The Buddhist doctrine first appeared in India and was introduced by Buddha, who was born as Prince Siddhartha. In his adolescence, he abandoned wealth and left his palace in search of the ultimate truth. The definition of his path was composed by Buddha himself and got a name "the four noble truths":
1) Dukkha - life is always accompanied by sufferings; 2) Samudaya - the source of all existence lies in passion and lust; 3) Nirodha - to get rid of rotating wheel of births and deaths is possible only through the elimination of lust; 4) Marga, the practice - an individual can achieve all spiritual virtues by climbing on the subsequent four steps to Nirvana. The first step is the awakening of the heart when the follower learns the secret of sorrow embedded in life itself. This step associated with the Buddha Himself as the teacher and source representing the first step on the path to salvation. The second stage is the liberation from impure thoughts. To reach the third stage, the believer must get rid of all evil desires, overcome ignorance, doubt, heresy, malevolence, and irritability.
The Countries With The Largest Number Of Buddhists
Though India was the origin of Buddhism, the population of the country today has 9,250,000 Buddhists, which amounts to a modest 1.8% of the country's population. The fact that Buddhism did not promote casteism and in fact, was against it, was the primary reason for Buddhism's popularity in India in the early days. However, despite an initial surge in the number of adherents, the religion was soon to be overshadowed by the various schools of Hinduism in the country.
Buddhism is, however, more popular in countries outside India with the largest number of followers in China. From the times immemorial, China has accepted any teaching that would facilitate the maintenance or preservation of the existing power and political foundation of society. Confucianism, widespread in China throughout centuries, teaches people to respect and execute their duty to the community. There is an appeal to preserve the order established by the ancient rulers, who laid the foundation of the Chinese civilization. Buddhism does not have a doctrine of power maintenance in any form, but does not contain ideas of man and society opposition either. Buddha's ideas of integral compassion go along well with the postulates of balance between those enabled with power and their subordinates. Thus, in contemporary China, approximately 244,130,000 people or 18.2% of its total population consider themselves as adherents of Buddhism.
When it comes to Thailand, they say that Buddhism has saved the country from colonization and many destructive wars of the last three hundred years. It is also claimed that, thanks to the wise and peaceful policies of the hereditary dynasty of Thai kings, all wars were avoided by this Southeast Asian country, and this has created a widespread basis for religion, excluding violence of any form. To date, Thailand has 64,420,000 followers of Buddhism. Major cities in the country include entire areas belonging to the Buddhist monasteries. The centuries-old tradition of temple murals and craft of beautiful mandalas keep attracting tourists to Thailand from all over the world and not only to the beaches and resorts. The north of the country is boasting with the largest number of Buddhist culture monuments.
The Spread of Buddhism in Japan is often associated with the popularity of private schools of Buddhism - Zen Buddhism. The school of Zen has been widely developed in ancient Japan when the imperial country began to see the rise of different schools of Buddhism, some of them have successfully integrated philosophy with martial arts practice, used for defense of unarmed monks. In the later ages, Buddhism was persecuted by the government committed to modernizing the country close to the western type. But the early translations of the sutras in Japanese contained such great cultural value that it was impossible for any political system to destroy the Buddhist cultural roots, which now won Japan the third place in the world by the number of Buddhism followers. The Buddha statue in Kamakura, Japan is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Buddhist art and attracts thousands of tourists from around the Asia and the world at large.
Other Countries With Large Buddhist Populations
The growing number of communist regimes in the 20th century had its own peculiarities when it comes to Asia. In Myanmar, with currently over 38 million Buddhists, in remote 1962 the military coup shifted power to the Socialists, declared their rule as "The middle path." That same name Buddha gave to his teaching right after he attained Enlightenment. In Sri Lanka, with 14 million Buddhists, the basis of religion has developed long before Karl Marx's ideas but survived colonization, civil war and Asian socialist revolutions.
While in Vietnam, with almost the same number of Buddhists - 14 380 000, no one stood against the communistic future. The same applies to Cambodia with 13,690,00 Buddhists, where the authorities have learned to make friends with Buddhist leaders and saw the prospects for economic growth, through the preservation of the Buddhist culture monuments and the development of tourist destinations to the places of worship, and to the most sacred pagodas.
In Malaysia, where Buddhists make up only 1% of the population, the government has aimed at multi-cultural tourism development. North of the country is bordering with Thailand, famous for its Buddhist monuments. The southern end of Malaysia sees increasing cultural influence of Singapore, where tourism of past 30 years is at rapid grows largely due to the freedom of religion, stems from the cultural diversity of the island-state.
Buddhism Linked Tourism In Southeast Asia
Buddhist retreat centers across the south-east Asia attracts tourists who want to touch on the practical side of Buddhism, try on how life tastes in a real monastery or participate in a special multi-day practice of silence, called Vipasana. The development of combined cultural-practice direction promise the tourist flow growth in regions distant from the resort areas, yet rich in cultural and historical monuments narrating about the ancient and rich history of Asia.