Southern Asia is an area that consists of present-day Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Buddhism in Southeast Asia is labeled Theravada. Archeological and chronical evidence suggest that Buddhism in southeast Asia was fluid and informal. It was also elastic, and diverse since it infused elements from other traditions like Pali, Theravada, and Hindu. Following this flexible period, was what is commonly known as the classical period of Southeast Asian Buddhism. It lasted from the eleventh to the fifteenth century. Local traditions of thought and practice enriched this period. However, from the Nineteenth century onwards, the effects of the western culture on Buddhism in the region are visible.
The political importance of Buddhism in contemporary southeast Asia.
Buddhism in Southeast Asia became dominant in the region because of support from the political society. In the middle of the eleventh century, King Anawratha of both southern and northern Burma made Buddhism the national religion. He brought Buddhist texts from Sri Lanka and constructed monasteries and stupas in the capital of Pagan. His successors continued this trend in the classical period of Southeast Asian Buddhism, and beyond. Although Burma experienced several periods of political unrest and wars, Buddhism continued to prosper because of the support from kings and ordinary people. In Burma, the effects of the western culture on Buddhism in Southeast Asia were as a result of the British colonial rule.
the cultural importance of Buddhism
The early development of Buddhism in this southern part of Asia was as a result of Indian cultural influence. In these early centuries, monks accompanied traders and brought back objects of power and protection. They also learned and brought back literary traditions in the form of magical chants in sacred languages and written texts. The classical period of Southeast Asian Buddhism entailed the establishment of the normative Pali Theravāda tradition of the Sinhala Mahāvihāra monastic line. “The commentator” (Buddhaghosa) dominated in this period but enriched by local traditions. In the nineteenth century, colonial interregnum brought the effects of the western culture on Buddhism in Southeast Asia. The cultural milieu of Southeast Asia faced challenges of western science and modern nationalists’ movements.