Buddhism in Malaysia

Jeffrey Samuels and Hun Lye

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Buddhism in Malaysia

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Buddhist texts make reference to two Buddhist monks coming to Malaysia shortly after the third Buddhist council, which took place in the 3rd century bce. At the same time, however, the earliest archaeological evidence, found in the Bujang Valley (in the state of Kedah), suggests the presence of a Hindu—Buddhist kingdom as early as the 2nd century ce. From the 8th to the 13th century, the Malay Peninsula was under the influence of the Sri Vijaya empire, which was based on the island of Sumatra and which the Chinese monk I-Tsing described, in 671, as an important center for Buddhist learning with more than one thousand Buddhist monks. After the fall of the Sri Vijaya kingdom, the Thais—who controlled the northern Malay states—introduced Buddhist ideas and practices. Similar to the early period when multiple Buddhist traditions and schools of thought were represented, the formation and negotiation of Buddhist identity in contemporary Malaysia involve not only different Buddhist traditions (Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayāna) but also different ethnic groups (Thai, Sri Lankan, Burmese, and Chinese). With Buddhist institutions responding to a much greater range of social and religious needs, ideas about orthodoxy and orthopraxy have become much more diffuse, thus raising fundamental questions concerning who gets to decide the boundaries of a religious identity as well as how religious identities become shaped further by overlapping ethnic and national identities. Finally, with Malaysia being a Muslim country and with Malays (who are, by definition, Muslims) being the majority ethnic community, many of the publications in this article attest not only to the diversity of Buddhism in Malaysia but also to the role that the religion plays in drawing and holding together particular minority Malaysian communities.

Article.  7967 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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