are concentrated in Vientiane Municipality, in the provinces of Vientiane, Sayaboury, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khouang, Bolikhamsai, Savannakhet, Champassak, and Attapeu, as well as in the former Saisomboun Special Zone, but smaller congregations are located throughout the country. The LFNC officially recognizes only two Protestant groups - the Lao Evangelical Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church - and requires all non-Catholic Christian groups to operate under one of these organizations.
Seventh-day Adventists number slightly more than 1,000 country-wide, with congregations in Vientiane Municipality as well as Bokeo, Bolikhamsai, Champassak, Luang Prabang, and Xieng Khouang provinces. Christian denominations that have some following in the country, but which are not recognized by the Government, include the Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, Lutherans, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Baptists. Official membership numbers are not available.
Laos used to be part of the Khmer Empire and has some remaining Hindu temples.
Small groups of followers of Confucianism and Taoism practice their beliefs in the larger cities.[ citation needed ]
This article is about the demographic features of the population of Laos, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.
The Lao people are a Tai ethnic group native to Southeast Asia, who speak the eponymous language of the Kra–Dai languages, originating from present-day southern China. They are the majority ethnic group of Laos, making up 53.2% of the total population. The majority of Lao people adhere to Theravada Buddhism. They are closely related to other Tai peoples, especially with the Isan people, who are also speakers of Lao language, but native to neighboring Thailand.
Luang Phabang, or Louangphabang, commonly transliterated into Western languages from the pre-1975 Lao spelling ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ as Luang Prabang, literally meaning "Royal Buddha Image", is a city in north central Laos, consisting of 58 adjacent villages, of which 33 comprise the UNESCO Town Of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. It was listed in 1995 for unique and "remarkably" well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Laos developed its culture and customs as the inland crossroads of trade and migration in Southeast Asia over millennia. As of 2012 Laos has a population of roughly 6.4 million spread over 236,800 km2, yielding one of the lowest population densities in Asia. Yet the country of Laos has an official count of over forty-seven ethnicities divided into 149 sub-groups and 80 different languages. The Lao Loum have throughout the country's history comprised the ethnic and linguistic majority. In Southeast Asia, traditional Lao culture is considered one of the Indic cultures.
Buddhism in Vietnam, as practiced by the ethnic Vietnamese, is mainly of the Mahayana tradition and is the main religion. Buddhism may have first come to Vietnam as early as the 3rd or 2nd century BCE from the Indian subcontinent or from China in the 1st or 2nd century CE. Vietnamese Buddhism has had a syncretic relationship with certain elements of Taoism, Chinese spirituality, and Vietnamese folk religion.
'Phra Lak Phra Ram' is the national epic of the Lao people, and is the Lao adaptation of the Dasaratha Jataka, a story narrating one of the previous life of Buddha as a Bodhisatta named Rama. It was brought to Laos and other Southeast Asia by propagation of Buddhism. The story reached Laos much later than Cambodia and Thailand (Siam) and thus was affected by local adaptation.
Buddhism in Thailand is largely of the Theravada school, which is followed by 95 percent of the population. Thailand has the second largest Buddhist population in the world, after China, with approximately 64 million Buddhists. Buddhism in Thailand has also become integrated with folk religion as well as Chinese religions from the large Thai Chinese population. Buddhist temples in Thailand are characterized by tall golden stupas, and the Buddhist architecture of Thailand is similar to that in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia and Laos, with which Thailand shares cultural and historical heritage.
Theravada Buddhism is the largest religion in Laos, which is practiced by 66% of the population. Lao Buddhism is a unique version of Theravada Buddhism and is at the basis of ethnic Lao culture. Buddhism in Laos is often closely tied to animist beliefs and belief in ancestral spirits, particularly in rural areas.
Laotian Canadians are Canadian citizens of Laotian origin or descent. In the 2016 Census, 24,580 people indicated Laotian ancestry. Bilateral relations between Canada and Laos were established in 1954 with the formalization of the independence of the Kingdom of Laos from France. In August 2015, Canada's first resident diplomat opened the Office of the Embassy of Canada in Vientiane, Laos.
The Dhammakaya tradition or Dhammakaya movement, sometimes spelled as Thammakaai movement, is a Thai Buddhist tradition founded by Luang Pu Sodh Candasaro in the early 20th century. It is associated with several temples descended from Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen in Bangkok.
Buddhism in Cambodia has existed since at least the 5th century. In its earliest form it was a type of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Today, the predominant form of Buddhism in Cambodia is Theravada Buddhism. It is enshrined in the Cambodian constitution as the official religion of the country. Theravada Buddhism has been the Cambodian state religion since the 13th century. As of 2013 it was estimated that 97.9 percent of the population was Buddhist.
Buddhism in Southeast Asia includes a variety of traditions of Buddhism including two main traditions: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Theravāda Buddhism. Historically, Mahāyāna Buddhism had a prominent position in this region, but in modern times most countries follow the Theravāda tradition. Southeast Asian countries with a Theravāda Buddhist majority are Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, all mainland countries.
Theravada Buddhism is the state religion of Cambodia, which has had been presented since at least the 5th century.
The Constitution of Laos provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government restricted this right in practice. Some government officials committed abuses of citizens' religious freedom.
A wat is a type of Buddhist temple and Brahminical temple in Cambodia, Laos, East Shan State, Yunnan and Thailand. The word wat is a thai word that was borrowed from Sanskrit vāṭa, meaning 'enclosure'. The term has varying meanings in each region, sometimes referring to a specific type of government-recognised or large temple, other times referring to any Buddhist or Brahminical temple.
Vientiane is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1573, due to fears of a Burmese invasion, but was later looted, then razed to the ground in 1827 by the Siamese (Thai). Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic center of Laos. The city had a population of 948,477 as of the 2020 Census.
Wat Ong Teu Mahawihan is one of many Buddhist monasteries in the city of Vientiane in Laos. This name is given to the temple due to the large, bronze Phra Ong Teu Buddha image that is in the temple: the largest Buddha in Vientiane. This temple was initially constructed by King Setthathirath I in the 16th century when Laos was being bombarded by the Burmese, but was later demolished during a foreign invasion. Thus, it may have gone through many reconstructions during the 19th or 20th century to attain the appearance it has today.
Vientiane is a prefecture of Laos, in the northwest Laos. The national capital, Vientiane, is in the prefecture. The prefecture was created in 1989, when it was split off from Vientiane Province.
The people of Laos have a rich literary tradition dating back at least six hundred years, with the oral and storytelling traditions of its peoples dating back much earlier. Lao literature refers to the written productions of Laotian peoples, its émigrés, and to Lao-language works. In Laos today there are over forty-seven recognized ethnic groups, with the Lao Loum comprising the majority group. Lao is officially recognized as the national language, but owing to the ethnic diversity of the country the literature of Laos can generally be grouped according to four ethnolinguistic families: Lao-Tai (Tai-Kadai); Mon-Khmer (Austroasiatic); Hmong-Mien (Miao-Yao), and Sino-Tibetan. As an inland crossroads of Southeast Asia the political history of Laos has been complicated by frequent warfare and colonial conquests by European and regional rivals. As a result, Laos today has cultural influence from France, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Burma, and Cambodia.
The history of Theravāda Buddhism begins in ancient India, where it was one of the early Buddhist schools which arose after the first schism of the Buddhist monastic community. After establishing itself in the Sri Lankan Anuradhapura Kingdom, Theravāda spread throughout mainland Southeast Asia through the efforts of missionary monks and Southeast Asian kings.
This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/ .