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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some SEA Beliefs

In most of South East Asia Buddhism might be called he state Religion. However in Viet Nam the Chinese custom of state authority moderates this influence. Chinese tradition supplies an ideology that legitimized authority over many phases of life. That means that it is justified in regulating the affairs of Buddhist monks to a greater degree than is generally accepted elsewhere. The ideology I mention is, of course, Confucianism.

Of the great religions, Brahmanism seems to be the first o take hold in maritime SEA as it was in much of the mainland realms. I was followed by Saivism and Mahayana Buddhism before the arrival of Islam. Brahmanism, without much evidence of the cast system of Hinduism, was evident in most of SEA before the 7th century and was probably several centuries earlier.

Old Javanese sources from the 11th century on mention three religions under the supervision of the central government: Saivas(worshiper of Siva), Buddhists, and Reis(court Brahmins). Important Tantric rites were performed b Buddhist monks and the court Brahmin. In Java, then and now, there were other religions and sects at a greater distnce from the larger centers of power. Saints referred to bu Saias of the time were Kusika, Garga, Mairi Kurusya, and Patnjali. Also the teacher Agastya is mentioned.

Is good to keep in mind that from at least 400 BC to 1300 AD there is nearly constant commerce with India and intermediate commerce with China.

As we well know Islam became the main religion of  maritime SEA with the major exception of the Philippines. Theravada Buddhism became the main religion of mainland SEA. Islam took pervasive hold in the area more than six centuries after the foundation of Islam in the Middle East. Te first center of power of Islam was probably at Aceh of recent tsunami fame. Islam rose in Malaca and in ll directions including Patani in southern Thailand.

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